Martin Margiela, the elusive founder of the Maison Martin Margiela label, reportedly approves of John Galliano's recent appointment as creative director. His endorsement, a "thumbs up" and his reported desire to "see a leader at the label", is noteworthy not because of Galliano's sordid past but because well, we don't often hear anything from Mr. Margiela. The Belgian designer, who graduated from the the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 1979, a year before the famed Antwerp Six, launched his eponymous label in 1988, focusing on womenswear; his menswear arrived 10 years later. Margiela became known in part for his take on unconventional techniques like deconstruction and mixed proportions, but also for his reclusiveness. He refused to give interviews, stayed backstage after showing (skipping the traditional finale bow), and managed to avoid photos. As you likely already know, there is only one known image of him that has been made public.
It has been in the tradition of the Maison to keep its business under wraps. The famously avant-garde house, where its collective design teams all wear identical lab coats, has had an interesting past few years. A rare article on the brand in the New York Times in 2008 told of Margiela’s (the designer) attempt to step down as creative director, only to have Raf Simons and Haider Ackermann turn down the position. A year later, Margiela majority stakeholder Renzo Rosso announced simply that, “Martin has not been there for a long time. He is here but not here. We have a new fresh design team on board.” A replacement was never announced. Instead, in the years to follow we have been left to piece together the workings of the house on our own.
For instance, in October 2013, rumors were swirling that in addition to designing for his own label, London-based Marios Schwab, had been spotted at the Maison Martin Margiela studio, where sources say he had been “ghost-designing” for the Paris-based house. These suspicions were heightened after Margiela’s owner, Renzo Rossi, and CEO, Giovanni Pungetti, sat front row at Schwab's September 2013 show during London Fashion Week.
This, of course, was followed by Suzy Menkes' review of the house’s Autumn/Winter 2014 couture collection, entitled “A Star is Born.” The star Menkes was referring to: thirty-year old, Matthieu Blazy, who was revealed as the house’s head designer. Blazy, who Menkes refers to as the “protégé” of designer Raf Simons, had been working at Margiela since 2011 but was only announced as the head of the design house in Menkes' review. Another name was revealed shortly thereafter: Cristophe Copin. Mr. Copin has been serving as Margiela’s director of the men’s and women’s senior knitwear since 2011. These revelations came at the dismay of the MMM label, which sent subsequently responses to an array of media outlets (including TFL), which read:
In light of recent rumors regarding individual members of our design team, we ask you to remember that the long-standing communication policy of the Maison has not changed and that Maison Martin Margiela does not communicate on any individual member of its collective, as our work is done by a team and is credited only to this same collective […] This is our official spokespeople policy, and it remains our only comment on this subject.
With all of this in mind, it is not only noteworthy that Galliano's appointment has come hand in hand with such pomp and circumstance, but that Mr. Margiela has spoken out (according to WWD) to welcome him. With simultaneous anticipation and disgust building (depending on whether you are the forgiving type or not) on the impending eve of Galliano's January 2015 debut for Margiela, the former Dior creative director's cohesiveness with the Belgian brand is not outside of the realm of discussion. He is, after all, a bit different from Mr. Margiela, at least on the surface. Margiela was behind the scenes. In many cases, Galliano, one of fashion’s most flamboyant showmen, fond of taking his bow in outlandish costumes (remember those Napoleon Bonaparte outfit and a spaceman suits?), is the scene. Regardless, the evolution of this iconic design house is interesting to chart and we are looking forward to doing just that. In the meantime, our friends over at Third Looks have taken a very comprehensive look at the Margiela brand.