Skip to navigation Skip to main content
All stories

International Women's Day: Martin Margiela and his women-centred design philosophy

Maison Martin Margiela, AW 1996 - 1997
Marina Faust

Martin Margiela’s work has consistently been based on infinite respect for women. During his time as a designer, Martin Margiela not only designed for his own label Maison Martin Margiela but was also creative director for Hermès from 1997 to 2003.

  • Casting sheet of MMM show, AW 2000-2001
    Stany Dederen
  • Casting sheet of MMM show, AW 2000-2001
    Stany Dederen

Margiela preferred to use natural women in his shows for both Maison Martin Margiela and Hermès. Given that he wanted to present his collections for Hermès on self-assured women with a mature aura, he found younger models less appropriate. He chose women of all ages, from 25 to even 65, something that is extremely unusual in a fashion world that has youth as its ultimate ideal. His collections for Hermès centred on the comfort of the women wearing them. Models were sought who are able to express this comfort in the show, moving naturally and radiating an allure of certainty.

Film still 'Les Gestuelles', 2019

For the exhibition Margiela, the Hermes years, three former models for Hermes were invited to feature in especially commissioned films entitled ‘Les Gestuelles’. These films show the timeless characters of his designs and how the master’s hand is shown in every detail.

Silhouettes at the first showroom in Paris, on Rue de Réamur, AW 1990-1991
Ronald Stoops

For his Maison Martin Margiela shows as well, he sought women with character amongst friends and acquaintances, and through street castings. The Margiela woman experiences his ideas as statements, and finds wearing them exciting. She finds energy in the controversial and in unexpected creative innovations. Comfort is not her first priority but rather the expression of her artistic sensibilities, originality and even daring.

Models in veils, MMM SS 2009
Marina Faust
Veils covering the faces of the models, SS 1996
Marina Faust

At some of Margiela’s shows, the faces of the models were rendered incognito as a statement to question the excesses of the celebrity and supermodel cult of the eighties and nineties. Like the designers, the models became anonymous so they were not presented or objectified and unattainable fashion ideals but as free individuals in charge of their own bodies.

MoMu is closed for renovations, open to inspire at other locations. Read more about it.