Remembering Martin Margiela at Hermès

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Hermès, spring/summer 1999. Photo: Serge Guerand

Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela is most famously charged with the de-fashioning of fashion: He’s wrapped clothes in dry-cleaning plastic, scribbled his invitations on the inside of envelopes, and dressed his studio workers in industrial white lab coats, all for his self-titled label Maison Margiela. So when he joined Hermès as creative director in 1997, the fashion industry was intrigued — here was a rebellious designer, coming to a fashion house renowned for classic elegance. The result was an eclectic array of garments that somehow joined the two very divergent aesthetics, presenting asymmetrical leotards in Fifth Avenue camel hues and body-hugging long black dresses that were edgy and contemporary. Even Margiela’s signature face mask, adopted by Kanye West over a decade later, became stylish during this time — no crystals in sight.

Margiela: The Hermès Years brings this oft-overlooked period, which ended in 2003, into the light with 18 exclusive interviews and never-before-published photos, drawings, and testimonies. The book is accompanied by an exhibition at ModeMuseum in Antwerp, put together by museum director Kaat Debo, which will be on view until August 27. Both explore the subtle overlap between Margiela’s avant-garde approach and the classicism of Hermès, showing how Margiela expertly fused the two. “From a first look, these two worlds — Maison Martin Margiela and Hermès — appear completely different,” Debo told Vogue, “but if you take a closer look, many ideas keep coming back: his obsessions, his passions for tailoring, for menswear.”

Click ahead for vintage shots of a sleek masculine look, a stylishly oversized belt buckle, and chunky knits.

Remembering Martin Margiela at Hermès