How Maison Margiela became one of the most influential brands in fashion
Maison Margiela is one of the most renowned names in high-end luxury fashion with some of the most recognizable silhouettes in the fashion world.
With the ever popular replica pieces that re-imagine and break down staple designs and reimagine them for the current consumer.
“Reproduction of found garments of carrying sources and periods,” is written in a typewriter typeface on a label fastened to the garments with the type of garment being replicated, hence the name ‘Replica’ is given to these garments.
The ‘Replica’ collections take the notion of timeless pieces and rely on the principle that these pieces have already proven the test of time.
The idea was to design each garment so that they are as relevant for today as they will be tomorrow. With the popular ‘Replica Men’s Sports Shoes’ or more commonly known as the German Army Trainer, or GAT is a staple in the Maison Margiela timeline.
This sneaker has a story that is almost cooler than Martin Margiela. The German military needed trainers for their aspiring soldiers to wear during boot camp, they went to the two most popular sneaker manufacturers Adidas and Puma to see who made the better shoe for the job.
Both ended up making loads of shoes and both accused the other of stealing the design we know and love with contrasting lambskin and calf upper with a raw gum sole.
Maison Margiela planted the seed in the mind of many during his first fashion show in 1989 just after the age of color had become stagnate.
The 1980s were an age where designers had almost no limitations and created in the gluttony of color of popular brands like Versace making a name for themselves by creating amazingly intricate and loud designs on silk shirts and full-length shoulderless dresses.
These garments reflected a world of glitz and glamor that was just not a true projection of the real world, what was happening at home was not happening on the runway and people got bored/tired of seeing a dream.
The 1990s were home to Anti-Fashion, a dystopian, dark, sinister development that sprung out of youth counter techno and grudge culture creating nihilistic cigarette kids who needed their own brands to represent themselves.
Just as the punks had Malcolm Mclaren and Vivienne Westwood, the techno kids had Raf Simons, Martin Margiela, and Yohji Yamamoto.
Clothing created using dark fabrics with asymmetrical cuts and distressed details was a reaction to the overdose of vivid colors that had taken fashion hostage.
Martin graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp a year before the ever popular Antwerp 6 and wanted to work for Jean Paul Gaultier.
He was told by Gaultier that he could design on his own and did not need to be an assistant but Margiela wanted to learn how the industry worked, how to run the business of a fashion house. According to Gaultier, Martin was the best assistant he had ever hired.
Martin’s first show spring 1990 collection sent fashion shows into the mainstream with children cast by Anna Wintour to “walk” with the models who were adorned with recycled materials and crazy silhouettes never seen before but with a level of craftsmanship that caught the eyes of industry heavyweights.
That show created ripples in the fashion world that we still feel today, with Walter Van Beirendonck taking Raf Simons to that Margiela show in turn changing the world of fashion forever, “as a student I always thought that fashion was a bit superficial all glitz and glamour but this show changed everything for me I walked out of it and I thought that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Influencing one of menswear most important designer to switch paths and reconsider his perception of fashion and start creating his own garments is already a great start with your first runway show.
For Martin Margiela this would just be the start of an incredibly influential career in fashion, he would go on to make consumers rethink what it meant to design/create a product with meaning. Margiela would separate himself from the clothing and fell into anonymity, letting his clothing speak for itself.
Martin Margiela against his own beliefs of separating the designer from the clothing has gone on to become one of the fashion greats reigning from 1988 to 2009, he stays in our heads as one of the best designers to ever influence fashion.