Description of the exhibition
The starting point for "Margiela, the Hermès years" is Martin Margiela’s collaboration with the French house of Hermès. From 1997 to 2003, he was responsible for their women’s ready-to-wear collections.
For Hermès, Margiela developed a vision in which the woman is central, not an ideal image of eternal youth, but a real, natural, and mature woman. For her, he developed a gradually evolving wardrobe with comfort, utmost quality and timelessness as its basic elements. He presented his collections on women of different ages and body types, and his fashion was harmonized with the wearer instead of being forced onto her body.
This exhibition also looks more deeply into his own label, Maison Martin Margiela. Margiela’s overall oeuvre is shaped from his great knowledge and deep respect for the past, and his exceptional love for tailoring. Tradition, quality, craftsmanship and creation are the foundations of a vision that not only then, but still today offer an example in a fashion system increasingly under pressure
"Margiela, the Hermès years" can be perceived as a vast wardrobe, in which the two worlds of Martin Margiela can engage in dialogue with one another. What at first may seem to be irreconcilable worlds of luxury and avant-garde fashion have both proved inherent to Margiela’s creative DNA, and have now been brought together as part of a single vision, in which ideas and concepts that span collections and seasons are recaptured, rethought, or even refined.
In April 1997, the house of Hermès announced their appointment of the Belgian designer Martin Margiela as their new creative director for women’s ready-to-wear. 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.
Martin Margiela graduated in fashion design from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 1980. In 1984, he began working as Jean Paul Gaultier's assistant in Paris until 1987. In 1988 he set up his own label together with Jenny Meirens, and Maison Martin Margiela was founded.
With his conceptual collections, his predilection for deconstruction and recycled materials, his shows at unusual locations and his unique communication style, Martin Margiela quickly became one of the most talked-about designers of his generation. From then, he never made a single public appearance. Nor did he give any interviews in his own name. Interviews were responded to by fax in the first-person plural, as a gesture of respect to the teamwork underlying the creations, and as a statement in response to the celebrity cults that dominated the fashion world of the 1990s.
In several shows and photo shoots for Maison Martin Margiela, the faces of the models were made anonymous, for example with veils or with black or silver strips placed over the eyes. Anything that might distract people from the creations, be it the models or be it the designer, was underlined in various aspects of the Maison, including the use of a blank label. This completely white cotton label, with four white stitches attached to the garments, has become one of the most iconic statements against the obsession with logos that characterized the 1990s.
MoMu's exhibition "Margiela, the Hermès years" travels to MAD Paris
Martin Margiela's oeuvre brings into question the entire system underlying fashion and its persistent obsession with renewal. He even selected white as the colour of the Maison, at a time when the dominant colours were concrete grey and black. He likes that white, when it fades, inevitably reveals the passing of time more quickly than any other colour.
Exhibition under the lead of
Curators: Marie-Sophie Carron de la Carrière & Kaat Debo | Artistic direction: Martin Margiela | Scenographer: Bob Verhelst
This exhibition was designed and presented by MoMu - Fashion Museum Antwerpen from 31 March 2017 to 27 August 2017