Maison Martin Margiela: Fashion's Invisible Man
By laurie brookins
For a house that prides itself on anonymity, Maison Martin Margiela lately seems be experiencing all the covert secrecy of Brangelina sighting. Hot on the heels of Limited Edition Experiences installation during Art Basel, MMM, as it is called, released the news that it was launching a 2,700-square-foot temporary store in the Miami Design District’s Melin Building last month. To call the store temporary is a bit of misnomer, however, as MMM execs note that the concept will remain open-ended until a permanent location is found. “It’s an introduction, a way to feel the energy of this special city, which is very different from all the other places in the world where we have stores,” the house explains.
The Belgian-born Margiela never does interviews, never appears on a runway, never takes one minute of glory or credit for a collection, preferring to let the clothes speak for themselves—in other words, the antidesigner. Over the years Margiela has become the Godot of the fashion industry, the mysterious central character who influences all and yet is never seen—though this doesn’t prevent us from waiting eagerly and patiently for him each season, discussing with rapt attention the emerging ideas that most assuredly will turn the notion of “fashion-forward” on its ear. For Spring 2010 this meant origami-like jackets and gowns, or a dress of shredded black organza, all topping oversize scrunched boots that easily could fit the rod-thin calves of a trio of models at once.
There was also a head-scratching nod (“quizzical” is an adjective often applied to an MMM presentation) to bright palm-tree prints, and I can’t help now being amused by the hindsight, given the early-December announcement that the house’s infamously enigmatic designer had officially left the company. It was a rumor that had swirled in fashion circles for months, as Margiela was known to be eagerly pursuing his passion for painting, and now I envision all those beach-scene dresses to be his musings on an imminent Gauguin lifestyle. Of course, not unlike the case at many fashion houses, it likewise has been speculated that Margiela’s hand has not been the one working fabrics into all those engineeringmeets- deconstruction manipulations of late, a theory backed up by the notion that Renzo Rosso, who bought the label in 2002, also announced that he wasn’t replacing Margiela.
All of which means that a house and its aesthetic soldier on, more shrouded in mystery than ever before. The Miami boutique will feature the full range of the MMM collection as well as the house’s latest collaboration with singer Michael Stipe, who has lent his talents as a jewelry designer to create a sterling silver microcassette that can be worn in a multitude of ways. And this month the house also launches a fragrance, though its details are likewise being kept under wraps until its debut. It’s a fitting transition for a company undergoing so much change, and undoubtedly that’s intentional; last year MMM celebrated its 20th anniversary, and after two decades it is expected for someone at the helm to desire that a reset button be pressed. Margiela was highly proud of his two decades of work, and like many before him, he felt the time was right to explore new frontiers. How do I know he was proud? Because with no small hint of irony, I read about it—on Facebook.
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