In all the years Martin Margiela spent shaking up the foundations of fashion, he operated under a veil of anonymity. Despite the air of mystery surrounding him, few other living designers have left as profound an impact on fashion as much as Margiela; his predilection for the conceptual continues to be practised on today’s runways by other designers deeply influenced by his aesthetic. Thus, when it was announced in 2009 that the enigmatic designer was leaving his eponymous label, the fashion world mourned the lost of its most revolutionary (if just a tad subversive) visionaries.
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Fast forward to 2017 and Margiela has came ‘out of retirement’, breaking an eight-year hiatus, for a special one-off project for Hermès in Antwerp. Entitled “Le Sens de L’Objet”, the Margiela-choreographed performance took place in a darkened space where some of his works were proudly worn by women who modelled for him more than 20 years ago.
The audience of 250 international journalists, editors, the Dumas family and staff from the brand watched transfixed as these “models” (some in their seventies) diligently described the outfits they were in, which included nude or black bodysuits with matching stockings and Tabi boots – signature designs from both Margiela’s eponymous label, and ones he created for Hermès during his stint as the French House’s Creative Director two decades ago.
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After the performance, the audience was led out into a beautiful atrium space for lunch at Felix Pakhuis before a walking tour of Antwerp concluded at the MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp for its Margiela exhibition.
“Any Hermès object is a companion – reliable and comfortable; sensitive, creative and practical. It’s elegance for everyday for everyday life is life at its best,” said Pierre-Alexis Dumas, Artistic Director of Hermès. As for Margiela, for all his non-conformist leanings, the designer was about constructing clothes that were meant to be lived in. Quality and comfort was what Margiela wanted and the same values are inherent in the 180-year-old French House today.
“His designs are entirely at the service of this changing body, their exclusive purpose to support and strengthen the woman, at whatever age, in her beauty, elegance and self-assurance,” wrote Kaat Debo, the museum’s director, in a book that was launched together with the exhibition.
In one full circle, Hermès has brought Margiela back to Antwerp, the city of his first atelier. And with this brilliant collaboration, savoir faire, tradition and timeless elegance has once again been made new.
“Margiela: The Hermès Years” runs from 31 March to 27 August, 2017, at MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp. Visit www.momu.be
By Kenneth Goh
Additional reporting by Gerald Tan