Thursday, 5 August 2010


Aaaah the life of the self employed….. this time I did something constructive with my day and oh boy was it a good one!

Being completely honest, before the exhibition Martin Margiela was always the guy who designed the weird trotter shoes and the guy whose lookbook is stuck to my bedroom wall only because the model’s eyes were blocked out by what looked like a marker pen (kooky) – so why has he got some massive exhibition at Somerset House? He’s not exactly Jean Paul Gaultier or Hermes….nope but he assisted them!

My friend Harry Walker volunteered to accompany on this outing and since I work in the creative industry I thought I should appear fully knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the enigmatic designer. Basically I wanted to show off. But why for the life of me could I not get a picture of his face in my head?!

So after a little Google and I realized that Margiela is actually a big dog. I can forgive him for the trotter shoes if he started off as an assistant to Gaultier. I also found out why I couldn’t put face to name and that is because he has never been photographed. Keeping mysterious is always a smart move in my book – only because it has been pulled off by geniuses such as Gorillaz whose consist of a virtual band and Kate Moss who doesn’t speak. I wish David Beckham took a leaf out of her book.

Another word which to my irritation kept on popping up in the Google search engine was the term ‘deconstructivism’. Apparently this term contains ‘ideas of fragmentation, an interest of manipulating ideas of a structure’s surface or skin’ bla bla bla. Basically Margiela’s clothes are going to use non-traditional fabrics, recycled material and have the seams and hems the wrong way around to show how the garment was constructed. My first reaction was boooorrrinngg. No matter how much I want to like the Estethica bit of London Fashion week’s exhibition I find myself quickly hopping around the area until I get to the good stuff which wasn’t made out of newspaper.

These initial preconceptions of this exhibition were completely unsupported by any sort of thorough investigation or previous exposure to the designer so I must say to the people who are reading this, it was a tad unfair – especially when my actual experience of it was completely different to my negative expectations!

As soon as we entered Somerset House I knew it was going to be a good day because the sheer magnificence of it all made me feel slightly overwhelmed. I always forget to pay the place a visit but when I do I always experience the same effect. From the minute we stepped into the place, I knew this exhibition was all about detail. Little ‘Tabi’’ (the trotter shoes I referred to above) footprints guided us towards the exhibition space and after I paid my £6 I entered Margiela world. Completley mad!! But good/fashion mad and that’s difficult to do especially when it’s borderline art. You certainly get your money’s worth unlike some place ehem national portrait gallery.

The exhibition celebrates Maison Martin Margiela’s 20 successful years as one of the world’s most influential fashion houses and instead of showing sentimental moments of which the public will always feel slightly removed, it depicted the transcendental moments of Margiela’s impact on the fashion industry. However, this does not mean that the exhibition was entirely without personality; as we walked in there were architectural scale models of the exhibitions in different countries followed by a three-dimensional group portrait of Maison Martin Margiela in Styrofoam sin designer – it was these sort of constant references to his employees that made it all seem so worthwhile and more valuable.

The exhibition had quite an arty feel but not in a pretentious twatty way because it kept the fashion element without pretending it was in the same category. Whilst inspecting numerous tailored jackets with the shoulder silhouettes a projection of Margiela’s Spring Summer 2009 catwalk show was booming in the backdrop. The show celebrated the House’s 20th anniversary and lo and behold, when I took a closer look I figured out what those marker pen smudges were on the lookbook on my wall – sunglasses!

Little intricacies like that unraveled the true meaning of Maison Margiela : I now understood and appreciated the trotter feet as well as the painted clothes and the fur jacket made from blond wigs – did you know he was the creator of the flat garments (e.g. a vacuum packed sweater that is completely flat and can be zipped open into a square) Didn’t know that was Margiela. Everything that I thought would irritate me e.g. inside out dresses, exposed seams and recycled materials, instead contributed more to the essence of the designer and not only made me appreciate the thought process behind the clothes but made the garments even more aesthetically pleasing.

It was a mind boggle but in a good way. When I looked at the one segment of the exhibition it was difficult to find the next one because the exhibition had been layed out so that it was a Margiela wonderland! And even though I was running around trying to get a sense of where to look next – it was all because I was intrigued and never impatient. It was a real pleasure to experience the colossal effort Somerset House had put into the exhibition.

Even when I went into the Birthday room (my fave room which was a mad visual whirlwind of images from the fashion shows, films and photography) my childish excitement was not restrained by that irritating sssshhhh usually imposed on me whenever I reach a certain decibel in an art exhibition. I must say I had quite unashamedly rolled around in the spurting confetti when the security man /art knowledgeable person approached me. Thinking I was going to get told off I thought of as many witty responses so not to feel so embarrassed but instead he had come over to let me know that I had confetti in my hair! From the design layout to the people who work at Somerset House the whole thing made me feel inspired, satisfied and welcomed. It’s not everyday you can walk into such a huge exhibition at one of London’s most prestigious locations and feel that you can probe and question, and dance around a room full of confetti without feeling stupid!

Thanks Maison Martin Margiela xxx

By Sacha Harrison

Daily 10.00-18.00, until 20.00 Thursdays
Until 21.00 on 4 and 5 August
Embankment Galleries, South Wing
£6, conc £5, under 12s free

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