Martin Margiela: The Women’s Collections 1989-2009
Alexandre Samson, Olivier Saillard
This is the catalogue for the first retrospective in Paris devoted to Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela. It traces the career, from spring-summer 1989 to spring-summer 2009, of a designer who not only questioned the structure of garments but also challenged the structure of the fashion system.
Martin Margiela (b. Louvain, 1957) graduated from the fashion department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, in 1980. After a stint as Jean Paul Gaultier’s assistant between 1984 and 1987, he was associated with the Antwerp school and became the only Belgian designer of his generation to found his own fashion house in Paris.
Margiela’s conceptual approach challenged the fashion aesthetics of his time. His way of constructing a garment involved deconstructing it, exposing the inside, the lining, and the unfinished parts, and revealing the different stages of manufacture: pleats, shoulder pads, patterns, bastings and all.
He pushed the scale of a garment to extremes, enlarging the proportions to 200% in his “Oversize Collection”, for example, or by adapting dolls’ clothes to the life-size human form in the “Barbie Collection”. He printed trompe-l’oeil photos of dresses, sweaters and coats and established a new form of “cloven” shoe inspired by traditional Japanese tabis, i.e. with the big toe separated from the others.
Margiela questioned the obsolescence of clothes with his «Artisanal» collection, created from vintage garments and recovered materials transformed into unique hand-sewn pieces. And also with his “Replica” series of vintage clothes garnered from around the world and reproduced identically.
Margiela remains the creator without a face, the man who does not do interviews, and whose clothes came with a plain white label bereft of any brand-name. This man who promotes anonymity is famous, not only for his use of white, a colour that he espoused in a multitude of shades, but also for holding his défilés in unusual venues: in car-parks, warehouses, a metro station, or on waste ground.