Thanks to a cult following and rampant nostalgia, Martin Margiela seems to have generated more interest and institutional praise of late than any other living designer. Boutique vintage shops such as Byroneque and Resurrection Vintage routinely carry pieces by the designer and his house (the latter will even be have a collection on display and for sale that begins during New York fashion week). Meanwhile, the ModeMuseum in Antwerp will run an exhibit titled Margiela—The Hermès Years, a show exploring the designer’s tenure at the storied French house, opening at the end of March.
But apparently all that hasn’t quelled the fashion world’s thirst for all-things Margiela-esque. Yesterday, Le Figaro reported that a new retrospective is set to run in Paris in March of 2018 at the Palais Galliera. Notable curator Olivier Saillard will be heading up the project, and in a particularly interesting twist, will be working with the ever-elusive Margiela himself to create it. (Yes, Martin Margiela is still in contact with other humans, and apparently if the project is right, he’ll put his two cents in.)
Where, exactly, is all of this fervor coming from? Margiela was always a cult icon among fashion insiders, given how his work helped to reshape, if not redefine, the luxury landscape. His influence can still be seen today on the runway (Vetements, anyone?), making it particularly easy for academics to track his importance in fashion. Given all that, and that fact that he walked out on “top” (he quietly exited his house in 2009), it is easy to celebrate Margiela’s work, as it will forever be verifiably “good”—there never came a season in which he “sold out” or had a misstep that sparked a need for people to explain what made him worthy of praise. By capping his career, he preserved his legacy—kind of like a British TV show that ends after five stellar seasons instead of 15 mediocre ones. And in turn, people in fashion don’t have to be nostalgic about a particular period of his career, they can pine for his entire career.
In terms of being notable in the public consciousness, the house itself is having a resurgence thanks to John Galliano’s tenure at the brand. Sure, his personality is the exact opposite of Margiela's is in terms of courting the press and becoming recognizable, but the house has greatly benefitted from having a celebrity designer at the helm.
Another celebrity who has aided in mass-appreciation for the mysterious Belgian is Kanye West. Yes, really. The rapper has been a vocal fan of Margiela for years, often name dropping him in songs. His fans and the listening public who were unaware of Margiela took a minute to research the reference, and boom—a new generation of young people (who were already looking to the '90s for nostalgic fashion references) were turned on to the conceptual designer's work.
Saillard’s so-far-untitled exhibit does not have an exact opening date, nor have any details been released as to what can be expected. That being said, this is sure to be one of the most important and exciting exhibits of 2018, if not the decade. And no, those are not the words of another fashion writer salivating over Margiela—Saillard is one of the most respected curators in the world, and this project will be the most public effort Margiela himself has participated in since he left his namesake brand. No doubt, the affair will not be anywhere near as discreet as the label on its source material.