ANTWERP, Belgium — One could be forgiven for imagining that the whole cast of “Grey’s Anatomy” had been teletransported to the MoMu fashion museum here Thursday, such was the number of white coats racing around the building.
But for fashion insiders, it was a sure sign — along with a white caravan camped in the museum’s reception area — that a surgeon of a sartorial ilk was in residence: Martin Margiela. Thursday night saw the museum’s inauguration of the first major retrospective of the 20-year-old Maison Martin Margiela label. The exhibit, titled “Maison Martin Margiela (20) The exhibition,” runs until Feb. 8.
The event, which follows a Margiela showcase in Beijing’s 798 Art District in June, marks a poignant, full-circle homage to one of the city’s most iconoclastic, resolutely reclusive and now commercially successful fashion exports, due, in part, to his eyebrow-raising alliance with Diesel’s Renzo Rosso in 2002.
Considered the breakaway seventh member of the city’s famed Antwerp Six — which includes designer peers Ann Demeulemeester and Walter Van Beirendonck — Margiela graduated from the site’s Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1979.
The aim of the exhibition, according to MoMu’s artistic director, Kaat Debo, is to explore the house’s main themes, from its treatment of time and history to the interpretation of the body. The scenography, by Margiela alum Bob Verhelst, is certainly in keeping with the designer’s philosophy.
Employing one of the house’s most familiar leitmotifs, a labyrinth of white wall partitions divides the vast exhibition, some splashed with disorienting trompe l’oeil views of the space when it was empty. White, Margiela’s ruling nonshade, is omnipresent, but grades of silver also come into play, from the glittery silver carpet at the show’s entrance to a mirrored display bar of silver, cloven-hoofed Tabi boots.
“Humor is a very important element of their oeuvre,” said Debo, using the collective term. Margiela always prefers communicating on behalf of the maison as “we.”
Debo said the show has already won the approval of the designer, who was there “on all fours” earlier in the week, discreetly putting in the final tweaks. But as fashion’s consummate Invisible Man, Margiela was not expected at the opening soiree.
Fittingly, Debo chose “incognito” as the show’s opening theme, starting with a dramatic silhouette portrait of the Margiela team — minus Margiela — carved out of white Styrofoam.
Hiding behind the show’s first wall, meanwhile, a group of raised glass cases proffer further signs of the house’s allegiance to anonymity, from a pair of leather boots sheathed in black chiffon to a black sweater tacked with four iconic white pick stitches.
Margiela is also famous for elusive store locations. “I recently went to visit their London store and got lost for half an hour looking for it. They expect an effort on the consumer’s behalf,” Debo said.
Small video screens set in walls add a lively element, culminating in a circular “birthday room,” where pumping music, catwalk footage and scaffolding portray the energy of Margiela’s shows, the floor smothered in white confetti.
Elsewhere, glass cases showcase offbeat invitations from across the years, including a typed letter dating to 1990, signed by all eight of the house’s employees. Today, the firm counts 70 staff members and, as reported, revenues catapulted 50 percent last year to 60 million euros, or $82.2 million at average exchange.
Intermingled among archive pieces throughout the show stand covered busts, which will display spring 2009 looks, fresh from the Paris runway. “This will hold a Plexiglas backstage-pass necklace,” said Debo, motioning to one empty box.
Amid oddball “artisanal” designs, including a waistcoat crafted from broken dishes and wire, are designs that highlight Margiela’s skills as a tailor — if an unconventional one. One dress made from pinstriped suit-lining fabric, for example, its darts exposed, points to Margiela’s love of revealing the production process.
“Back then it was provocative to present high-fashion garments as if they were worn out,” Debo explained. “A tailor traditionally hides all of the tricks used to enhance the body. Margiela opened the box of tricks.”
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
Not only does #TheProfit return to CNBC tonight, but @marcuslemonis has launched @shopmarcus, a new shopping and lifestyle retail experience in Aspen and Chicago, with more locations to come. The retail stores offer in-store stylists and a variety of contemporary womenswear selections.
“It’s life, I’m going to face it,” @mingxi11 sighed. “I fell, but you know, I think the most important thing is that I get back up. I had the love, the help from my sister — the girl next to me Gizele [Oliveira] — she’s so nice. When I went backstage everybody was trying to comfort me like ‘Oh Ming, it’s OK.’ I’m really, really touched. I think it’s them who gave me the courage to go back on stage for the finale,” Xi told WWD of her fall at the @victoriassecret fashion show. (📷: David Fisher) #wwdfashion #vsfashionshow #victoriassecret
@louisvuitton tapped @therealpeterlindbergh for its latest city-centric photo book, which is part of a series called Fashion Eye. The primarily black and white book captures the spirit of Berlin in 57 images shot between 1989 and 2019. “Berlin is an inspiration for me, more than a city. I mean @millajovovich is simply Berlin!” said Lindbergh. #wwdfashion
“You know, I think audiences expect a certain performance so I have to deliver to them what they’re expecting to a certain degree. But I’m also a different actor and a different person, I have my own spin on the character,” says @noahegalvin of his takeover of the leading role in “Dear Evan Hansen” following the departure of @bensplatt, who originated the role. Read WWD’s interview with the 23-year-old actor on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
For pre-fall 2018, @etro created richly-colored wonderland, using tapestries, textiles and wallpapers from the Eastern world at large. The line featured floral and graphic prints and jacquard motifs, like this two-piece look featured here. #wwdfashion (📷: Giovanna Pavesi)
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
“I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me,” @ginnygardner says of her new role in @hulu’s “The Runaways.” Gardner plays Karolina Dean, a queer superhero, which is a rarity for @marvel. Read more about Gardner’s character on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @dandoperalski)