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Margiela, the Hermès years

Start Date 31 March 2017
End Date 27 August 2017
Venue MoMu
Location Antwerp, Belguim
Curator Kaat Debo
Designer Artistic Direction: Martin Margiela | Scenographer: Bob Verhelst
Exhibition display of dressed mannequins

For the first time ever, MoMu presents Belgian designer Martin Margiela’s collections for Hermès from 1997 to 2003. The tribute exhibition explores the relationship between his collections for Hermès and his own label, Maison Martin Margiela during these years. Groundbreaking deconstruction and timeless luxury – the two worlds of designer Martin Margiela – is the starting point of “Margiela, the Hermès Years”

When the Parisian house Hermès appointed Martin Margiela as its artistic director for the women’s ready-to-wear collections in October 1997, the founder of Maison Martin Margiela was already known as one of the most influential avant-garde designers of the past decade. His predilection for the deconstruction, recycling, and recovery of materials was unheard of in the fashion world during that era. His conceptual approach to the presentation, sales, and communication of his collections has consequently changed the way we think about fashion and its underlying mechanisms, as well as our own opinions on craftsmanship, commerce, authorship, and innovation.

When Jean-Louis Dumas, then CEO of Hermès, approached Margiela for the label’s ready-to-wear for women at the end of the 1990s, it was a daring choice to say the least, and not one in line with the prevailing developments on the fashion scene, which preferred celebrity designers to breathe new life into traditional French fashion houses. Hermès, the crown jewel of Parisian luxury, chose Margiela – an iconoclast who longed to remain anonymous and had never given a single interview which raised quite a few eyebrows. Even the fashion press speculated whether or not Margiela would apply his deconstructive idiom to the iconic Hermès legacy.

From 1997 to 2003, Margiela instilled his exhaustive and consistent vision of modern-day luxury into twelve consecutive Hermès collections. His sleek designs for the Hermès woman were all about comfort, timelessness, and tactility. These were values that he shared with the house, ultimately defining his vision of an understated style. The image he presented for Hermès surprised the press because of its unexpected direction. His sober and monochrome colour palette diverged from the typical brightly-coloured Hermès prints. Assisted by the outstanding craftsmanship of the Hermès studios, Margiela was able to distil his design and tailoring into sheer perfection, supported by extensive material research that not only enhanced the comfort of the wearer, but also introduced numerous innovations.

Margiela’s work for Hermès continues to influence the work of many contemporary designers today. During Paris Fashion Week for Autumn/Winter 2016-2017, the international press described Martin Margiela – who retreated from the fashion world more than eight years ago – as the “true protagonist” of fashion week. The exhibition “Margiela, the Hermès Years” at MoMu is a vibrant testament of Margiela’s talent.

Exhibition under the lead of Curator: Kaat Debo | Artistic Direction: Martin Margiela | Scenographer: Bob Verhelst

Exhibition Website

Image courtesy of © MoMu Modemuseum Antwerp, photo Stany Dederen.