[by Tanja] Six years. That’s the period Belgian designer Martin Margiela reigned as creative director of womenswear at Hermès, from 1997 till 2003. The unexpected pairing of the innovative, conceptual designer and France’s ultimate house of luxury – quite a fashion shock at the time – resulted in brilliant collections.
Now on display at ModeMuseum Antwerp where director Kaat Debo honours this period with a fantastic new exhibition: ‘Margiela – The Hermès years’.
The guided tour by Kaat herself – lucky me – the day before the opening, showed her deep respect for Margiela’s hugly talented, delicate and quiet work.
Mystic Martin Margiela
In today’s world, all is accessible. Every fact (or non-fact), photo, design or quote is just a click away. With one remarkable exception: Martin Margiela’s designs for Hermès. As hard to find as his interviews (none), which makes him the ‘mystery man’ in fashion.
Happy with this – Hermès orange walled – exhibition!
Margiela started at Hermes in 1997. These were the glamorous days of fashion. Of The Supermodels and Tom Ford’s Gucci sexiness. Of John Galliano’s haute drama for Christian Dior. So yes, some eyebrows were raised at the announcement that the most influential avant-garde designer will be the new creative director at Hermès.
His first Hermès collection, Nonchalance, modestly presented in Hermes’ Faubourg Saint-Honoré store, had nothing to do with over the top luxury. This was all about the clothes.
The press didn’t know what to think of it. Quiet seemed to be the word used by critics to describe the elegant, yet masculine style collection.
I love to see up close how brilliantly they are made, how rich in ideas and how delicate the fabrics.
Martin Margiela and real women
A real, natural and mature woman is Margiela’s muse when designing the Hermès ready-to-wear collections. A wardrobe with comfort, from utmost quality and timelessness as basic elements. Real classic and minimalistic pieces to last a lifetime. Almost rebellious, he shows his work on women of different ages and body types. No perfect supermodels for him, the diversity casting photo’s shown are intriguing.
This exhibition not only shows the Hermès Years, it also compares and explores his own label, Maison Martin Margiela. His overall oeuvre is shaped from his great knowledge and deep respect for the past, and his exceptional love for tailoring.
Tradition, quality, craftsmanship and creation are the foundations of a vision that not only then, but maybe even more today, offers an example in a fashion system that is under the enormous pressure of time and money.
After Kaat Debo contacted Margiela on her idea of an exhibition, he responded very enthusiastic. Offered his help and gave all the feedback Kaat needed. The question is, after 10 years of absence, will Margiela ever return to the fashion industry?
Until then we cherish his impressive legacy (the double-tour strap bracelet!) with many thanks to Fashion Museum, Momu Antwerp for giving fashion its memory back.
until August, 27 MoMu Antwerp - Margiela The Hermès Years catalogue | photos by Stany Dederen