Martin Margiela’s pioneering, deconstructed style is all about the reveal. In an industry consumed by looking, however, the designer himself kept away from fashion’s eye. During his 20-year career, Margiela never made an appearance at his runway shows and never gave an interview. His name is absent from his designs, which are instead marked by a signature white label with four simple stitches. His elusive identity and revolutionary designs are the subject of a new book, Martin Margiela: The Women’s Collections 1989-2009, written by curator Alexandre Samson and published by Rizzoli Electa. The book’s release this month follows a Spring 2018 retrospective exhibition about the designer at the Palais Galliera.
Martin Margiela features 41 of the designer’s collections, beginning with the Spring/Summer 1989 collection and the introduction of his iconic Tabi boot, and ending with his 20th anniversary Spring/Summer 2009 show. The pages provide a nostalgic walk through each of the runway collections through vivid description and images, including details from the creative invitations, the orchestrated atmospheres, to the most defining styles.
A member of the “Antwerp six,” the Belgian designer emerged as a creator who challenged aesthetics and redefined contemporary fashion. Throughout his collections, Margiela turned garments inside out, exposing the various phases of construction for an unfinished yet complete look. He washed his designs so they looked worn rather than new; he both shrunk and blew up proportions. He concealed models’ faces, just as he kept his own from the runway. Themes concerning anonymity, the colour white, and the past encompassed Margiela's collections. In Martin Margiela, Samson guides the reader through the many threads that connect these themes throughout the decades of his designs.
More than anything, Margiela filled a white space in fashion with innovation and experimentation. In the introduction of Martin Margiela, Olivier Saillard, a fashion historian and former director of the Palais Galliera writes, “Our sincere hope is that this exhibition dedicated to Margiela will foster new ambitions, open new creative pathways, and forge new destinies.” The book serves to inspire through looking at the designer who never wanted to be looked at.
Martin Margiela: The Women’s Collections 1989-2009 is available now .