Vintage News | The Game-Changing Martin Margiela Show of 1989

Posted by Curate
Tweet It | Facebook It | Pin It

Martin Margiela's Spring/Summer 1990 collection in Paris (Photo: Jean-Claude Coutaus)



In the autumn of 1989, on a derelict playground in the outskirts of Paris, Martin Margiela staged a show like nothing the fashion world had ever seen: the seating plan was first come, first served; the front row was filled with local kids; the models were stumbling; the runway was uneven. The critics loathed it. The industry loved it.

The backdrop for the collection of white and nude belted coats, wide legged trousers and carrier bag tops, all frayed and unfinished, was a wasteland replete with graffitied walls and dilapidated buildings. Richard O'Mahony of The Gentlewoman spoke to the critic Suzy Menkes, the designers Raf Simons and Jean Paul Gaultier, the professor Linda Loppa (among others) and the team that put it all together, about the show’s lasting impact.



Pierre Rougier, press agent, Maison Martin Margiela, 1989–1992: I’d just started out on my own in 1988, and I met Martin and Jenny when I was trying to get some people to sign with me. I met Jenny first, and she asked me to meet Martin. A few days later they called and said, “We really like you but we’re not going to need a press office. If you want a job, you can come and work with us.” So I did, and, I mean, it was a very small set-up. I think it was Martin, Jenny, maybe Nina Nitsche [1]. Everybody was doing a little bit of everything.

Jenny Meirens, co-founder, Maison Martin Margiela: Only three of us! People had been helping when needed, but it was an extremely small company.

Pierre Rougier: After the Autumn/ Winter 1989 show in March, Martin wanted a location for a magazine shoot. An actress friend of mine directed me towards this derelict area in Paris’s 20th arrondissement. She’d done a shoot there and thought it might work for ours.

Jenny Meirens: We usually looked for places that people wouldn’t have ordinarily used. Pierre asked me if we would be interested in this wasteland, and we thought, “Why not?”

Pierre Rougier: It was a North African neighbourhood on the outskirts of Paris. Martin, Jenny and I walked around the area; then they went off together to discuss things. They would always have these types of conversations in Flemish. I didn’t speak the language, so they’d go off and have their little powwow in Flemish.

Jenny Meirens: There was never anything secretive. We spoke Flemish because it was easier for us. To be honest, it was more for me — Martin wanted us to speak in French, but I thought that was ridiculous, because we’re from the same country.

Pierre Rougier: They came back and said, “We want to do a show here.” I thought it was crazy. They were like, “No, no, we’re going to do a show here,” and that was that. If Martin and Jenny wanted to do something, then it was going to happen one way or another.

Jenny Meirens: The only thing Martin and I thought might be a problem was the weather. There was no protection.

Pierre Rougier: The other major issue was that it was a playground. It was pretty derelict, but an association that looked after the local kids used it. There were rules and regulations that didn’t allow them to accept money for use of the area. So Jenny and Martin had the idea that we’d take the kids on a day trip to the countryside, where various activities would be laid on for them. It was important to Martin and Jenny that we were respectful of the fact that this was the kids’ space and they were lending it to us for a few days.

Jenny Meirens: We wanted the children to stay around the area. Pierre suggested that we ask them to make the invitation.

Pierre Rougier: Martin hated pretty printed invitations with calligraphy. Since we were staging the show on a kids’ playground, we thought it would be an idea to have the invitations drawn by kids, so it was like they were inviting you to their place. The next thing, then, was where do we find 500 kids to draw all these invitations? So we cut rectangular pieces of cardboard, gave them to the local schools, and in their art classes they were given the theme of a fashion show, and they drew their interpretations.

Jenny Meirens: The locals were very receptive and enthusiastic.

Pierre Rougier: And then we had to build the tents for backstage. That was another nightmare!

Jenny Meirens: I remember Pierre was very stressed, but Martin was always calm in preparing for a show. We were based on rue Réaumur in the 3rd then, and on one side of the studio all the outfits were being prepared, there were castings, people deciding on the make-up; and on the other side we were organising meetings with commercial clients.

Inge Grognard, make-up artist for Maison Martin Margiela, 1988–2010: I had known Martin since we were fashion-crazed teenagers growing up in Belgium and worked with him from the very beginning, so we had a well-established working pattern by this point. I was based in Antwerp. So a few weeks before a show Martin would phone and say, “OK, this is the collection,” and we’d talk about the ideas behind it, the feelings, the colours. And then I’d give my input. I’d also travel to Paris because I was involved in casting the models too.

Kristina de Coninck, model for Maison Martin Margiela, 1989–2005: Martin had seen some pictures I’d shot with the photographer Ronald Stoops and Inge for BAM magazine. Apparently, Martin said, “Who’s this woman? I want her for my show.” I met him in Brussels in ’89, and that March I walked in his second show, which was for Autumn/Winter. The fittings for the show were such an enjoyable experience. Martin always asked the models’ opinion on the clothes he selected for us — he wanted to make sure we felt good in them. For this show, he instructed us not to cut our hair.

Ward Stegerhoek, hairstylist for Maison Martin Margiela, 1988–1989: Hair in the late 1980s was very proper: chignons; big, bouncy curls and waves— that sort of Claudia Schiffer look. Martin said for this show it should look like anything but a hairstyle. He never really told us what he wanted, just what he didn’t want. He liked it when it looked as if the women could have put it together themselves.

Frédéric Sanchez, music director for Maison Martin Margiela, 1988–1998: This was my third show for Martin Margiela. Martin and I started work on it about two months beforehand. We’d talk about the live recordings of bands like the Velvet Underground or the Rolling Stones from the ’60s— the crowd’s screaming in the background, and the music’s cutting in and out. We were also listening to experimental artists like Meredith Monk and Annette Peacock and obscure tracks from Factory Records. Martin was very into Bowie, too — I think the video for “Life on Mars” was a big influence on the make-up for this show. The idea was to cut all the tracks short abruptly, chop them up the way Warhol cut his movies, mess with the levels to make them sound distorted or dirty, then put it all together like a collage. It was about evoking a feeling to create something poetic. When I was told the show’s location, I just thought it was very Martin. We did the first one in an old theatre, the second in a nightclub, so it was continuing this idea of using public spaces and the most lively parts of the city to present a bourgeois thing like fashion.

Click here to read the rest of this article on businessoffashion.com >


Martin Margiela's Spring/Summer 1990 collection in Paris (Photo: Jean-Claude Coutaus)

Real Time Web Analytics