Before Martin Margiela’s brand took off, the designer was incredibly private. This secrecy has come to define Margiela—both the brand and the man himself. Little is known about his early life, only that he was born in Genk, Belgium in 1957. Margiela’s public story really starts in 1977 when he began to study in the fashion department at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. This has lead many to believe that Margiela was a member of the infamous “Antwerp Six” when in actuality, he was already working under Jean-Paul Gaultier during the group’s early years.
Margiela served as Gaultier’s design assistant from 1984 to 1987. Gaultier has gone on record saying “He was the best assistant I have ever had.” In 1988, Margiela felt ready to step out from under Gaultier’s wing. Along with Belgian retailer Jenny Meirens, he established his own brand Maison Martin Margiela. The first MMM collection featured only women’s ready-to-wear, with a runway show in Paris in 1989. Margiela immediately received critical acclaim, being awarded the inaugural National Association for the Development of the Fashion Arts Award, now commonly known as ANDAM. Margiela’s menswear line debuted its first collection during the Spring/Summer 1999 season.
Ultimately, with high-concept collections mixed with wearable garments, Margiela established itself cult success and a favorite among fashion insiders. The brand reached a turning point in 2006. The Italian holding group Only the Brave, helmed by Diesel’s Renzo Rosso, acquired Maison Martin Margiela. This would mark the beginning of the end. When Margiela himself left the company in 2009, no designer was appointed to be his immediate replacement. The existing design team was left to work on the seasonal collections. Demna Gvasalia, who now is the head of design at both Balenciaga and one of the founding members of Vetements, was a notable member of this Margiela design team until 2012, the same year Margiela collaborated with H&M on a capsule collection.
In 2014, John Galliano was announced as creative director and the following year, the brand officially dropped “Martin” from it’s name, rebranding as “Maison Margiela.” Despite the name changes, what remains is one of the key elements of Margiela’s business: Replica. Replica is a capsule collection within the Margiela men’s and women’s lines that includes roughly 30 pieces of staple garments and accessories, released seasonally. Within the Replica collection remains some of Margiela’s most popular designs such as the German Army Trainer, (often abbreviated to GAT). In recent years, Margiela’s Tabi Boot, inspired by the split-toe design of the traditional Japanese sock of the same name, has become a cult favorite. While the Margiela brand carries on without the man who started it all, the designs remain as relevant as ever.
Who is the designer at Maison Margiela?
John Galliano is the current creative director of Maison Margiela.
Is Maison Margiela a luxury brand?
Yes, Maison Margiela is considered a high-end brand.
Does Margiela run small?
Typically, yes. Be sure to check the measurements of items before purchasing.