Tribute to Martin Margiela 2 – His Early Works, Concepts, Stores, and Team

In part 1 of this tribute, I already mentioned about parts of his philosophy. The main thing I perceive when I see his designs (and from the sketchy interviews with the Maison’s spokesperson) is a philosophy that “the designs should surpass the designer”. And boy, doesn’t that intrigues you? When I mention designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, or Donatella Versace, the first thing you remember is their face, right? What about Martin Margiela? The first thing that pops would either be the face masks or the deconstructed designs, nothing about his face.


Here are some of his early works (when he was still heavily involved with the designs, and not his design teams as it has been in the past few years):

[photos from]

Margiela’s first show

Autumn/ Winter 1989

Spring/ Summer 1990, the second show

Autumn/ Winter 90-91

Spring/ Summer 1992

Autumn/ Winter 1995. You can see that he has further developed his anonymity by putting on face masks on the models

Spring/ Summer 1999. The models wore sandwich boards printed with the designs of the clothes, rather than putting on the actual clothes

Spring/ Summer 2003


I’ve mentioned before that the philosophy of Margiela is that the designs are beyond the designer. When the brand was starting out and warming up, all their collections have no label attached on them. The only distinguishing feature was four diagonal white stitches on the back of the clothes in rectangular shape.

Maison Martin Margiela white stitches

The white stitches on the back of the clothes

Margiela label

The inside and the back

However, as time passes and MMM started bearing more collections, the blank white label evolved to a label with number 0-23 printed on it. Each number defines the collection for the corresponding piece of item as shown in the images below:

The numbers and the collections they represent

The numbers and the collections they represent

Number 14 "A wardrobe for men"

Number 14 “A wardrobe for men”

Number 8 "Eyewear collection"

Number 8 “Eyewear collection”


Equally intriguing is the concept of their stores and the design teams. The stores are painted and decorated with all whites. It was said that when starting out, Martin Margiela and Jenny Meirens (the co-founder) were filling the first store with items from all kinds of places; flea markets, streets, shops from all over the world. To make the store seem coherent they painted all the furniture in white instead. Besides that, white means something more to MMM. It represents neutrality, a blank canvas, endless possibilities. Even the sales assistants wear white lab coats to further enhance the “whiteness” of the brand.

Even so, Chris Dercon, a fashion historian and sociologist, was given statements from MMM that “white signifies ‘the power of fragility, especially the fragility of passing time… passing time leaves traces on a white surface.’” Dercon also notes a fundamental contradiction: the passage of time leaves unique marks, thus “[w]hite is therefore in no way neutral or anonymous.” [taken from]


MMM store in Nagoya, Japan

MMM store Beijing

MMM store in Beijing


Now, the design team. Just like the mastermind himself, they too, choose to pursue the cult of anonymity. They wear white lab coats while in the MMM headquarters, and when they prepare the collections for the brand’s runway presentation. No less mysterious too, they are. Their names also remained hanging in the clouds.

Martin Margiela design team

MMM design team

MMM team members

MMM team members

I guess I just blew you with heaps of images. I’m utterly fascinated with the way they work, and the whole anonymous thing is an appeal of the brand itself. Early publications of Margiela’s work never forgot to scream about his hidden figure and mysterious concepts altogether.

So what do you think of MMM now? Sheer genius or brilliant marketing strategy in disguise? I honestly go for both 🙂

Posts in the series:
Tribute to Martin Margiela 1 – Why It’s Crucial to Know Him
Tribute to Martin Margiela 3 – The Evolution of Maison Martin Margiela




-The Dilly Chic-

Tribute to Martin Margiela 1 – Why It’s Crucial to Know Him

This is a series post that will publish weekly starting from today, so mark your Wednesdays for the following weeks. In the series I’ll talk about my obsession (that will soon be yours if it hasn’t already) and some unanswered question regarding Mr Mystery man. This tribute goes to the wild man behind the Maison, which is Martin Margiela himself. This is the first part that talks about the man himself, the second part will talk about his works and concepts, the third is about the evolution of his work (and the Maison’s), and the fourth will talk about his mystery departure from his own fashion house.

tribute Margiela 1 - text

Obviously, I love the guy enough to write a tribute (and to make it a series too! wow) for him. I love his work, his unwavering loyalty to anonymity, his mad ideas of deconstructing design and beauty, the boundaries he broke, and so on. I would rather NOT provide you with his biography or coarse background, you can find it in his Wikipedia if you want to. BUT FIRST, I’d like you to read this reference that provides near complete info about him and the Maison here.


Maison Martin Margiela’s Fashion Show in Fall 2012

By the way, I’ll summarize that info for you. He’s born in Belgium in 1957, graduated from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts and shortly working with Jean Paul Gaultier before inventing his own clothing line in 1988, which eventually leads to the founding of Maison Martin Margiela. Apart from the tantrum about how Martin Margiela became regarded as one of the Antwerp Six, the group of avant garde fashion designers who rented a truck as their headquarters to eventually present their collections at London Fashion Week (and becoming one of the most valued avant garde designers in the world), this is actually wrong, since Margiela didn’t take part in the group’s journey. He just happened to graduate around the same time as the group’s members, but he chose to go to Paris and worked with JPG for a while before establishing his own fashion house there.

What I want to exaggerate in the series is his philosophy. His devotion to anonymity. His belief that the clothes, the product, the designs are beyond the designers, beyond the creators. He remains completely off the radar, never appears in fashion shows (even his own), avoids contact with all sort of press and media, and he leaves all of his designs open for interpretation. A very mysterious guy indeed. Whether this is a brilliant marketing strategy or an undying philosophy, nobody really knows or care anyway. And there’s only one photograph of him taken in 1997 (WHICH is also probably a snapshot anyway).

martin margiela himself

What is so amazing about this guy is his devotion to his concept, to his work, rather than to himself. He revolutionized haute couture, bringing in deconstructed designs, eccentric shoulder pads, odd accentuation of body lines, and so on. And YET, all the credit goes to his work, his house, and his design teams, rather than to himself. Now how does that not make you obsessed about him?

Posts in the series:
Tribute to Martin Margiela 2 – His Early Works, Concepts, Stores, and Team

Tribute to Martin Margiela 3 – The Evolution of Maison Martin Margiela

-The Dilly Chic-