A photo from Maison Martin Margiela’s first show in 1988 (vogue.com)
Today, Frédéric Sanchez is among the most respected sound designers in the world, but in 1988, he was a 22-year-old creative living in Paris who found himself at dinner with Martin Margiela on the eve of the Belgian designer’s debut collection. “It was really the beginning of the house. There was not an office; he was working with his partner, Jenny Meirens, in a little apartment in Paris; and he had just left [Jean Paul] Gaultier, where he was an assistant,” Sanchez recalls over the phone from his studio in Paris.
“We met through a friend. This friend said to Martin that he should talk to me because he was looking for someone to make his soundtrack for the show, so he invited me for dinner in his house. It was very interesting because he was living in a very bourgeois area in Paris, but in a courtyard, like in a very small place, where there were so many magazines and images and things like that. I remember that he had a table set with very, very beautiful white napkins and with chandeliers in silver. I thought to ask him what was the concept of what he was doing. The environment that he was putting together—like the table, which was very beautiful with the napkins and the silver chandeliers but with wax on the chandeliers—the idea of something that has lived, not something too polished, was, he explained to me, the idea behind what he was doing . . . and when I heard all this, it made me think about how I had this idea to do something with music and I was living with music. For me, music was almost like fragments of life, and there was something matching in his idea of the image and my idea of the sound.”
From there the pair began to collaborate on the soundtracks for Margiela’s early shows, really more like gatherings than traditional runways. “For the first show [in 1988], which was in a very old theater, we put some microphones backstage, so when people entered the venue, they were listening to what was going on backstage. It was a sort of introduction of what was going to come next. A sort of what is behind all this?” Sanchez explains. “We spent maybe two months working on this soundtrack and thinking of it. It was my first soundtrack and it was his first show, so it was important how we started. There was a lot of talking and we were spending a lot of time together. The process was quite long, and Martin was very involved in the process, but it was the beginning of my way of doing this and of his way of doing this.”