We have seen a tremendous amount of deconstruction elements on the catwalks this season, from raw, frayed edges to partially re-assembled jackets and bandage strap dresses. The form is coming into its own as a readily acceptable, and wearable, approach of fashion styling. However, if we’re going to have a serious discussion about deconstruction, we have to include Martin Margiela. Arriving from Belgium on the heels of the Antwerp Six, Margiela presented for his first collection a set of coats reconstructed from ripped evening gowns. Pieces were visibly numbered and stitches could be seen on the exterior. Using that standard as a basis on which to grade this current spring/summer collection, it would seem that Martin Margiela is at his best.

But he’s not. That is, Margiela is, allegedly, not the one designing the clothes. The story is a bit confusing and mysterious, but at some unnamed point in the past ten or so years, Martin Margiela left. The man had always been amazingly shy, never allowing his picture to be taken nor appearing at the end of a runway after a show. He didn’t like fashion’s harsh spotlight. We know that at one point Raf Simons was offered, and turned down, the role of creative director, as were a couple of others. Most recently, the house has said that the collection is being overseen by a design team and that there are no plans to name a new creative director.

Okay. That approach seems a bit strange, since most labels thrive on a singular vision. We’ve watched the past couple of seasons wondering just exactly whether the label will maintain its legitimacy in the market. Then, as this afternoon’s show began, I watched a blood red suit coming down the catwalk, its form obviously ripped apart and re-assembled, the sleeves notoriously too long, a Martin Margiela trademark. In fact, reconstructed masculine suiting runs all the way through this collection. I felt a lump in my throat.

There were gauze pieces of gowns attached with elastic. Blazers were refashioned as tunics with their sleeves missing. Underwear was outerwear as sequined bras and corsets were placed over suits and waist coats and baggy slacks. The level of detailing was amazing with sequins all over the place, but even those had Margiela’s touch of being applied quite nonchalantly, almost as though it were done in the dark. I nearly lost it when a trench coat, reimagined as a backless dress, came down the runway. I know I’ve seen that look before.

At the end of the show, fresh-faced youngsters in white lab coats stepped out and took a bow. Presumably, this is “the team,” but how can we know? Certainly, more exaggerated hoaxes have been perpetrated successfully. Could this “team” simply be a front to allow Margiella himself to design quietly, in peace, away from the public spotlight?

Obviously, I don’t and can’t know for sure. What I do know is that this spring/summer collection is as true to the Martin Margiela philosophy as any. If it was indeed created through team work, congratulations to them on such a thorough understanding of the concepts. But I’m still going to wonder: where is Martin Margiela?


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