Who is Maison Margiela? | A Fashion History

Parisian fashion house Maison Margiela has been a name to know for its sartorial excellence since its birth in 1988. The eponymous label was launched by Belgian designer Martin Margiela, whose creations in men’s and womenswear have pushed the boundaries of design with it’s deconstructing, reinventing and redefining of the male and female silhouette.

#1 Maison Margiela History  

Martin Margiela’s first taste of working in the fashion industry was in 1984 when he started working at Jean Paul Gaultier as a design assistant. Four years later and the Maison Margiela label launched into the luxury fashion market. Not fulfilled with the pressures of one label, Martin simultaneously becomes womenswear director at Hermes later in 1997.

Passionate about the world of fashion as well as challenging social and fashion norms, the Maison Margiela label was first noticed for its unorthodox design techniques. Reflecting more of a raw, unfinished and grunge vibe in his collections they stood out amongst a crowded market. In the early noughties, the brand became a public company with a majority share owned by Diesel Group owner Renzo Russo, a year later Martin left his position at Hermes. Shortly after this it was announced that Martin Margiela would resign from the eponymous label without a successor taking his place. Instead, an anonymous team of creatives would take the reins and continue the respectively held Maison Margiela name.

Maison Margiela

@BellaHadid in #MaisonMargiela ‘Artisanal’ Collection by @JGalliano in @VogueMagazine

#2 Margiela Designs

The label is not only known for its creative and androgynous designs, is also well known for its legacy in ‘Haute Couture’, holding the official Haute Couture appellation from the Federation Francaise de la Couture since 2012 under the Maison Margiela Artisanal name. Dressing A- list celebrities on the regular, the brand has been featured on the front of editorial magazines and continues to make headlines for its unconventional runway collections. In 2009 Martin left the label without appointing a successor until 2014, when British couturier John Galliano was hired as head Creative Director.


Rihanna for Harper’s Bazaar @MaisonMargiela

#3 Martin Margiela anonymity  

Unlike the majority of the industry Martin Margiela’s media presence has always been minimal, opting to be anonymous and not indulging in interviews or photos. Even after Martin left the label after two decades, the design team continue to represent the label in the same manner, with a ‘faceless’ facade.  

#4 Margiela collaborations and standout work

Fast forward to 2012 and Maison Margiela announced the first ever high street collaboration with scandi giant H&M. The capsule collection saw the brand take archive pieces and revise them for a more commercial audience without losing the Margiela edge.

Infamous for his work with unconventional materials, Margiela presented a critically acclaimed collection in 2006 in which he presented a selection of tailoring made from upholstery and used seat belts to cinch in at the waist. Margiela has also been known to experiment with dying techniques to achieve the certain je ne sais quoi of his collections. The acquired taste of the Tabi toe boot had it’s runway debut in Margiela’s SS89 runway show, inspired by 15th century Japan where wooden platform sandals with strap between the toe were the footwear of choice, Margiela’s designs bring the risk factor into high fashion.

#5 What do the Maison Margiela numbers mean?

Unique to each garment, Maison Margiela labels display a run of numbers from 0-23, corresponding to the collection it sits in. For example garments with number 4 circled sit in the mens collection, whereas garments with number 1 circled are part of the womenswear collection.



Words by Emma Bowkett

Emma Bowkett

Emma Bowkett

Writer and expert