August 09 2010
For anyone who has not yet caught up with the Maison Martin Margiela exhibition at London’s Somerset House (on until Sept. 5), I can thoroughly recommend it as an insight into this most enigmatic of fashion houses. It was run for 20 years by a designer who remained largely anonymous, with no interviews or photographs (though, as I well remember, in the early days he took journalists through the collections himself until he decided that too few really understood his concepts and withdrew from direct communication). Nevertheless, the Maison has proved both hugely influential and prescient, especially in modern tailoring and in using recycled items and industrial methods, which it featured from the start.
Margiela himself left the company (now owned by the Diesel group) some time ago, though this was never announced, and I can’t help wondering if he would have wanted the scrutiny of his methods that the exhibition provides. However, with its slightly surreal displays, dissection of his deconstructed jackets and his ruminations on proportion and its relation to the size and shape of the human body, it gives an excellent impression of the creativity and wit of the Maison’s oeuvre. In keeping with the house philosophy, there is no trail of associated merchandise – but at Somerset House I discovered the one Margiela perfume, available in Britain only here and at Selfridges, which it turns out was launched in a typically low-key way earlier this year.
Perfumes take a long time to bring to fruition and Margiela himself was involved, with perfumer Daniela Andrier, in the initial creative stages, requesting a 1970s flashback scent with green notes. The distinctly mysterious result is my new summer favourite, with that very 1970s green and musky first impression backed with a spicy warmth (jasmine and cedar, apparently) that makes it much more interesting and should see it into cooler seasons. Known as (untitled), in old-fashioned typescript, it comes in a string-tied lab bottle and a typically plain white linen bag and box (from £45). Like the Maison’s designs, it purports to be anonymous and ends up, wonderfully, being anything but.