Between 1997 and 2003, the elusive Martin Margiela was made Creative Director of the prestigious french fashion titan Hermès. It was an interesting appointment, given that Margiela had already established a strong precedent for deconstructed, avant-garde fashion within his own label, Maison Margiela. Pairing this tendency toward rigorous re-workings of convention with a brand that was established in 1837 and came to fame thanks to leather saddle bags did, as one might imagine, raise more than a few eyebrows in the industry.
Yet over 12 collections, the designer honed a modern, luxury aesthetic for the brand, offering a unique hybrid of classic tailoring and innovation. That’s not to say he didn’t frame this through his own lens: Margiela had a made-to-measure tailor’s dummy developed for him at Hermès based on the natural body he envisioned for his Hermès woman; he also used a new logo, drawn from one he found on a pair vintage Hermès gloves from the 1970s.
While inviting audiences to explore this canon of work for the first time, the exhibition will also invite a deeper consideration of the work of Margiela for his own label. As is noted in the press release, “the exhibition can be perceived as a vast wardrobe, in which the two worlds of Martin Margiela can engage in dialogue with one another.” The juxtapositions of pieces serves as a reminder of how talented Margiela is as a tailor, as well as an innovator.
MoMu’s refreshing take on Margiela, framed through the challenge that many designers continue to face, of how to modernise a luxury heritage brand while remaining true to the original ethos, allows audiences to enjoy the complexities and nuances of the designer – an expert in traditional tailoring, and an industry provocateur.
Margiela, The Hermès Years is on at MoMu in Antwerp, March 31 – August 27, 2017