The greater part of issue 4 of the Dutch magazine Blend is devoted to Maison Martin Margiela, the iconoclast designer. Blend’s approach, however, is less of the obvious sycophant swoon fest than might have emanated from various other glossy magazines and more of a freeform homage. Perhaps more than any of the other famous Belgian designers, the work of Maison Margiela strikes a chord with the neighbours that share a common language. The unforgivingly conceptual approach, the individualistic apparent impracticality and the almost absurdist gestures of Martin Margiela’s groundbreaking approach to fashion has long since been admired by the Dutch.
At the centre of an impressive 60-page feature devoted to Maison Martin Margiela is the huge fashion story by Franc Fernandez and Luke Gilford. Less of a shoot that attempts to illustrate Margiela’s garments, it takes on the form of an unwieldy and lyrical poem; a personal ode to the essence of Margiela viewed from a highly personal position in which the pair turn the camera on their family and friends or zoom in close-up to capture something of the DNA of the iconic brand that aspires towards a kind of conceptual absence.
Exactly whether Maison Martin Margiela would approve of the results or not is a matter for much debate and, indeed, it’s part of the joy of this story: inspiring heated conversations amongst the fashion-literate as to whether it does or does not get to grips with the spirit of Margiela. Ultimately, however, such discussions are irrelevant, at least in terms of the validity of this shoot. Rather than purporting to be some kind of formal spokespersons for Maison Martin Margiela – in the way that is often implied by fashion magazines when pitching to their audience their particular choice of photographer or stylist- this is a fashion story that is as much about what Margiela means to those who have made it as it might be about Maison Martin Margiela itself. To fault it on the grounds that it is not actually what Margiela is about would be a bit like telling someone that what he or she sees in the Rorschach test ink blots is ‘incorrect’. This is the fashion story as an ode and a tribute to a source of inspiration and what something inspires is not fairly subjected to the laws of logic.
Unfolding over some fifty pages, the story uses a range of styles from saturated colour photography to almost archival monochrome shots and collage. Zooming in and zooming out, it takes us on a journey from the quietness of still fabrics to camp outlandish scenarios. There is no attempt to codify Margiela’s work according to chronological development or genre. It is, in short, an impressionistic exercise in free association, something that might be at odds with the heavily commercial drives that define how fashion should be framed in many regions, but perhaps less prevalent in the Lowlands. There, as we have seen, intellectual and conceptual approaches to the way we choose to clothe our body can, in fact, attract paying customers. Sensual or ridiculous but most importantly, conscious, it can only be a good thing that Blend is prepared to provide such large-scale platforms as a form of riposte to Globalised fashion by showcasing strong regional sensibilities.