Six months after the announcement that “fashion’s invisible man” would be walking away from his eponymous label, Maison Martin Margiela 20: The Exhibition opens at Somerset House, home to London Fashion Week‘s catwalks.
The retrospective showcases 20 years of the label’s groundbreaking work and originates from the Mode Museum in Antwerp. The Belgian designer was unanimously considered to be the 7th member of the Antwerp 6, a group of avant-garde designers (including Ann Demulemeester, Dries Van Noten and Walter Van Beirendock) who literally turned the ’80s power dressing cliche inside-out with deconstruction and innovative pattern cutting.
Curator Kaat Debo worked in tandem with Maison Martin Margiela to illustrate for the public the basic principles behind the highly conceptual brand, whose ethos has been at odds with the mainstream, often alienating all but fashion’s illuminati.
The multi-level exhibition laid out over three floors is, unsurprisingly, awash in white. A metaphor, ultimately becoming their signature, for the passage of time and authorship. Like wrinkles and scuff marks, all is visible on a white surface.
However transparent the Maison Margiela intended their clothes to be, what you won’t see are the people behind it. Just as white also reflects light, it’s their belief that the bright lights of the press be turned away. The designer is notoriously enigmatic. Even employees of Margiela’s off-the-beaten-track retail spaces wore white lab coats, an homage to those worn in haute couture workshops.
All the iconic pieces are present in the 50 mini installations, like the graffiti tabi boots and censor bar sunglasses, as well as a fantastic series of nine busts representing the design house’s evolving manifestation of the shoulder.
In the screening room, loyal Margiela fans modeled their own Margiela wardrobe. A collaborative fur coat for Bless, the ‘Flat’ series with their off center neckholes, and an utterly enviable cluster of shattered trenches all work like a Darwinian rail of intelligent and subversive design.
**All photos by Sabrina Morrison.