October 02, 2008

The fantastic Margiela stories in the Times this week

All my career (a paltry four years, ok) I've desperately desperately wanted to write a story about Martin Margiela, the man, and Maison Martin Margiela, the brand. For one reason or another, it's never really gotten a nod from my editors, at any of the handful of places I've written for. So for my Margiela fix I turn to others -- Interview mag last month (the Kate Moss issue) has a brilliant dialogue with the fashion house and this week in the New York Times there is a series of stories either focused on or featuring Martin Margiela and the Maison. This is important, I think, because people need to know about Margiela and his work. He's one of the most important designers in recent memory -- a real designer's designer. In today's Times, Eric Wilson writes:

Mr. Margiela’s importance was obvious at the anniversary show, which included renditions of his great and witty conceptual designs: coats made of synthetic wigs, bodysuits that fused parts of trench coats and tuxedo jackets, and mirrored tights made to look like disco balls. But his impact is even more obvious on the designers he has influenced, including Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen and everyone else who showed pointed shoulders this season. Azzedine Alaïa recently called Mr. Margiela the last individual vision.

And I absolutely adore Guy Trebay's write-up on the Margiela show this season, where everyone was buzzing about the designer's impending retirement:
Let’s go right to the scene of madness outside the former morgue on the outskirts of Paris where Martin Margiela chose to hold his 20th-anniversary show.

The appointed hour was 6:30. Well before that, a mob of thousands had formed itself into lines behind metal barricades. Two lines became three after an hour or so, and the crowd began to move in the random anxious patterns one associates with stockyards. Apparently everyone in the city had a ticket, a metal placard the size of a cigarette pack, neatly incised with both event information and a chirpy Merci!

To the right, there were people with tickets. To the left, there were people with tickets. People with tickets were jammed into the V formed by the barricades. Bustling behind those barricades was a small army of assistants in white lab coats moving about with lunar detachment. Did they know when the door might open and the show begin? They did not.

After some time — was it hours or days? — a mysterious command was issued. The gates opened. The mob rushed forward and grabbed seats in two facing rows of bleachers, where they immediately and obediently waited another 40 minutes. And then the show began with models in nude bodysuits with their faces obscured and wigs worn as clothing, and then somehow all the shoving and sharp elbows were judged worthwhile.

“It was a hideous spectacle of total madness,” said Mickey Boardman, the deputy editorial director of Paper magazine. “It was everything I really love.”

And, again, Eric Wilson's recap of the retrospective MMM presented at the show:
The remarkable show started with a negative photograph of Mr. Margiela’s first jacket (for spring 1989) printed on a silk satin square of fabric that a model held up in front of her like a sail. It ended with an enormous dress in the shape of a three-tiered birthday cake that completely covered the two models who carried it like a Chinese dragon, with the exception of their legs. In between came a dress made of transparent tape (fall 1992), “fusion” catsuits (fall 1997), oversize shirts (spring 2000), a denim jacket with its sleeves spliced into a cape (fall 2003) and chubby coats made of blond or brunet wigs (fall 2005).

All those ideas distilled into 40 looks made for a mind-boggling runway. Yes, you saw the evolution of brilliant techniques, but it was a strange sensation to walk out of a Margiela show with a sense of déjà vu.

Tuomas went to les Alternatifs today and got the most brilliant Margiela archive piece -- from the Giant collection -- an enormous proportionately oversized leather motorcycle jacket in nearly pristine condition. "It's fashion history," Tuomas told me. Yes.