Martin Margiela

Born: Louvain, Belgium, 1957

Designer Biography Martin Margiela
Attending the Royale Academie of Fine Arts, Antwerp between 1977 and 1980, the Belgium born designer Martin Margiela moved on to become a freelance designer after graduating. In 1985 he worked for Jean Paul Gaultier staying there until 1987 when he branched out on his own. In 1988 he showed his first collection which led to his talent for deconstruction taking off. Known for pushing the boundaries, his inspirations lay in recycled clothing, punk and medieval detailing. Taking note from Japanese avantgardists Rei Kawakubo, Margiela carried on his aesthetic. Some times considered the 7th of the Antwerp 6, Margiela had already left school to work for Gaultier. However, Margiela as well as the Antwerp 6 all featured heavily avant garde.

In 1997 Margiela was appointed to design at Hermès to try to reinvigorate the label. In 2002 the Diesel brand acquired the company and in 2009 it was reported that Margiela has left the business without anyone lined up to succeed him. Known to maintain an extremely low profile, Margiela never had his photo taken and always remained back stage after his shows. Being almost invisible, his unconventional approaches to clothes speak for themselves.

In early 2008, Maison Margiela’s founder, Martin Margiela, approached Raf Simons, the creative director of Jil Sander, and offered him the opportunity to take over the Maison Margiela brand. However, it appears that Simons declined the offer and decided to renew his contract with Jil Sander instead.

In December 2009, Martin Margiela officially left his eponymous label. The house continued to operate under a team of designers without naming a successor until John Galliano was appointed as creative director in 2014.

Prior to leaving his own label, Martin Margiela was also named the creative director of womenswear at Hermès in 1997. This appointment surprised the industry as he was an avant-garde designer heading a conservative and classic French house. Despite the contrast with his own label’s aesthetics, Margiela infused his deconstructivist philosophy into his work at Hermès, creating a timeless wardrobe inspired by 1920s sports and leisure clothing. His designs included innovative features such as jackets that could be rolled and carried like bags, coats with removable collars and fastenings, and iconic accessories like the twice looping strap of the Cape Cod watch and the losange scarf, which became one of Hermès’ bestsellers.

In 2003, Margiela left his role at Hermès to focus on his own label again, and his former mentor, Jean Paul Gaultier, succeeded him at the French house.

After departing the fashion industry, Martin Margiela turned to art as his new medium of expression. He collaborated with Lafayette Anticipations – Galeries Lafayette Corporate Foundation to create over 40 art pieces for his first solo exhibition, which premiered in October 2021. The exhibition showcased a diverse range of works, including silicon spheres covered in human hair, large-scale paintings of dust particles, and blank spaces representing the concept of an ever-changing and unfinished exhibition.

Martin Margiela Biography

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Written by Saxony Dudbridge

Saxony Dudbridge was one of the first contributors to the Catwalk Yourself project, Saxony studies International Fashion Marketing and she is responsible for our great History and Designers Biographies sections.

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