Now accepted canon, Maison Martin Margiela is the ne plus ultra of conceptual labels, even if its namesake designer—so reclusive that no photos of him exist (well, one will surface every few
years)—retired from the brand several years ago and didn't tell the outside world until it became obvious. Ever since, the house has divined collections in his spirit, often with spectacular, uncanny results.
In a rare showroom visit following the runway show, rare because the creative team is anonymous, a white lab-coated spokesperson (they all wear white lab coats) spoke in lofty, sometimes self-contradictory precepts: "spongy luxe," "disorderly mismatch," "classic with a twist," "intentionally falling apart." Deconstruction, part of the house's permanent DNA, once again seemed to be at the core of the collection. Suits were aggressively shredded; an office-style white buttoned shirt had been halved and paired with another; and traditional gray slacks had an entire leg missing, making them more of an accessory than anything else. Speaking of, a pair of clogs from the Replica line—the collection was composed of the house's various lines: 10, Replica, and, most exalted of all, Artisanal—were modeled on an early-20th-century "miner and factory-worker shoe" from Lancashire, in the U.K. It said so right on the label.
A synthetic tactility permeated, with assorted polyamides that do not feel especially wonderful to the touch, and that was exactly the point. In particular, a white parachute material was used to make very loose and see-through pants and jackets, intended to be worn in layers. One dramatic cape of a coat was engineered from an actual old-timey, perhaps wartime parachute, straps and all. A series of heavily sequined and beaded nude tops, from Artisanal, were designed to look like a patchwork of tattoos splashed across the body, taking their colors and cues from varsity rugby and other college sports.
The spokesperson described a small moment of panic backstage when a long top that was supposed to barely cover a pants-less model did not fully do so, giving the audience a flash of peekaboo if they looked closely. What to do? Send him out anyway, of course.
Not everything in the collection will be produced, mainly because not everything can be worn in a convincingly real way. Conversely, there will be commercial pieces in stores that were not shown on the runway. It's all part of the strange, chimeric beauty of Maison Martin Margiela.