LOVE and WARdrobe

Martin Margiela Exhibition

To be published in issue 2 of Front Row View magazine in August

An exhibition of one of the most elusive men in fashion is likely to excite the inquisitive nature in all of us, but before you get your coat and start running to the Martin Margiela exhibition, the secretive designer, who is yet to be photographed to this day in order to place emphasis on the brand, not the man, still maintains his anonymous character in this 20-year anniversary celebration of the design house.

There may not be photographs of the designer or insights into his personal life, but that doesn’t mean this exhibition is one to miss. With conceptual installations, videos and photography just to kick-start the interactive world of Margiela, you enter a weird and wonderful journey of the Margiela house through the ages; a cultural investment you won’t forget in a hurry.

After all, not every day in the English summer is perfect for sunbathing, so why not spend it standing next to giant polystyrene models and upscaled outfits for Barbie, Ken and GI Joe in his A/W1994 collection?

The now-retired Belgium designer began his career after graduating in 1980 from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, where he was part of the infamous Antwerp Six, along with Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester- a group of designers who changed the face of fashion, using a deconstructivist approach to design as a direct response to the idea of high and luxurious fashion in the late eighties. Working as the design assistant to Jean Paul Gaultier, he began his innovative namesake brand in 1989, which would go on to inspire the work of design greats like Marc Jacob and Hedi Slimane (the former Dior Homme designer.)

Margiela not only changed the way in which outfits were made (such as hems and linings on the outside of garments which revealed the construction of the pieces), but the shape of fashion, through unconventional recycled fabrics like blonde wigs, paint on clothes, oversized proportions in the arms and shoulders, men’s suits for women, and of course, trompe l’oeil, which is just one of many notable Margiela design features.

The brands design ethos is scattered throughout the exhibition; trompe l’oeil is seen on the walls were images are pasted and screen printed onto curtains, there are no front row seats to reveal his preference for community over privilege and white rooms which emulate the whitewashed shops. Even the employees of Maison Martin Margiela wear the traditional couture atelier uniform of white suits, fronting the collective unity of the brand, which is now owned by the Diesel trademark.

The Margiela statement pieces are in full-force at the exhibition too, with the signature Tabi boots and white tag with the iconic four stitches, as well as the famous incognito sunglasses, designed to hide the wearer from media attention (I struggle with this very problem on a daily basis.) This is probably why he has such notable A-listers as fan as French Vogue’s Carine Roitfeld.

The Margiela exhibition is the perfect place for the fashionista who wants to go beyond the aesthetics of the brand, and with the design house still going strong even after Margiela’s departure, it’s a great place to unwind after a busy day of non-stop shopping. With it’s central London location of Somerset House open until the 5th September, there’s no excuse for fashion lovers not to go.