Maison Martin Margiela for H&M

MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA – a noun, plural. Comes from the name of a Belgian stylist. Clothing company founded in 1988 in Paris, based at 163 Rue Saint Maur, 75011, Paris. Known for its passion for transgression, fashion shows in unexpected places, ‘street castings’, models at different ages. Classified as underground, deconstructive, grunge, minimalist, provocative.

3. INCOGNITO. In 1979 Martin Margiela graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. In 1984 he became an assistant to Jean Paul Gaultier. Belgian designer, who from the beginning was closer to the Japanese avant-garde than French elegance, in 1988 started his own fashion house. He opened his first office at 102 rue Resumur in Paris. The interior, including its furniture, was painted white or covered with white sheets. All the successively opened stores were also white, while the employees wore white gowns. From the beginning, white played a key role in the brand’s philosophy. Smart move, especially for a young designer without a large budget. White walls and sheets of white material are an affordable idea for interior design. Over time however, Margiela gave special meaning to white: it is neutral, unobtrusive, almost invisible. This way it is only a background for the forms presented. Margiela emphasized: ‘The only thing that we want to point out is our fashion.’ He dissapeared in his collections as much as possible. He wanted his work to speak for itself. In a world dominated by logo, he never signed his projects. On the inner side of clothing, where the label with the company logo should be placed, he put white rectangular piece of material. The ‘blank label’ was purposely sewn only at four corners, so that you could easily detach it. The designer claimed that this way he doesn’t impose his vision, that he gives the customers the opportunity to interpret projects on their own. Over time, it turned out that the piece of cloth that was supposed to be synonymous with anonymity and opposed to fashion being perceived through the prism of a prestigous logo, contrary to its original purpose, became one of the most important tools to promote the Margiela fashion house. Margiela’s fans do not buy his clothes just because of its quality or design, but mostly because it is Maison Martin Margiela.

0. ART Margiela is considered to be one of the leading deconstructivists. He experimented while designing. Played with form, processed, tipped over to the left side. Showed the construction, linings, zippers and seams. Clothes often looked unfinished. To create an haute couture collection ‘Artisenal’ he used old clothing (not only) elements and gave them new function. This way a skirt turned into a blouse, Christmas chain – into a coat, feather boa – into a jacket. The projects looked more like museum pieces than clothes than can be worn every day. To Margiela, clothing was more important than the person who wears it. That is why so often he would forget about its basic function and treat it like a piece of art.

White is only one of Margiela’s distinguishing characteristics. The most important ones  – minimalism and scarce details – were manifested in all of his activities. The activities that didn’t fit the standards of Parisian fashion houses from the very beginning. While other designers organized fashion shows in the most expensive districts of Paris, he always chose locations far away from Louvre. These places seemingly didn’t have anything to do with fashion – poor districts of Paris, inhabited mostly by Africans and Arabs, abandoned parking lots, unused subway stations, train stations and marquees. At the shows, instead of the first-row rule – ‘first come, first served’ ruled, plus – instead of Cindy Crawford or Noami Campell on the catwalk – only unprofessional models, often times girls met on the street. He wanted them to be anonymous, just like he was; he didn’t want to reveal their identities. Margiela covered their eyes or entire faces. They weren’t supposed to draw the attention away from the collections presented.

20. JUBILEE In 2008 the designer celebrated the 20th anniversary of the company. On this occassion, in September, the Fashion Museum in Antwerp presented a retrospective exhibition of his accomplishments. The exhibition had been divided into 24 sections (from 0 to 23), and each of them presented one characteristic component of Margiela fashion house’s philosophy. And so the number 5 was an invitation to the shows, 13- the collection Artisenal, 14- a birthday room, 18-a coat made from duvets, 19-company office and shops, and 22- the tromple-l ‘oeil technique.

Apparently, since the celebration, the designer appeared less and less in the office at Rue Saint Maur 163. The fact that there were changes planned in the Margiela fashion house, was announced by the Spring-Summer 2012 fashion show. The collection looked as if it was composed of four independent lines. Amazed press asked where was the old Margiela?

16. EMPTY HOUSE The designer was clear about the fact that he didn’t work alone, but with a team of 16 people. If he happened to give an interview, it was always on behalf of the Maison Martin Margiela fashion house, in the first plural person ‘we’. In the late 2009 the master decided to leave. Among of the names of the designers who could replace him, Raf Simons and Haider Ackermann were mentioned. Director Giovanni Pungetti decided not to appoint anyone in place of Margiela. ‘We want to remain avant-garde and provocative, but without a new creative director… We’ve decided not to replace Martin, not because he is irreplacable, but because we are Maison Martin Margiela’ – he explained. Press suggested that the team will not manage the vision of one of the leading fashion deconstructivists alone. The students did not surpass the master, but they successfully continue his work. The team quickly recovered after his departure and stood on its feet. Their first solo collection for Winter 2010 was a great success.

23. A COPY OF THE ORIGINAL. The cooperation between MMM and H&M is unlikely to be called minimalism. The collection ‘Maison Martin Margiela for H&M’ is presented as a new version of MMM clothes from 23 different seasons. The press release states: ‘Each of the elements should be marked with a special tag and an information about one of the 23 seasons that the item comes from. The most recognizable elements from MMM archives will become reproductions with an updated shapes and materials, offered to the general public as an exclusive summary of the company’s history. With these new editions of MMM clothes, H&M will give us access to the most important wardrobe elements in the modern fashion history’. The collection will appear in stores on November 15th, 2012.

MMM for H&M lookbook