Maison Martin Margiela Autumn/Winter 2000

Maison Martin Margiela Autumn/Winter 2000. Image property of Marina Faust

Running until July, a new exhibition at the Paris Galliera traces the career of Belgian designer Martin Margiela from founding his fashion house in Paris to becoming one of the industry’s pre-eminent designers.

Born and raised in Belgium, Martin Margiela graduated from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts after studying under Lind Loppa alongside the likes of Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, and Walter Van Beirendonck. While a number of these designers established themselves in Antwerp following their studies, Margiela made his way to Paris and worked under the aegis of France’s enfant terrible Jean-Paul Gaultier until 1987. Despite his association with the Antwerp school, Margiela was the only Belgian designer of his generation to found his own fashion house in Paris.

Alongside several of his Belgian contemporaries, Margiela was especially interested in the deconstructive approach to fashion introduced by Japanese avant-gardists such as Rei Kawakubo—the Comme des Garçons founder who set-up the brand’s first Parisian boutique just two years before Margiela relocated to Paris. When starting up Maison Martin Margiela in 1987, the designer took this approach one step further, deconstructing his garments to expose the inside, the lining and the unfinished elements, drawing attention to the manufacturing process and craftsmanship of fashion design.

Over the course the period covered in this new exhibition, Martin Margiela emerged as a master in deconstruction, subversion and continually questioned the structure of clothing as well as the rules of design. For his “Oversize Collection” in 2000, the designer enlarged the proportion of his garments to 200%–pushing the scale of clothing to its extreme boundaries. Ten years earlier in 1990, just two years on from its inception, the House presented its now iconic “Artisanal” collection made up of one-of-a-kind garments created from recycled and deconstructed pieces in the House’s Parisian ateliers. This practice, hitherto unheard-of in fashion, incorporated vintage clothing, old ball gowns and theatrical costumes reworked by Martin Margiela into his “new” collection.

Commissioned by the Fashion Museum’s new Director Miren Arzalluz, the MARGIELA / GALLIERA, 1989-2009 exhibition is the first retrospective in Paris devoted to the career of Martin Margiela. The show follows on from the homage to Crisobél Balenciaga showcased at the Galliera last year. Using over 130 silhouettes covering a 20-year period, videos from the catwalk, exclusive material from the Maison Martin Margiela archives, plus special installations, the Galliera exhibition offers an unprecedented look at the work of one of contemporary fashion’s most influential designers.

MARGIELA / GALLIERA, 1989-2009 runs until 15th July at PALAIS GALLIERA, City of Paris Fashion Museum, 10 avenue Pierre Ier de Serbie, Paris 16e.

Explore the SS18 Maison Margiela collection online now at Coggles >>

Sarah Atkinson

Sarah Atkinson

Writer and expert