PARIS PRET-A-PORTER (PARIS FASHION WEEK) SPRING-SUMMER 2007
PARIS, Oct 1, 2006 / FR / – Maison Martin Margiela might be the most adequate fashion house to show at Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The name of the venue tells it all: you are in fact attending more of an art happening than a real ready-to-wear collection.
The setting is very long white curtains, the runway most unusually shaped like an 8, and any chair along this strange alley only gives you a very partial view of the curve that the models will walk. Innumerable assistants welcome you, only after you have tied securely around your wrist the bracelet invitation. Everything must mean something in this world and I started wondering if the white blouses that the staff have all been wearing at the house’s shows are here like a contemporary reincarnation of a venerable haute couture tradition, or if they could not be, this time, a Margiela reinterpretation of the nurses’ uniforms. After all, there are few places where you are tagged with a band of plastic, welcomed by white-clad personnel, in such an hygienically pure decor… Hospital ward? Surgery Room? At least a laboratory, for sure!
Martin Margiela could certainly be described as a surgeon-designer. The limbs of his clothes seem to have undergone a partial deconstruction or to be in the middle of a reconstruction process. What looks like a sleeve in a jacket when you see its front becomes a small cape when you see its back. Trousers have one leg fully covered, the other one bearing a contrastingly lined split that reveals flesh all the way up to the thigh. Striped red and white shirts are in fact small capes cut in a piece of round fabric. Round stripes are thus revealed as targets whose centre has been moved to the left and carefully outlined with splits all around.
Wearable, unwearable, good-looking, commercial, trendy or elegant are unknown words in this world. They do not belong to these clothes made for people who understand the designer’s questions, reflexions and philosophy. These are certainly pieces of wardrobe for the intelligent, the arty, the very edgy crowds that attend this show. To others, and in another setting, they might seem “Much Ado about Nothing”, to paraphrase a Shakespeare title.
Don’t take me wrong, there is a lot of refinement in the thoughts that have led to each of these pieces of art. Take the flesh-coloured top parts of the long dresses for instance: they evoke nudity without an ounce of vulgarity, they look as if they did not have to be stitched, but the size of the shoulders lets you know that there is heavy padding inside and, although they seem to mould the female bust, they have, in fact re-sculpted it, giving it a new proportion.
Trying to find the designer’s key inspiration for this collection is not easy: no press kit is helping, no face-to-face interview allowed, and all of the house’s assistants escort the models at the final parade, but no designer takes the bow. Humble and pure is Martin Margiela, humble and pure shall I also try to be here. As far as colours are concerned, apart from the beige flesh already described, black is in, white also, one shade of red, one shade of blue and never does one single look display more than two colours. Only once did a flashing streak of green appear on a flesh and black sheath.
Martin Margiela can be a happy designer: after gaining experience and fame at Hermes, he has now -for the house bearing his name- a well-established crowd of fans, raving reviews, a highly preserved privacy and, last but not least, a substantial financial back-up from Only the Brave, Diesel’s and DSquared umbrella company headed by Renzo Rosso. It is enough to keep his audacious vision of a brand creatively uncompromised. But what will sell in the shops with his now famous “non-existent” designer’s label will certainly be the result of this work-in-progress collection, not the pieces we have seen on his house’s runway tonight.
JEAN PAUL CAUVIN