In part 1 of this tribute, I already mentioned about parts of his philosophy. The main thing I perceive when I see his designs (and from the sketchy interviews with the Maison’s spokesperson) is a philosophy that “the designs should surpass the designer”. And boy, doesn’t that intrigues you? When I mention designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, or Donatella Versace, the first thing you remember is their face, right? What about Martin Margiela? The first thing that pops would either be the face masks or the deconstructed designs, nothing about his face.
Here are some of his early works (when he was still heavily involved with the designs, and not his design teams as it has been in the past few years):
[photos from www.openingceremony.us]
I’ve mentioned before that the philosophy of Margiela is that the designs are beyond the designer. When the brand was starting out and warming up, all their collections have no label attached on them. The only distinguishing feature was four diagonal white stitches on the back of the clothes in rectangular shape.
However, as time passes and MMM started bearing more collections, the blank white label evolved to a label with number 0-23 printed on it. Each number defines the collection for the corresponding piece of item as shown in the images below:
Equally intriguing is the concept of their stores and the design teams. The stores are painted and decorated with all whites. It was said that when starting out, Martin Margiela and Jenny Meirens (the co-founder) were filling the first store with items from all kinds of places; flea markets, streets, shops from all over the world. To make the store seem coherent they painted all the furniture in white instead. Besides that, white means something more to MMM. It represents neutrality, a blank canvas, endless possibilities. Even the sales assistants wear white lab coats to further enhance the “whiteness” of the brand.
Even so, Chris Dercon, a fashion historian and sociologist, was given statements from MMM that “white signifies ‘the power of fragility, especially the fragility of passing time… passing time leaves traces on a white surface.’” Dercon also notes a fundamental contradiction: the passage of time leaves unique marks, thus “[w]hite is therefore in no way neutral or anonymous.” [taken from www.thirdlooks.com]
Now, the design team. Just like the mastermind himself, they too, choose to pursue the cult of anonymity. They wear white lab coats while in the MMM headquarters, and when they prepare the collections for the brand’s runway presentation. No less mysterious too, they are. Their names also remained hanging in the clouds.
I guess I just blew you with heaps of images. I’m utterly fascinated with the way they work, and the whole anonymous thing is an appeal of the brand itself. Early publications of Margiela’s work never forgot to scream about his hidden figure and mysterious concepts altogether.
So what do you think of MMM now? Sheer genius or brilliant marketing strategy in disguise? I honestly go for both 🙂
-The Dilly Chic-