The label is known for its freedom in choosing its materials, and draws attention for its deconstructive and avant-garde designs. So it is perhaps surprising that designer Martin has always preferred to shroud himself in secrecy, neither showing his face on the runway nor have his picture taken. After an interview in the early years of Maison Margiela he decided he’d had enough. He has not addressed press since, preferring to let the clothes do the talking. In 2008 he retired as a designer.
So if Martin Margiela has said his farewells to fashion, how is it that he continues to influence the world of fashion? Well, he is justly considered the founder of a number of important developments. Think of the recent surge in combining historical influences with modern fashion or the purposely ‘ageing’ of new clothes. He also played a role in the revival of deconstructed silhouettes, oversized shapes and turning clothing inside-out, and brought the broad shoulder back in the picture.
"Let the clothes do the talking"
A while before, in 1997, Maison Margiela founded the spin-off MM6: a line all about wearable basics, though with the avant-garde-esque and innovative designs reminiscent of its older sister. Typical for the MM6 Maison Margiela line is a varied collection of minimalistic blouses, dresses, skirts and trousers, together with shoes nothing short of iconic and accessories to make a statement. Black, white, grey and beige set the tone.
Fun fact, Margiela probably holds the record for cheapest invitation to a fashion show, ever. For their fall/winter ’89 show Margiela distinguished itself from the other fashion brands in an unusual way: rather than printing stylish invitations on expensive paper, Margiela put up a small advertisement in a free newspaper, one hundred of which they circled in red and distributed through the fashion network to be found by the lucky few like a golden wrapper. “It was the cheapest invitation ever,” Jenny Meirens later told the New York Times.
Since 2015 the label is headed by nobody other than John Galliano. He busies himself with all the lines of the Belgian fashion house, including the couture and the women’s prêt-a-porter line. The fashion world was unsure what to think when it learned of this rather eccentric choice, but Galliano has since then made believers from doubters. It is not for nothing that he is considered by many to be one of the most brilliant designers of his generation.
Only for the real fans: the documentary We Margiela (2017), which gives a surprising peek behind the scenes of one of the more mystical fashion labels. For the first time, co-founder Jenny Meirens and her creative team share with the world part of their creative process and the unique philosophy that lies behind it. Personal interviews provide an interesting perspective of the origin and rise of one of the most influential fashion houses of our time.