Saturday, 24 November 2012

Maison Martin Margiela - the real deal (?)

(Ph/me - Maison Martin Margiela SS'13 collection)

Do we buy into fashion because we genuinely like what we see, or because a somewhat greater authority, dictator of all things cool, has told us it is essential to do so in order to fit the fashion bill?

This is a genuine interrogation, people of the internet. Not so much pertaining to the democratization of fashion (which I have been reading far too much about this week already), even though I hear ya, it could be. No, this is more of an outspoken incentive to further explore the 'blinded by the label' formula (©MR), and take it way downtown, to new hoods it has not yet acquainted itself with. Reading back in between the lines, what Leandra suggested was that many of us might be guilty of making a purchase simply because said designer has stamped his seal on the label, and/or said garment has been featured in all the usual requisite places (Vogue being the prime suspect here, closely followed by Elle, Dazed (to throw a little avant-garde edge into the mix) and, well, for us common mortals, on the likes of Mizz ManRepeller herself.

Case in point: this week saw the latest from high street meets high fashion unfold, and as usual, it was a blood bath. Website down from the moment the clock strikes 9, items sold out before you can say the letter M three times in a row, people pinching things out of each other's virtual basket (do you hear the pain in my voice?). And I'm pretty sure things were worse on the bricks and mortar end. All this, for a brand that most of us hardly know anything about, let alone actually adhere to.

Because in my mind, what M. Margiela set out to create was something above and beyond your average maison. Of course, the cult of impersonality and anonymity favored by the Belgian designer ended up becoming the trademark of the brand - a silence so loud it was impossible to ignore. But the clothes still took precedence and dominated the voiceless show. Here you had to 'get' what the leader was exploring within the constructive process of the (deconstructed) collection in order to want to wear the sartorial result. It wasn't for everyone, and that was the point.

But the game has changed you see. Being a fashionista is no mean feat. Competition is rife and to capture the attention of the Tommy Tons of this world, she needs to strike the perfect balance between wearable and conceptual, at risk of being dubbed a bore. Or worse, a blinded-by-the-label-clone.

And if fast fashion is the ethos of our age, then surely the H&M designer collabs are the archetype of fast fashion living. One minute you know quasi-nothing about the chosen one, the next, you are fighting to get your hands on a blown-up candy clutch which is twice your size, that you will probably only ever take out once for a few outfit pics, and maybe, if it's not lost in the trenches of your closet by then, for a little fashion week stroll come February. Don't read in between the lines here, I'm as guilty as the next. This is more of a 'hashtag just saying', prompted by a rather compelling opinion piece by Eugene Rabkin. And a personal reminder to not fall into the trap of wanting an item just because it is this month's ready-available it piece. Especially in cases such as these, when acquiring for said reasons means trampling all over the brand's DNA. Buying H&M x Margiela would therefore be exactly the opposite to buying 'real' MMM. 

So I wonder whether we would have actually wanted these abstract pieces had they come from the original collection. The 'made in H&M' seal of approval, forgiving price tag and overwhelming consensus that 'this is fashion' might be reassuring, but sometimes it takes guts to abstain from something that is not actually 'you'. The non-act of purchase might speak louder and do more for your style than super-sized denim and bra-decorated bodysuits ever could - just as the house's exaggerated secretiveness is precisely what propelled it to such levels of media attention. I guess it's too late this time round - for me at least - but maybe something we should all think about. I know that I certainly shall. 

Above, the rigid and ultra-simplified bustier ballgown from the SS13 collection. The real deal - from the Martin-less Maison, maybe - but nonetheless a true Margielan oddball. This abstract take on red-carpet glamour took my breath away at the press day, and I sure as hell hope to see someone in it soon!



  1. Nice post! I love Margiela!

  2. Just -discovered- your blog and i'm enjoying it lots!

  3. Cette robe est magnifique !

  4. Totally agree with you on this, the H&M collaborations are such fast fashion they become outdated the day they are launched. Have never even attempted to buy anything from these collections and never will.

    Fashion Agony blog

  5. I completely agree with what you're saying here, I'm guilty of waiting in line in the morning for the H&M collaboration too but I saw a lot of people there who had no idea what MMM was about and were only there because it was H&M...

    Don't get me wrong, I wasn't too familiar with MMM either but I genuinely fell in love with the collection and it made me do my research on the brand and its history. That's what those collaborations are all about according to me, getting to know a new brand and getting familiar with its vision. I can say that I would have wanted the pieces I got even without the H&M seal, but I wouldn't have because I wouldn't have been able to afford them...

    Either way you are right, we shouldn't let ourselves fall into the popularity-trap so easily! I loved reading your opinion on this subject, it has definitely got me thinking!

  6. I understand the value and concepts behind the MMM maison, but it simply doesn't resonate with my style at all, which is why I didn't even bother in attempting to get a piece. I do agree with you in everything you said, a very thought-provoking post. Especially the part in which MR describes the phenomena of blinded by the level, and what this whole fast fashion creates. In my opinion it is a monster, and not such a nice one. People who fall for this are fashion victims and or the stereotypical consumerist hipsters who end up having all these feelings of guilt and of identity crisis. We all go through it somehow, but at some point, you need to grow up. x

    Fashion Landscape

  7. gorgeous stuff! love those glittery heels! xo, alma

  8. Je suis bien d'accord avec toi, on achète parce que c'est une collection de créateur avec h&m. Ils ont trouvé la bonne technique pour vendre et vendre encore plus!

  9. those dress are amazing! great piece for spring parties

  10. I still find it ridiculous that this collaboration was what the brand was initially against, and you could almost say they were they were most well known for that. I mean why else would the designer prefer to remain as anonymous and unseen to the public eye as possible? Yet now we see a complete 360 in the most commerical and accessible way.
    What I love/d about Margiela was the purpose and story behind the pieces that one could discover in order to fully appreciate the design, something that will be lost in half of the clueless H&M shoppers buying into the hype.
    To be honest, I am sick of collaborations. Yes I see how great they are in delivering affordability and accessibility to our much loved brands but now it seems it's just being done for the hell of it, for sales instead of carefully chosen partnerships that make sense.
    People are just buying into the brand, the name, the image and this makes it far too easy. Instead, they could be doing their research, understanding the brand and the message they stand for and if then they still want the designs then they can save their every penny to get the real deal.

    Great post, thank you!

  11. I have never liked the H&M designer collaborations. I think of designer fashion as art (lots of it anyway) and as something that's unique and special. I don't want it to become something we take for granted. I would be very sad if Alexander Wang, Helmut lang, Rick Owens, MJ etc. caved into this. I think I'd rather not own it, than to own the mainstream version that anyone can have. I don't know why, but that's how I feel. The clothes lose something.

  12. that dress is awesome! and so are those heels xx

  13. Interesting post - and I have to say you're dead on. A lot of the time I think collabs are seen as "on trend" or "fashionable", even if really, you wouldn't have liked it otherwise. I guess the same thing pertains to trends, which is why it's best to just stick to your own style.

    I have my own dilemma, I've been thinking of getting the Chloe Susan boots, but I'm not sure if it is because I like them or if they seem to be having a bit of a moment. It's hard to determine really, and a lot of money to spend on a fashion mistake. Proabbly why four months later I am still thinking on it.

    As for the real MMM, the glitter shoes call out to me. I'd love to see what the rest of the shoe looked like!

    1. If I have ANY advice I would say its too late for the Chloé boots. Not because they are "passé" - if you love a good rock-chick boot, there will always be a moment to be had for them.. but because 2 years ago these boots cost half the price tag that they retail for now.. and that is just pure RIPOFF. I hate when designers think its ok to come back with the same piece the year after with an added 400 quid on the label just because they know it has been -and therefore presumably should be again- a sellout..
      let me know anyhow :) xxx

    2. I like the advice you gave jamie-lee. Didn't realize they upped the price as much as they did because the previous model sold so well. Next time I'm going to do some research into past pricing of previous season's designs so I can avoid that large mark up!

      Enjoyed this post, I think this happens to the best of us. Sometimes we all get a bit swept up in the easy access to current trends. I know I have to do my best to stay away from Zara at times because I'll see a similar designer look at 5 times less in price, and want to scoop it up because it looks just like xyz's version. I end up wanting the piece because the price is right and I feel like everyone else has it and not necessarily because it speaks to me. The more I avoid this the better I end up feeling, it's the 1/2 an hour of should I or shouldn't I, that I have to push through.

    3. Totally agree Bettina, you see something in Zara and realise it's a rip-off of so-and-so's latest catwalk show and are immediately tempted to snatch it up even though a. it probably doesn't look as good as original piece, b. everyone else will have reasoned the same, c. you wouldn't actually have bought that piece from the original collection ..

      I'm as guilty as they come though. Case in point, today's high boots snatched up with Givenchy FW12 in mind. No regrets though for once :)


  14. I was sort of indifferent about this blog as a new reader, but this piece garnered so much respect from me to you. You're an amazing writer.

    I think it's a bit ridiculous that some people who are able to afford such artful luxuries are bitter that those who make less have the gall to own the same pieces. I think it stems from some kind of insecurity; now that you own the same piece as the idiot beside you, you'll now be seen as an idiot.

    The clothes don't "lose something" just because they're now in the hands of some airheaded label-whore -- that isn't the responsibility of the designer. Do they think that all who are fortunate enough to purchase realdeal MMM are devotees of his legacy and message? Bullshit. If MMM wanted their designs to be enjoyed and appreciated by many, accept that and don't be an elitist asshole. It's no different than someone getting mad that their favorite band has "sold out" and started allowing their songs to be played on the radio.

    1. ah what an interesting perspective you bring to the table - thank you!

      I do actually agree with you. And my reasoning really wasn't 'if everyone wants it, surely it can't be real fashion anymore'. Because you are right of course, and it works both ways (its a subject I've been turning in my head for another post): does one need to 'understand' what one is buying into in order to enjoy it? Obviously not! As you say, those with the big bucks spending away in Harrods don't actually give a shit about the inspiration of the designer or anything of the sort. And it is not because I have (wasted my time?) looking said inspiration up that I'm more entitled to that piece. But what I was getting at here was more the idea of people all buying into something that they don't actually really like in the first place. Unlike Lanvin or Jimmy Choo, MMM really isn't one of those brands that thousands of people dream of owning. I'm sorry for saying that because I thoroughly respect the work of this fashion house, but it just isn't. And the reason is because the clothes are loopy. Clever, sure, but absolutely bonkers. And most of us are not comfortable with looking like a mad design student in our day to day lives - indeed even find it silly. I just find it ironic that suddenly out of nowhere we all need a clutch the size of a small person etc..

      To be continued, for sure. I might use some of your ideas to touch on that overdue post, if you don't mind bien sûr!

      Camille x

    2. I completely agree, MMM is an acquired taste. Having said that, I imagine many of the people who trekked out to their local H&M solely because Kanye rapped about Margiela in a song would have been taken aback that everything wasn't so "Kanye-esque". The nude trompe l'oeil fishnet tights and the comically large candy clutch? Cute! Oversized turtleneck or duvet coat? Weird.

      I live in the Californian suburbs and when I wore my key ring necklace to work one day, my co-workers thought it looked like a harness for livestock. Different strokes for different folks!

  15. Very intellectual article. I must say that I don't lıke H&M's collaborations and don't buy any of these launches. It's just against my personal understanding of fashion.

  16. I really don't like this collaboration

  17. Je suis d'accord avec toi. C'est une sorte d'avatisme un peu mais avec des vêtements ! Mais personnellement il y a des pièces de cette collection que je trouve sublimes comme les talons et les vestes. C

  18. Thank you again for such a well written post. I think of all the collaborations that H&M have done, MMM has definitely been the strangest. I agree they're not the typical type and I'm surprised that it got as much attention as it did. I thought a lot of people wouldn't get this collection. And I guess the less 'commercial' pieces are probably still in stock. I have to say I am a sucker for collaborations, but I'm just happy to finally get my hands on a bit of MMM goodness. I am impressed that the collection kept so close to the MMM aesthetic, I thought they would water down the cray-cray for the masses. It is good to see that some real designs can sell to the masses, for whatever reason they chose to buy it.

    1. Yeah I genuinely liked a lot of pieces too.. It's funny how these things happen. :) x

  19. I didn't buy any of it, or try to. Not to say that I didn't like some of the pieces because I did but did I like them more than other high street buys, or even some of the pieces in H&M Trend? No, perhaps not, and of course, although the price is good, it's still higher.

    You speak the truth, I like that. I hope you see someone in the dress soon (and I will save you a giant candy wrapper on Christmas day and post it on to you ;) - actually though, that bag was my absolute favourite piece, ridiculously sublime.

    ♥ Thankfifi

  20. This is so well written, I felt exactly the same about the MMM X H&M collection, I mean no there was no disappointment with the collection but it made womder do any of these hoards of girls fighting through the door have any idea what they're buying into ? without sounding like a tool as my taste in fashion matured I became a huge admirer of MMM then a few years late to see a collaboration with a highstreet brand, seems so very Un-MMM ?

    You're completely right about how easy it is to buy into it all though :), great post again.


  21. I've been thinking about this too for the past few weeks, I suppose everybody did. But just like you I'm "as guilty as the next" too. ; )

    Great post though, very honest and funny at the same time.




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