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Margiela: The Hermès Years at the MoMu

The ModeMuseum in Antwerp is showcasing Martin Margiela’s work at the house of Hermès, which he directed between 1997 and 2003

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Text by Rab Messina

During Martin Margiela’s reign at the fashion house from 1997 to 2003, his vision of the Hermès woman was that of a real, natural and mature human being. The pieces he created, therefore, don’t address the search for eternal youth through clothes, but instead speak of comfort and timelessness for different ages and body types.

These pieces are now on display at Antwerp’s ModeMuseum, as part of the Margiela: The Hermès Years exhibition. Curated by Kaat Debo, the selected garments and accessories speak of the Belgian designer’s monochrome palette —he decided not to work with the brand’s popular printed scarves— and a penchant for silhouettes with no accentuated waistline, no shoulder pads and no visible pockets.

Instead, Margiela created the fluid vareuse silhouette, inspired by the classic sailor’s uniform. The piece reappears as a shirt, as a structured jacket, as a sweater or as a tunic. Throughout his 12 collections, he was bent on teaching his customers how to layer garments and use each one in different ways. For this, technology was on his side: one of his innovations at Hermès was a thread with “memory” that prevented distortions in tricot. And in a way, he found a new way to display the house’s logo on the clothes, by developing buttons with six holes instead of four —the stitching would reveal a discreet “H”.

For fans of the four-white-stitches branding on Margiela’s namesake brand —with a thematic selection of MMM pieces also exhibited—, these minimalist winks on display at the MoMu will not come as a surprise.

Margiela: The Hermès Years is open at the ModeMuseum until August 27, 2017.

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Hermès A/W 1998-1999 Vareuse in double-faced cashmere, sleeveless high-neck pullover in cashmere, mid-length skirt in Shetland wool and boots in calfskin, ‘Le vêtement comme manière de vivre’ Le Monde d’Hermès, Photo: John Midgley
Hermès A/W 2000-2001 Jacket ‘Les Transformables’, Photo: Stany Dederen
Hermès A/W 2000-2001 Jacket ‘Les Transformables’, Photo: Stany Dederen
Hermès A/W 2002-2003 Tuxedo over-skirt in silk ottoman from ‘Les Gestuelles’, Photo: Marina Faust
Hermès A/W 2002-2003 Tuxedo over-skirt in silk ottoman from ‘Les Gestuelles’, Photo: Marina Faust
Hermès, L/Z 2000 ‘Le porte vêtement’, Left image: Monica Ho, Right image: Marina Faust
Hermès, L/Z 2000 ‘Le porte vêtement’, Left image: Monica Ho, Right image: Marina Faust
Maison Martin Margiela A/W 1996-1997, Photo: Anders Erdström // Hermès A/W 1998-1999, Photo: Studio des Fleurs
Maison Martin Margiela A/W 1996-1997, Photo: Anders Erdström // Hermès A/W 1998-1999, Photo: Studio des Fleurs
Maison Martin Margiela S/S 2009, Photo: Giovanni Giannoni // Hermès S/S 1999, Photo: Studio des Fleurs
Maison Martin Margiela S/S 2009, Photo: Giovanni Giannoni // Hermès S/S 1999, Photo: Studio des Fleurs

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