12 March 2018

Remembering Margiela's S/S 90 Show

In the autumn of 1989, on a derelict playground on the outskirts of Paris, Martin Margiela staged his S/S 90 show. Since then, the Belgian designer became the first to instill the cult of invisibility at the brand, beginning with himself. As other designers chose – or were required to embrace – fame, Martin Margiela made a clear statement in the opposite direction. As Margiela / Galleria, 1989 – 2009 opened in Paris last week, I revisit the unorthodox show through the words of those who helped create it c/o The Gentlewoman. True to form, though, and despite any accolades, the designer remains as removed from the hysteria and histrionics that surround the fashion industry as ever. While his silence is maintained, his work continues to speak volumes, after all.


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

the invitations...
"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."
Pierre Rougier: press agent, Maison Martin Margiela, 1989–1992


the music...
"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. 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."
Frédéric Sanchez: music director for Maison Martin Margiela, 1988–1998

the build up...
"We finally made it to the day of the show. It was like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe we’re making it happen!” But, of course, we didn’t have enough power, and we had to go around the neighbourhood knocking on doors asking to run cables and cords from the locals’ houses so that we could plug in the hairdryers, lighting and all that. It was fucking crazy, though it didn’t seem so at the time."
Pierre Rougier: press agent, Maison Martin Margiela, 1989–1992


the seating plan...
"By the time the show started, we didn’t know who was an editor or who was a neighbour. We were like, “Let all the kids sit down!” and they did so along the runway, otherwise they wouldn’t have seen anything. They were so excited, screeching and laughing."
Pierre Rougier: press agent, Maison Martin Margiela, 1989–1992

the show...
"There was a drumbeat on a loop from a live recording of the Buzzcocks that sounded very raw. I also had this recording of people playing music on the streets of different cities around the world — a tramp using some boxes as percussion and singing “Strangers in the Night”. I think “Roadrunner” by the Sex Pistols was in there too. There were concerns about rain in the lead-up to the show, so I used this moment from Woodstock where the audience are chanting, “No rain! No rain!” There were probably 20 tracks used on the soundtrack, cut, repeated — using 10 seconds of one, 20 of another, mashed up together."
Frédéric Sanchez: music director for Maison Martin Margiela, 1988–1998


the walk...
"Martin didn’t want the models to walk like professional ones, with their hips swaying and all that, and he’d spend quite some time with the professional ones before a show, instructing them. He wanted them to walk more like boys."
Ward Stegerhoek: hairstylist for Maison Martin Margiela, 1988–1989

the school kids in the front row...
"The children couldn’t sit still. They were fascinated by what was happening. We would smile down at them as we walked by; they’d smile back. We were all laughing. And then at some point they joined in and paraded alongside the models."
Kristina de Coninck: model for Maison Martin Margiela, 1989–2005


the finale...
"I was so struck by everything I was seeing that I started to cry. I felt so embarrassed. I was like, Oh God, look at the ground, look at the ground, everyone’s going to see you’re crying — like, how stupid to be crying at a fashion show. Then I looked around, and half the audience was crying."
Raf Simons: fashion designer

the reception...
"We trotted out of the 20th and felt we’d seen something that was special in ways we couldn’t immediately define. That a young designer staged his show in such an unusual location and a lot of high-powered fashion editors actually turned up made this show unique."
Roger Tredre: fashion correspondent, The Independent, 1989–1993

the impact...
"We always wanted to be free, to be able to do what we wanted, to be spontaneous, to not respond to the impositions of the fashion world. We wanted to make a simple show, but for us this one was no more important than any other."
Jenny Meirens co-founder, Maison Martin Margiela