Maison Margiela

Tonie Ong

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Articles on Maison Margiela

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The mark of a true fashion genius is when he/she can let the clothes speak for itself. Since the fashion industry had become heavily-commercialized in from the 1970’s to today, advertising and marketing have become vital in ensuring a collection’s survival. From the 80’s onwards, designers took it upon themselves to raise more awareness for their brands by being at the forefront, besides their clothes. The rise of the superstar designer made way for people to focus more on trends and the pop culture in fashion, rather than the clothes themselves. This was not to be the case for Martin Margiela and his Maison.

A Rewind of the Brand’s Birth

Martin Margiela opened his famous Maison back in 1988. Almost a decade prior, in 1979, he graduated from the Royal Academy of Antwerp, having studied under Linda Loppa. Although he is not part of it, he is often mistaken to be one of the famous Antwerp Six, a collective of Loppa’s other students, like Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester, who presented their menswear designs during London Fashion Week during the late 70’s. Early on in his career, he developed an affinity to avant-garde and deconstructed fashions, being heavily-influenced by Japanese designers Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto.

From 1984 to 1987, he worked under Jean-Paul Gaultier, a grand couturier whose work also featured avant-garde looks and deconstruction. In 1988, he launched his own ready-to-wear line, named Maison Martin Margiela. His name and fashion house quickly gained prominence, not only because of his clothes, but by his refusal to publicize himself—not taking a bow after each show, avoiding interviews from the fashion press, and many more. He insisted that his animosity was not a publicity stunt, but rather a protest on how the industry, at that time, had focused more on the designers and supermodels rather than clothes shown on the runway. Because of this, his label rarely ever advertised as well.

The Mark of Margiela Style

Much like his mentors, Margiela’s style often featured deconstruction. His clothes often challenged the body and embraced it in new and exciting ways. He also made oversized silhouettes more popular, making the wearer look (and most likely feel) more powerful than just adding mere shoulder pads. He intentionally left a lot of his hems and seams unfinished, to evoke a more real and raw look. His indelible signature has become his white stitches on the outside of his garments, a mark of his style and name. He also made use of numbers on his label to convey the type of garment it is. For example, the number 4 is encircled, it means the piece is from his womenswear line, while an encircled 10 means it’s for men.

Partnership with other Brands

Ironically, although Margiela is known for his privacy, his brand has collaborated with a number of retail giants. Such ventures helped his name reach wider audiences, especially with the founder’s principle of animosity. One of the most famous collaborations the brand partook in was with fast-fashion retail giant H&M for their annual designer capsule collection. Although the clothes were a lot more wearable than what the mainline offered, the capsule collection featured hints of Maison’s avant-garde signatures. The label also partnered with shoe brand Converse, wherein they put out a series of white high-cut shoes splattered with splashes of paint, making them look new and used. Such was the iron always present in Margiela designs.  

The company also ventured into cosmetics and fragrances, collaborating with L’Oreal for a series of scents made for both men and women. Their bottles were unique in that they looked like those of scientific bottles in a laboratory than the more glamorous shapes, sizes and colors designer scents are known for. Finally, another collaboration of the brand’s was with Swarovski, producing a line of avant-garde jewellery. The products were both beautiful and a bit dangerous, as the crystals were featured as shards of encircling rings and earrings. One has to be very careful in wearing a piece from this collaboration.

Retail Expansion

In 2002, Maison Martin Margiela was acquired by the Italian-owned OTB group, and from that point on the brand expanded its retail presence. By 2008, various Margiela stores have opened up overseas, in places like Dubai, Hong Kong, Munich, and Moscow, among others. Items of the brand also began selling in prominent retail stores, such as Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as in e-commerce sites like Net-A-Porter and Polyvore. By 2017, Margiela shops have opened in countries like France, Thailand, Italy, China, Taiwan, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among many others, amounting to over 50 stores worldwide.

Maison Martin Margiela Today

Today, British-Gibraltar fashion designer John Galliano of Christian Dior-fame leads the creative direction of the house since 2014. Like Margiela, Galliano features deconstruction in many of his collections, be it on ready-to-wear or haute couture, of which is referred to as the house’s “Artisanal” collections. Since the early 2000’s Margiela had exited the house without the fashion press knowing, and Gallion is one of the first prominent designers to lead the label after the founder’s exit.

Although Maison Martin Margiela may not be as big, grand, or as known as its Parisian contemporaries, the house’s contributions to fashion are as valuable as ever. Today, a lot of up and coming designers are influenced by the designer and his revolutionary approach to fashion it industry altogether.

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