The Mystery of Margiela

This weekend marks the arrival of Maison Margiela at Sorry Thanks I Love You.

He’s one of the most influential designers in the world, but Martin Margiela has successfully kept his identity completely secret for more than 30 years. This unconventional pioneer of modern fashion created some of the industry’s most enduring themes: androgynous clothing, oversized silhouettes, the reinvention and refashioning of vintage clothing, and playful experimentation with industrial materials. (His favourites were wire, wigs, scotch tape, plastic bags and once, memorably, door knobs.) As Alexander McQueen put it: "Of course I like Martin Margiela… He thinks about everything.”

Tattoo Shirt by Maison Margiela

Margiela graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp only a year ahead of the ‘Antwerp 6’, though his design philosophy feels as though it belongs to another century. He founded his own label after a stint as assistant to Jean Paul Gautier and quickly discovered that total anonymity from the public was necessary in order to protect his spirit and creativity. The result was electrifying. The media was frustrated and fascinated in equal parts. Rumours abounded amongst fashion journalists that his in-house PR manager, Patrick, was actually Margiela, or that he was a woman. But for the first time ever the spotlight was firmly on the garments rather than the creator.

Maison Margiela collections were presented in disused metro stations and abandoned playgrounds in the roughest parts of Paris and models were picked right off the street.  They completely changed the industry’s perception of how a fashion show should look and feel: while established brands were presenting at the Louvre, Margiela was trying to create rock concerts, walking his models through trays of red paint so that they’d leave messy footprints on the runway.

Sketches from the first Maison Martin Margiela show


Margiela’s love for deconstructing and destroying clothes, his obsession with reworking vintage garments like army surplus socks and flea market scarves, his tendency towards the oversized and gender fluid, and his experimentation with unorthodox materials like car seat belts and baseball gloves instantly catapulted him into the realm of the most influential designers of the century.  Groundbreaking at the time, these tendencies to challenge exactly what ‘luxury fashion’ can be are now a norm of the industry. One of France’s most established fashion houses, Hermes, called it early and went as far as hiring him as their creative director in 1997 - a position he held for seven years. His legacy is perhaps most obvious in Demna Gvasalia’s creations, who worked on the Margiela design team before launching Vetements.  

New work from MM6


Martin left the company in 2009 (anonymity in tact) and the Margiela house continues to prtoduce everything from menswear to accessories, all labelled with the distinctive Margiela circled number.  Described as Maison Margiela’s “cool, younger sister”, MM6 reinterprets Margiela’s runway experiments and archive pieces in soft, wearable fabrics – and the label’s newest collection has just arrived at Sorry Thanks I Love You for the first time. While MM6 garments are designed as stand-alone pieces, their mastery lies in their ensemble potential: each piece of clothing is the building block of a go-to outfit.  Riffing on ongoing obsessions with oversized silhouettes, bodysuits, and men’s tailoring, the latest MM6 collection includes patchwork leotards, snuggly hoodies, pleated pants that moonlight as skirts, and sweaters that can be worn inside-out, upside-down and every which way.

New work from MM6

Currently headed up by John Galliano and a team of still-anonymous designers, Maison Margiela’s collections are as true to the house’s ethos as ever. The newest MM6 collection is now available in store at Sorry Thanks I Love You, and really need to be seen to be understood. 

After all as Margiela puts it, “An experience that changes nothing is hardly worth having.” 


Selected pieces from MM6’s newest collection are available online here.



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