Martin Margiella: Sometimes a designer goes places he shouldn’t. And in the collection he showed on Thursday, Martin Margiela did just that. To some in the audience, the depressing staging of his show evoked images of, believe it or not, Hitler’s death trains — a reference Margiela’s company vehemently denied later.
The disturbing setting was a working depot used by the French national railroad’s shipping company, and suffice it to say, Grand Central Terminal it wasn’t, even before its renovation. The standing crowd stood on the platform in the dark, while those with designated seats were ushered into a dilapidated, old, cold train. Finally, an austere, authoritarian voice on the sound system advised the crowd something to this effect: “We would like to start, and we cannot start if the people standing do not all take a step back.” Creepy? It was positively chilling, and when the train people looked out windows and doors at their standing colleagues, only the historically impaired would not have had at least a fleeting thought of Sophie’s choice. The models then appeared, one at a time, wearing wildly oversized clothes with a worn-out aura and long, vision-impairing bangs.
In response to questions about the presentation, the “Maison Martin Margiela” denied the reference. The answer, as always, came via fax, since Margiela refuses to speak to the press. The intention, the statement, read, was to “build on the intimacy of our last show,” presented in a salon setting in which models moved around among 20 tables. “Rather than shocking, we fully believed that the intimacy would be appreciated by the professional journalists and buyers who would come to the show and who often complain of not being able to see the clothes at a show for reasons of either distance or poor lighting….We were unaware that those we invited to attend would find our show shocking in any negative way whatsoever.”
Of course, it’s possible that the reference was accidental. In fact, some guests floated other theories — from an end-of-the-Soviet-state theme to a return to his subversive Eighties motifs. He illuminated the dour clothes under lights thrown from a kitschy disco ball in each of the train cars, and his models sometimes sported matching disco-ball earrings.
Common sense, however, dictates that if random people in the audience felt the sick concentration camp reference, someone in an organization as slick as Margiela’s must have picked up on it — at least during, if not before, the fact. The whole thing was ill-conceived and utterly stupid, and someone — the guy at the helm — should now acknowledge that and apologize.