How Models (and Kanye) See Through Those Margiela Masks

Total face-obscuring head-encasing masks have long been a trope for Maison Martin Margiela. And for those fashion outsiders who'd never heard of Margiela or seen one of the label's signature masks before, Kanye's fondness for performing in them probably changed all that. At last week's couture show we were struck by just how intricate and, well, blinding these masked seem to be. How could the models see through the tiles, the flowers, the beaded embroidery? So we went straight to the source: How, we asked a Margiela rep, do the models walk in a straight line while wearing those things?
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Leah Chernikoff
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Total face-obscuring head-encasing masks have long been a trope for Maison Martin Margiela. And for those fashion outsiders who'd never heard of Margiela or seen one of the label's signature masks before, Kanye's fondness for performing in them probably changed all that. At last week's couture show we were struck by just how intricate and, well, blinding these masked seem to be. How could the models see through the tiles, the flowers, the beaded embroidery? So we went straight to the source: How, we asked a Margiela rep, do the models walk in a straight line while wearing those things?
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Total face-obscuring head-encasing masks have long been a trope for Maison Martin Margiela. And for those fashion outsiders who'd never heard of Margiela or seen one of the label's signature masks before, Kanye's fondness for performing in them probably changed all that.

From the side

From the side

At last week's couture show we were struck by just how intricate and, well, blinding these masked seem to be. How could the models see through the tiles, the flowers, the beaded embroidery? Lynn Yaeger, writing for The Cut, felt the same way. "The refugees on the runway at the Martin Margiela couture show will have no trouble confusing the border police, as their faces are completely covered by masks--it is difficult to even imagine how they can find their way out from backstage," she wrote.

So we went straight to the source: How, we asked a Margiela rep, do the models walk in a straight line while wearing those things?

"The base of the masks is made of black silk gauze, a transparent material that allow models to see through it," the Margiela spokesperson explains. "It's essential that this transparent material be in black and not white, because white becomes opaque."

Each mask from the fall 2013 couture collection was made in-house at Margiela's Paris atelier and took 18 hours to make. That includes time for research, design, embroidery, fitting, and assembly. "The embroidery is always planned in a way that allows one to see past it," the spokesperson adds. As for the flowers, which covered some of the more striking masks, those ones were inspired by the collection's floral-trimmed prom dresses, and the look is meant to be a play on the French phrase "les jeunes filles en fleur" which loosely translates to "blooming girls." Got it?

So there you have it. We think that's as close as we're ever going to get to solving a Margiela mystery.

More masks and the full collection, right this way.