Tuesday, 6 August 2013


After the Japanese takeover of the early 80s came a new fashion movement, all of whose members were educated in Antwerp. Designers such as Dries van Noten, Walter van Beirendonck and Ann Demeulemeester made an impact on the international fashion scene but none of them more so than the enigmatic cult icon Martin Margiela. His 'Maison' showed its first collection in 1989, and the striking yet macabre use of only black, white and red would soon define his aesthetic as a designer - an aesthetic firmly rooted in minimalism. 

Maison Martin Margiela S/S 1989
The Belgian designers conceptual collections and reluctance to give interviews intrigued the mainstream media on a massive scale. His first runway show, for example, saw an army of masked models bathed in red paint before walking, leaving a trail of blood-red footprints on the white cotton of the runway which was then manufactured into a series of waistcoats. The models were always masked with plain black cotton - the obscurity of their identity meant that, in the era of the supers, the shows were truly about the clothing itself and Margiela's artistic statements as opposed to grabbing headlines for using big-name models.

Waistcoat made from the cotton of the runway, 1989
There were also references to the East in several of Margiela's early looks. He became renowned for his unique take on the Japanese 'tabi' sock - the designer took the split-toe of the design and incorporated it into a series of black chunky-heeled boots that soon became iconic. It may have been a reference to his Japanese predecessors that had prepared the mainstream fashion world for more avant-garde collections or it may have been a simple design choice, but it was evident that Margiela, Yamamoto and Kawakubo were always more interested in avoiding trends as opposed to following them.

Various incarnations of the 'tabi' boot
Margiela's interpretation of minimalism was more about graphic imagery than it was about social commentary. Although there were always stories behind his collections, it was the stripped-back aesthetic that got people talking. His plain cotton masks and choice of simple, effective silhouettes were seen as the embodiment as a new, more advanced take on the minimal - the concept of stripping back identity completely and using clean lines and dark imagery to create an aesthetic that was strangely beautiful. After a period in which the fashion world was won over by the extravagant collections of John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood, Margiela managed to entice the mainstream with his stark yet elegant aesthetic, maintaining his mystery and breaking yet more boundaries in the realm of fashion. 

Scan taken from 'Maison Martin Margiela Paris'
Just one example of Margiela's simplistic, multi-functional garments

No comments:

Post a Comment