Martin Margiela delights and confounds in equal measures. Yet the now retired designer, who trained at the prestigious Antwerp Academy and broke through as part of the infamous Antwerp Six group (which included Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester) in the late Eighties, has bewitched the design world for more than 20 years, changing not only its shape (exaggerated shoulders, trompe l’oeil effects, recycled fabrics, frayed edges and men’s suiting for women are all part of his lexicon), but its operation.
Throughout this time, Margiela, who is now in his early fifties, remained – and still remains – anonymous (much to the chagrin of the press), and deeply provocative in the way he shows. Disused metro stations, cafés, containers by the Seine, empty warehouses, “faceless” models, eerie music and no front-row seats are methods used to communicate his concepts, which value the “extra” in the ordinary, and community over hierarchy. To that end, the employees of his label, Maison Martin Margiela, all sport white coats (the uniform of traditional couture ateliers) and statements are made from the collective, rather than personal, voice. You either “got it” and were in the Margiela club, or were out.