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The Daily Telegraph calls him “French fashion's only marquis"

January 10, 2020 16:03

The Daily Telegraph calls him “French fashion's only marquis” and probably talks of both, his roots and his passion for art, that follows royal tradition, so to say. The “boy with the blanket”, who in his younger days was sent to the woods to “come back as man” was born in Casablanca in 1949 and has had huge impact on the fashion scene since the 70s. 

The designs of Jean-Charles de Castelbajac always speak a language with a high recognition value and always stayed on point throughout decades, as his latest works with the house of Benetton and Palace Skateboards show. He is one of the names for the books.

Imagine spending time with and taking inspiration from The Sex Pistols, Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. In that mixture of social criticism, the clear colors of Pop Art, the artistic claim, the individualism and inquiring mind you somewhere find Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, who dressed stars like Farrah Fawcett for the TV show “Charlie’s Angels” and Eddie Murphy in his unforgettable role in the 80s movie “Coming to America”. He is said to have pioneered Snoopy and Mickey Mouse fashion and he invented the stuffed animal coat in the late 80s. 

The pictures of Vanessa Paradis in her Snoopy coat in 1988 are just as iconic as the pictures of the Kermit coat Lady Gaga wore and which went viral in 2009, almost exactly 21 years later. 

The cartoon knit sweaters he had designed for ICEBERG back in the days are still highly collectible Vintage items and many of his ideas got adapted by various names in the business over the years. Alexander McQueen, whose glove-bag designs for his collaboration with H&M in 2009 reminded me of Castelbajac in the early 80s is only one name of fashion professionals who seemed to take inspiration from “JC/DC”.

Yet, World Youth Day 1997 was one of his most moving commissions as he was dressing Pope John Paul II, along with a parade of 500 bishops and 5,000 priests, in vestments adorned with rainbow crosses. 

As said before… One for the books!

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The employees in the boutiques, in the design studio and in the backstage area at fashion shows wear white lab coats, as was common in the ateliers of the great couturiers, e.g. Christian Dior, and is still common today. The fashion shows for the high-priced fashion sometimes took place in the context of the Paris Prêt-à-porter shows in unconventional locations, up to shabby surroundings (construction site, metro station, dining room of the Salvation Army etc.). The boutiques are kept in plain white and gray. Margiela originally selected unspectacular locations such as a residential area in Tokyo and did not publish the addresses of the boutiques in order to require the customer to make an effort to find the store at all. The first Margiela store opened in Tokyo in 2000 and the first European boutique was inaugurated in Brussels in 2002. In 2008, a boutique opened in a basement on the edge of Munich's Maximilianstrasse. This was followed by participation in numerous exhibitions, including "Radical Fashion", which was shown in 2001 at the V&A Museum in London. In 2010 there were 36 own stores worldwide.  In 2015 there were over 50 stores worldwide, including boutiques, that only carry the MM6 collection.

The company followed a very restrictive communication policy. The designer can neither be photographed nor interviewed. Only his creations should speak for themselves and the designs should be perceived as the overall performance of the team. That's why the team always shows up in white doctor's coats after the fashion shows - nobody should stand out.

By recycling old fashion, separating, recoloring, reversing seams and zippers, both the origin and the artificial of the art of tailoring are shown. Margiela puts together what doesn't belong together: by hand, jeans turn into skirts, old army socks become pullovers. Baptized by the press as deconstructivism, this current is defined by an abrupt collision of different materials, which at first glance appear inharmonic in the sense of conventional viewing habits. Margiela herself rejects the term "deconstructivism". He resurrected clothes in a new form, he told ELLE in 1991.

Margiela was the unofficial 7th member of "Antwerp 6", a generation of fashion designers who all completed their training at the Royal Academy of Arts between 1980-1981 and shaped the "style of the Belgians". However, it does not belong to the actual group, but it became known in a similar period.

The Japanese "Street Magazine" dedicated two special editions to "Maison Martin Margiela", which were published in book form in 1999. Nicolas Ghesquière (Balenciaga) is a big fan of Maison Martin Margiela.

In July 2014, fashion critic Suzy Menkes exposed Matthieu Blazy via Instagram as Head of Design, after which he deleted his Instagram account and changed his profile in a career network. He left the company on October 1, 2014.

To this day, Margiela pieces, especially in the fashion industry and all fashion lovers, belong to the sanctuaries in every repertoire and archive. Getting vintage pieces from other designers may be possible, but Maison Martin Marginal Archives are a real hunt and that says it all about this art.