One of fashion’s most elusive personalities, the J.D. Salinger–esque Martin Margiela, will be under the magnifying glass in the designer’s native Belgium through the end of August. The retrospective at Antwerp’s MoMu Museum will chronicle his shockingly unexpected tenure at Hermès, where he designed women’s ready-to-wear from 1997 to 2003. In an accompanying book, Margiela: The Hermès Years, a slew of insiders—rare souls who worked closely with Margiela during this formative period in fashion—reflect on the lasting impact of the minimalist, elegant work he produced for Hermès in the midst of the brand logos onslaught that defined the late ’90s and early aughts.
The exhibit, curated by MoMu’s Kaat Debo, places Margiela’s Hermès pieces alongside garments from his more over-the-top namesake brand, Maison Martin Margiela. “I feel that there’s certainly a dialogue between these two worlds that at first seem very different—the world of luxury fashion and the world of avant-garde fashion,” Debo says. “But it’s really two different translations of one creative DNA.” And Debo actually solicited input from Margiela himself while working on the project. “Fashion designers I’ve worked with over the years have, in my opinion, been very visual,” she says. “Many don’t like trying to analyze their work in language, but Martin is very sensitive to words and how things are explained. . . . It was our task to add his work to fashion history.”
Portrait: Marina Faust. All Other images: Courtesy