When I heard that the house of Maison Martin Margiela was under new ownership, I wasn’t thrilled. ‘Only the Brave’, the parent company of Diesel and Viktor & Rolf, chaired by the brazen Italian entrepreneur Renzo Rosso, became the proud parent of the esteemed Margiela house. The house had been on steady decline since Mr Martin Margiela himself left, but the soul of the label still persisted on, diminished but there, carried by the talented and more or less anonymous team working within the house. Then I heard that Renzo appointed John Galliano to be the new creative director of Margiela… What in the actual fuck.
What’s wrong with this? Everything. Is this an overreaction? Fuck no. This is an apt reaction to the inevitable implosion when you combine two contradictory entities. I don’t deny Galliano’s talent, but this is vinegar and baking soda. This is goddamn coke and Mentos. Margiela is renowned for minimalism, for subverting design norms, for deconstruction, and for his invisibility. Martin has notably avoided having his photograph taken (although a few have surfaced); even the logos are discreet. There’s some vague numbering and the discreet four stitches found on Margiela articles, only discernible by those who look. Even those were initially meant to be removed so the focus could be on the garments and not the label. Anonymity added to the allure of the enigmatic label. It appears the focus has shifted.
The new face of Margiela
John Galliano is the antithesis of discreet. His designs are loud. He is loud, really loud. The former head designer of Givenchy and Dior is a lightning rod for attention. His alcohol and substance abuse, as well as his indulgence in anti-Semitist tirades proved too much for Dior, and led to his to his dismissal. Well, I’m all for second chances, but the disgraced designer should not be looking for atonement here. His creations while being pretty damn awesome, are not Margiela. Renzo is known for being bold, unpredictable, successful, but his appointment of Galliano is nothing less than a travesty. I can’t view this as anything other than a stunt that he hopes might reinvigorate the label or at least draw some publicity.
Galliano’s talent is undeniable, his work at Dior was incredible, but this hardly screams Margiela.
I love Margiela. I own a fair amount of Margiela. It is one of the few labels that have stayed with me since my interest in clothing began and I’m sad to see the possibility of it descending to a place I don’t want to follow. I am afraid that Margiela will become Galliano in the same way that Yves Saint Laurent has now become Hedi Slimane. There is a silver lining though. Seven former members of the Margiela team have broken away, forming ‘Vetements’ (Simply meaning ‘clothing’ in French). The approach is customer-centric, they remain anonymous and communicating as a collective. Their designs are minimal, unassuming, but exciting and reminiscent of Margiela. The focus is on their clothing and distinction rather than mass appeal. There is hope.