Martin Margiela. Helmut Lang. Thierry Mugler. These designers were ahead of their time with avant-garde pieces that will easily stand out even in today’s runway collections. They existed pre-Instagram yet are still masters of their domains, creating legacies that still inspire many designers today.
Besides the names mentioned earlier, there were other designers whose work left an indelible impression. Here are some names we hope would come out of retirement and make a comeback.
Why she was good: She held the role of creative director at Celine for 10 years, and during that tenure, she helped lift Céline’s annual sales from €200 million to more than €700 million, according to analysts. Philo designed 17 runway collections and was largely credited to changing the way women across the globe dressed with her acute balance of artistic expression and commercialism. Her clothes were accessible, wearable and empowering, and she championed feminism and created many modern wardrobe classics. Her tailoring prowess and the sleek minimalism of her collections left her successor Hedi Slimane with large shoes to fill back in 2018.
Why she should return today: Philo needs to make a return to the fashion forefront. Her designs did not cave in to notions of overt sexuality, and unlike the other designers on this list, Philo did not start her own label after leaving Celine. Earlier this year, rumours abound that the designer was assembling a team to launch her own label. We cannot wait to see if that will come to fruition.
Why she was good: Jil Sander brought modern minimalism into the 1990s with her gender-neutral designs. Think luxurious textiles, masculine shapes executed with a feminine touch. Coming out of the ’80s, an era of decadence, Sander was successful in removing elements of ornamental flourish, presenting clothes in their truest forms. Her clothes were functional and cut with precise tailoring.
Why she should return today: The German designer certainly had a clear vision, and the authenticity was evident in Sander’s creations. Not one to compromise on quality, Sander famously left her eponymous label in 1999 after her differences with Prada Group‘s CEO Patrizio Bertelli over speculated disagreements including Sander’s sourcing of expensive textiles. According to reports, the company would go on to lose millions of dollars in her absence. She also understood the value of commercial retailers. Her three-year collaboration with Uniqlo in 2009 to 2011 was a massive financial success. So much so that the Japanese retailer reissued the “most-loved” pieces in 2014 following an overwhelming customer demand. In short, Sander knew what her customers wanted, and that in turn contributed to commercial success.
Why he was good: Claude Montana was a master of design and a true fashion rockstar. In 1979, he founded his company The House of Montana and defined power-dressing for women in the ’80s with exaggerated proportions, aggressive shoulders and sculptured pieces. The nature of his immersive catwalk shows amassed a loyal and manic fanbase, including the late Alexander McQueen.
Why he should return today: As gender and social equality continue to evolve, it would also be interesting to how his idea of power dressing would fit in today’s context.
Why he was good: Thierry Mugler shows were quite a feast to the eye (sometimes lasting for up to an hour) and he was dubbed as the “man of the future” in the ’80s. Iconic models of that era would don his other-worldly pieces and be transformed into space-age vixens and surreal goddesses. His designs were an erotic enigma and included crustacean-like creations with his models having wasp-like waists and broad shoulders. His shows were controversial at that time and transformed the fashion landscape into a world of decadence.
Why he should return today: From Cardi B at the Grammy’s in 2019 to Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala that same year, a new generation of A-list celebrities have rediscovered vintage pieces from Mr. Mugler with newfound interest in his offerings. It certainly looks like Mugler’s designs would continue to cause a stir and inspire a new generation of fashion enthusiasts if he came back under the spotlight.
Why he was good: Martin Margiela was and still is one of the most elusive designers in history. He rejected fashion norms and remained anonymous by eschewing interviews and public appearances— he let his body of work spoke for itself. Margiela championed diversity and wasn’t fixated on traditional notions of beauty. He also had a sustainable approach to his fashion—modifying existing pieces and creating new clothes from discarded gloves and ties.
Why he should return today: In many ways, the fashion industry is still catching up to Margiela’s vision. His desire for destruction—creating waistcoats from smashed porcelain (Autumn/Winter ’89) and graffitied Tabi boots (1991)—speaks to a new generation of revolutionists. There is a group of youth and young adults who are rioting for change and Margiela’s aesthetic could resonate with them.
Why he was good: In the 1990s, Helmut Lang ushered in an era of utilitarian minimalism. His clothes were sharp, industrial and had an androgynous quality about them. He also transformed unusual fabrics into luxury pieces. Lang had a fascination with bondage, and attached straps, harnesses and belts to jackets making the once hidden subculture accessible. He marched to the beat of his own drum and was never one to be pushed into creating the latest It bag.
Why he should return today: He left his namesake label in 2005 after a number of artistic and business differences with the Prada Group. Designers like Rick Owens and Kanye West have been inspired by many of Lang’s pieces. His return will certainly give a number of fashion creatives a run for their money.