From 31 March 2017 to 27 August 2017, MoMu is displaying Belgian stylist Martin Margiela’s Hermès collections from 1997 to 2003 for the first time. As well as this, the tribute exhibition also explores the relationship during these years between these collections and his own label, Maison Martin Margiela. Groundbreaking deconstruction and timeless luxury – the two worlds of designer Martin Margiela – are the starting point of the exhibition ‘‘Margiela, the Hermès years’’.
When the Parisian house Hermès appointed Martin Margiela as its artistic director for the women’s ready-to-wear collections in October 1997, the founder of Maison Martin Margiela had already been known for almost a decade as one of the most influential avant-garde designers. His predilection for the deconstruction, recycling and recovery of materials was unheard of in the fashion world of that era. His conceptual approach to the presentation, sales and communication of his collections has changed the way we think about fashion and its underlying mechanisms, as well as our opinions on craftsmanship, commerce, authorship and innovation.
When Jean-Louis Dumas, then CEO of Hermès, approached Margiela for the label’s ready-to-wear for women at the end of the 1990s, it was a daring choice to say the least, and not in line with the prevailing developments on the fashion scene, which preferred celebrity designers to breathe new life into traditional French fashion houses. The fact that Hermès, the crown jewel of Parisian luxury, chose Margiela – an iconoclast who longed to remain anonymous and up to then had never given a single interview – raised quite a few eyebrows. The fashion press greedily speculated whether Margiela would apply his deconstruction idiom to the iconic Hermès legacy.
From 1997 to 2003, Margiela instilled his exhaustive and consistent vision of modern-day luxury into twelve consecutive Hermès collections. His sleek designs for the Hermès woman were all about comfort, timelessness and tactility, values that he shared with the house and that defined his vision of the Hermès woman associated with an understated style. The image he presented for Hermès surprised the press because of its unexpected direction. His sober and monochrome colour palette diverged from the typical brightly-coloured Hermès prints. Assisted by the outstanding craftsmanship of the Hermès studios, Margiela was able to distil his design and tailoring into sheer perfection, supported by extensive material research that not only enhanced the comfort of the wearer, but also introduced numerous innovations.
Margiela’s work for Hermès continues to influence the work of many contemporary designers. During Paris Fashion Week for autumn-winter 2016-2017, the international press described Martin Margiela – who retreated from the fashion world more than eight years ago – as the “true protagonist” of fashion week. High time to showcase some of his masterpieces with “Margiela – The Hermès Years” at MoMu.
© HERMÈS Autumn/Winter 1998 image of the advertising campaign over-painted by Martin Margiela (Cape Cod watch designed by Henri d’Origny and double-tour strap bracelet created by Martin Margiela) - photo Thierry Le Goues - graphic design Jelle Jespers