Martin Margiela, a double bill at Galliera and MAD

Group of Tabi shoes electroplated in silver, inspired by the Japanese Tabis, Spring summer, 2009, Fashion Museum Antwerp

I had never bought a Martin Margiella outfit and I went to his Palais Galliera’s retrospective with leaded feet. Well, I was totally mesmerized by what I saw there, the incredible audacity of the Belgian designer who started as Jean Paul Gaultier’s assistant and went on to become women’s designer for Hermès. Musée des Arts Décoratifs newly called MAD, will also show the latter work on March 22.

Hermès, Fall Winter 2002-2003 by Martin Margiela, les “Gestuelles” ©Marina-Faust

When he graduated from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine arts, Margiela became part of a group of Belgian fashion designers including Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten,  promoted by the government who would later overtake the fashion world. Inspired by the Japanese Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, he worked on deconstruction and fought the empire of brands, eradicating labels from his clothes.

Top and dress made of reclaimed nylon stockings, Spring Summer 2005

The show at Palais Galliera immediately addresses the way he constructed clothes, showing many videos of his fashion shows organized in the most obscure places: the first one at Café de la Gare, on rue du Temple on October 1988, is followed by Passage Josseaume,  a vacant car park on rue du Delta, the Salvation Army hangars, Salle Wagram in 1996 or the SERNAM freight loading docks in 2000.

Short wool half-coat jersey pullover Autumn Winter 1997-98

There is a constant search for changing the course of fashion, reinventing the way of wearing clothes, creating coats and dresses for the overweight…  And this is what is fascinating in the show curated by Alexandre Samson in charge of contemporary collections at Galliera. You never know what to expect from the next room and you are meandering in a sort of never ending corridors. The scenography was closely conceived by Margiela himself who does not appear in public and does not let anyone photograph him. It is a huge intriguing success and one walks around as one reads a thriller, trying to guess what will happen next.

Top made of reclaimed brand labels and tags, skirt made from a patchwork of reclaimed pleated skirts, with trompe-l’oeil traces of dic-coloration in red

Palais Galliera has been totally redesigned for the show which intertwining models, windows with treasures, films and whole rooms filled with accessories and souvenirs. One can see hat great care has been put into establishing the “truth” about Margiela’s career. This tells of twenty years of the designer’s career from 1989 to 2009. He turned 70 last year.

Autumn winer 2008-09, Cone shaped wool jacket, mohair leg warmers leather ankle boots with metallic nail-heels and Cone neck mohair pullover, spandex leggings and sleeves in printed cotton, leather boots

It shows how much he used old clothes or leftovers from previous collections to create a new look. Throughout the 130 silhouettes, videos and shows, many accumulations and installations punctuate the long walk. Masked models walking in strange Tabi shoes immediately set the pace in the first rooms. The show ends in 2009 when he leaves his company managed by OTB, and now the collections are designed by John Galliano.

Fall Winter 99-2000, Duvets made into a coat with removable sleeves, reclaimed jeans painted with painted tabi boots.

So rush to the show and get lost in the labyrinth of desconstruction prepared for you by Martin Margiela and on March 22, you will have the pleasure of seeing more luxurious and wearable clothes made for Hermès at Musée des Arts Décoratifs. But the lesson at Galliera is unique! (Margiela/Galliera, 1989-2009, until July 15)

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