Maison Martin Margiela is one of the best known and most innovative fashion brands. The fashion of Belgian designer Martin Margiela wrote and continues to write history through unusual, deconstructive design. However, the label does without one thing: the cult of personality. The brand’s success is based on its restraint. Because the designer does not place himself in the foreground. The company’s No Logo strategy is equally striking. The anonymity of the designer is reflected in his clothing. Read here the story of a label that revolutionized the fashion world and had to go through ups and downs.
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Anonymous revolution of the Parisian fashion scene
In 1988 the studied Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela founded his first own label in Paris. Under the name “Maison Martin Margiela”, the newycomer aims to revolutionize the commercial fashion industry and make people think. In the same year, on October 23rd, the label presented the first Ready-to-wear collection for women to the talented Belgian. The success of the show quickly influenced the value of the brand and over time Martin Margiela managed to make a name for himself in the Parisian fashion monopoly. The label finally opened its first store in Tokyo that year. In the following years, the Maison stood out especially for its unconventional, non fashion-industry-typical behavior. Employees, boutiques, chief designers, everything was to be different from the big fashion houses like Dior, Chanel or Prada. Margiela’s sense of exclusivity and his risky design were rewarded in 2006 when the recognized fashion association Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture accepted the label into its ranks. Margiela is now allowed to present Haute Couture at the Paris fashion show. Another milestone in the Maison’s career is the granting of full membership of the community of Haute Couture fashion houses in 2012.
Acquisition and consequences
Tragically, founder Martin Margiela was no longer Head of Design for his own brand at the time of the award. The company was taken over by the Diesel Group at the beginning of the millennium and suffered a number of changes as a result. Diesel expected more commercial collections and a more profit-oriented approach. As a result of the resulting conflicts, Martin Margiela finally left the company in 2009, and after the loss was made public, an internal, anonymous team of designers took over the management of the label. Although Margiela expressed the wish to hand over the management to the Belizean fashion designer Raf Simons, a team of designers who had already worked with Martin Margiela created the collections until 2014. After the latter’s abdication, Diesel Group President Renzo Rosse appointed the controversial former designer John Galliano as Creative Director of Maison Martin Margiela.
New director, new name
Where did the Martin go? In 2009 founder Martin Margiela left the company and paved the way for new designers to enter the fashion world. The name Maison Martin Margiela was history. But without anyone really noticing it, it was suddenly just called Maison Margiela. The creeping process of the name change was foreseeable, but was not publicly communicated. There was neither an official announcement, nor e-mails to journalists or fashion magazines. For a long time after the change, major magazines like Vogue continued to report on Maison Martin Margiela. The brand also distracted from the change by appointing the infamous John Galliano as chief designer at the same time. The attention was entirely focused on the runway change, less on the missing M in the name. The name change is strongly reminiscent of that of Yves Saint Laurent. The fashion brand had publicly removed the “Ives” from the name during Hedi Slimane in 2012.
Martin Margiela: Hermés, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Maison Margiela
In 1957 the man was born who revolutionized the fashion world by turning his back on commercial design and instead created a new image of fashion through deconstruction and anonymity. Even though the brand is now called only “Maison Margiela”, it was the Belgian Martin Margiela who made the company famous. After completing his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 1981, Margiela was already perceived as an outstanding talent. Before the traditional label Hermès took notice of him in 1998 and made him the chief designer of women’s fashion, Martin worked as a stylist. His exceptional view of fashion paved his way into the world’s largest fashion houses. At his own request, the designer left the company after five years and Jean-Paul Gaultier took his place. Interestingly enough, Margiela was Jean-Paul Gaultier’s assistant before working for Hermé (1984-1987). You could say that the Belgian was one step ahead of his own boss. In 1988 he finally took the big step and created his own fashion empire together with Jenny Meirens.
In addition to haute couture, ready-to-wear and commercial collections, garments from the label can be found in museums and exhibitions worldwide. In 2018, the two major Parisian fashion museums “Museé Galliera” and the “Museé des Arts Décoratifs” dedicated an exhibition to Martin Margiela, providing an overview of the designer’s most interesting women’s wardrobes (1989-2009). Especially the “Museé des Arts Décoratifs” focuses on the special expression and claim of the designer. Works of the label Maison Martin Margiela were juxtaposed with works Margiela created for Hermés between 1997 and 2003. This interesting curation provides insights into the psyche of the designer and his multi-faceted creativity. Throughout his career as a designer, Martin Margiela shows himself as an artist and exhibits in various contexts. His first art exhibition took place in 1997 at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam.
Exhibitions at a glance:
- 1996: Margiela installed a “museum within a museum” as part of the Art and Fashion Biennale in Florence.
- 1997: Art exhibition at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam
- 2001: Exhibitions of “Radical Fashion”, which was shown at the V&A Museum in London
- 2018: Exhibition “Museé Galliera” and the “Museé des Arts Décoratifs”
John Galliano: Givenchy, Dior, Maison Margiela
The decision to appoint John Galliano as Creative Director for Maison Margiela seemed an easy one, given his impressive portfolio. However, he is considered a controversial and controversial personality due to various negative headlines. Drug use and an extroverted self-portrayal make him a popular topic in the press. Nevertheless, critics describe the 60-year-old as one of the most talented designers of all time.
Galliano’s career: Studies with Alexander McQueen
Galliano was born in 1960 in Gibralta and enjoys a carefree life. In 1988, he graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins School, where Alexander McQueen also studied, and subsequently made a convincing impression with his first fashion collection. Just one year later he presented his clothes on the Paris catwalks and in 1995 he took over the management of the Givenchy fashion house. This was followed by 11 years as creative director at Dior. Most recently, Maison margiela recruited the Spaniard.
- 1988: Graduated from the Central Saint Martins School in London
- 1989: First own fashion collection in Paris
- 1995: Chief designer of Givenchy
- 1997: 2008: Creative Director at Givenchy
- 2014: Chief designer of Maison Margiela
John Galliano Spring Summer Fashion Show
Gallianos fashion is exciting and playful, just like the designer himself. Check out his Spring Summer Fashion Show here.
Shoes, bag, shirt: deconstruction and tailoring
Maison Margiela’s trademark: a monochrome white label attached with just four stitches. Wait, no eye-catching, artistic logo? Not at all, because that would not fit the company’s philosophy and expression. But this is not the only deviation from the typical fashion market. Maison Margiela’s fashion is different. It is, in a way, an anti-fashion. Voluminous cuts, monochrome color worlds, body alienating, deconstructive cuts and recycled materials characterize the fashion of the label. In short: Maison Margiela makes unconventional fashion with avant-garde and deconstructivist influences. Cuts are taken apart and reassembled in unusual ways or unusual combinations of materials are used. The deconstruction of fashion becomes visible in every garment. Things that are normally not visible are brought to the fore. It happens sometimes (intentionally) that the proximity or lining of a top is turned to the outside.
Maison Margiela’s fashion at a glance:
- Voluminous cuts
- monochrome colors
- body alienating, deconstructive cuts
- reusable materials
- avant-garde influences
- unusual material combinations
Censored faces of the models: Fashion is in the foreground
The momentum of deconstruction is not only found in the clothing of the label, but also in the way it is presented. The models of a Maison Margiela show have veiled or marked faces in order to take the focus away from the mannequins and put it fully on the worn clothes. The faces of models in pictures are also censored. The clothing of Maison Margiela is no longer just fashion, but art.
Maison Margiela ‘Défilé’ Co-ed Autumn-Winter 2020 Collection
The fashion shows of the Maison Margiels label are always good for surprises. They are exceptional, extroverted and totally focused on fashion. The model is in the background. The artistic shows attract thousands of spectators every year. The who is who of the fashion scene follows the colorful creations in the front row.
“Replica”: The perfume
The smell of cigars and cocktails wanders through the room and quickly it is clear someone is wearing replica. Replica, which means copy or deception, is a series of eight different fragrances for men and women. The perfume is a reference to the “Replica” collection by Martin Margiela and, according to one expert, describes the “reproduction of familiar scents and moments from different places and times”. However, it is not the first perfume from the luxury label. Already in 2010, under the direction of Martin Margiela himself, the label cooperated with L’Oréal and released the unisex fragrance “untitled”. The Replica series followed in 2015.
- Maison Margiela. Find more exciting products, just the way you like them.
Cooperations: H&M and Co.
- HM (2012): Fashion line
- Swarovski (2013)li>
- Loreal (2015): Replica perfume series
- Converse (2013): Shoekollektion
The No Logo Concept
The unique logo of Maison Margiela already gives an idea of the unusual philosophy behind the brand. The label is attached with four stitches, which allows the wearer to remove it without much effort and thus make the garment anonymous. The brand’s fame is not only based on its unusual understanding of design, but also on its presentation. Keyword Brand Heritage. Maison Margiela does not put the designer in the foreground, but the brand and everything behind it.
Restraint and anonymity of the designer: no interviews and photos
The communication policy of the brand contains the complete restraint and anonymity of the designer. Martin Margiela hardly ever conducts interviews and when he does, he speaks in the “we” form. Thus he avoids a possibly necessary image building and gives his team appreciation. The collections are an overall performance of the team and so all employees appear on the catwalk after a fashion show, collected in doctor’s coats. The dress code of the employees is a ‘blouse blanche’, a white blouse that alludes to the haute couture studios of the past. The logo, label, work clothes and even the buildings, showrooms and boutiques as well as the furniture are completely white. Maison Margiela has its origins in a countermovement of the 90s celebrity culture and shows a new kind of corporate culture, which should make consumers think.
Movies and documentaries about Maison Martin Margiela
Martin Margiela never had himself photographed, he never gave interviews and never revealed anything about his fashion. A mystery that has often stirred incomprehension and admiration in the fashion world. The secrets of the designer have been explored since 2017 in the form of various documentaries and films. “We Margiela” and “In his words” show the viewer impressive Behind the Scenes material. The mystery of Martin Margiela is solved step by step.
Martin Margiela: “In His Own Words”
Before the end of the year, a very special documentary will open up a new perspective on fashion designer Martin Margiela for model lovers and fans. In the documentary “In his own words” the designer talks openly about his understanding of fashion and how fashion has changed.
“We Margiela”: Documentation & Biography
Even if every fashion-savvy person has heard the name Martin Margiela before, little is known about the person behind the fashion empire. Interviews of the designer are very rare and his public appearance is also hardly existing. In the documentary “We Margiela” from 2017 the life of the founder as well as his design strategies and creative processes are illuminated. It reveals, for example, that Margiela is a very spontaneous, risk-friendly person and that many of his designs and ideas are based on chance and intuition. Margiela, on the other hand, puts expectations on his gut feeling and follows his fashion philosophy.
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