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Published on May 08, 2018 with No Comments

Palais Galliera’s much anticipated Martin Margiela retrospective puts the spotlight on fashion’s invisible man and his daringly experimental work.



From 3 March to 15 July, 2018 MARGIELA/GALLIERA,1989-2009, the first retrospective exhibition in Paris devoted to Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela, will see it tracing the career from spring-summer 1989 to spring-summer 2009 of a designer who not only questioned the structure of garments, but also challenged the structure of the fashion system.

Martin Margiela graduated from the fashion department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, in 1980. After a stint as Jean Paul Gaultier’s assistant between 1984 and 1987, he was associated with the Antwerp school and became the only Belgian designer of his generation to found his own fashion house in Paris.

Margiela’s conceptual approach challenged the fashion aesthetics of his time. His way of constructing a garment involved deconstructing it, exposing the inside, the lining, and the unfinished parts, and revealing the different stages of manufacture: pleats, shoulder pads, patterns, bastings and all. He pushed the scale of a garment to extremes, enlarging the proportions to 200% in his “Oversize Collection”, for example, or by adapting dolls’ clothes to the life-size human form in the “Barbie Collection”. He printed trompe-l’oeil photos of dresses, sweaters and coats and established a new form of “cloven” shoe inspired by traditional Japanese tabi (with the big toe separated from the others).

Margiela questioned the obsolescence of clothes with his «Artisanal» collection, created from vintage garments and recovered materials transformed into unique hand-sewn pieces. And also with his “Replica” series of vintage clothes garnered from around the world and reproduced identically.

Margiela remains the creator without a face, the man who does not do interviews, and whose clothes came with a plain white label bereft of any brand-name. This man who promotes anonymity is famous, not only for his use of white, a colour that he espoused in a multitude of shades, but also for holding his défilés in unusual venues: in car-parks, warehouses, a metro station, or on waste ground.

Using more than 130 silhouettes, videos of défilés, House archives and special installations, the Margiela / Galliera exhibition offers us an unprecedented look at one of the most influential contemporary fashion designers.

The scenography for this retrospective was worked out in collaboration with Margiela as an exhibition and, at the same time, a site under construction. Margiela always paid particular attention to the composition of the space of his shows. With this retrospective, Margiela wanted to create the sense of wandering through a private place, establishing a close and direct relationship with the garments.

So visitors will see the “exhibition” as an object deconstructed: it is about progress on the site, the state of transition, uncertainties and possibilities. Traces of the dismantling of the previous exhibition and the assembly activities have been preserved. Not all the surfaces have been covered in white, and lighting plays a critical role to both light and support. It punctuates the exhibition trail, intermittently lighting up the shadow that makes up most of the exhibition.

What’s interesting too about the exhibition is that young visitors are also not forgotten. Individual workshops offer the young opportunities to have a hand at being a fashion apprentice, designing recycle jewellery, upcycling and recycling, and stotytelling, to name a few.


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