Affectionately referred to as fashion’s ‘invisible man’, Martin Margiela was the designer who did it first, best and with minimal fanfare or attention. Media was something he largely refused to entertain, and over the course of his twenty years at the helm of his own hugely successful eponymous label, he barely ever spoke to the press about his work. That, and the fact his clothes and influence continue to reverberate across fashion as much as they do, makes this retrospective at Paris’ Palais Galliera one of the most eagerly anticipated fashion exhibitions of 2018.
Having worked as Jean Paul Gaultier’s assistant during the mid 1980’s, Margiela first launched his label in 1987, and the resultant body of work, produced from spring-summer 1989 to spring-summer 2009, heralded the arrival of new conceptual approaches that challenged the eras dominant aesthetics and explored previously unconsidered ideas. It was Margiela for instance, who first played with the idea of exposing what had never been seen before in a garment, deconstructing it, exposing its guts and incomplete linings, revealing the manufacturing process in a way that had never been done before.
Similarly, his ‘Oversize’ and ‘Barbie’ collections proved to be seminal explorations of scale and proportion, collections that continue to shape the silhouettes of contemporary designers. Margiela championed notions of re-appropriation and sustainability long before they became the fashion buzz words they are today. In one typically subversive move, Margiela, who had a reputation for staging his shows in the far flung corners of Paris, held a show in a Salvation Army centre after the press had lambasted his previous collection, made from old subway station posters, vintage costumes and flea-market scarves, as only being fit for the charity. No wonder he continues to avoid us.
The Martin Margiela retrospective is on at Palais Galliera until July 15 2018