Thursday, 3 June 2010

London: St Martins graduate show, Maison Martin Margiela exhibition

This has been a good week for fashion in London.

Central St Martin's held their graduate fashion show and, as always, it was zany, impossibly over-imaginative and the greatest fun. But this time it was more. As the wild and wacky clothes (concoctions might be a better word) came down the runway, our spirits lifted as we were taken away from thoughts of the lashing rain outside into a world of pure Dada, with wit and challenge put well before any suggestions of practical wearability.

Exactly as it should be at this level… and a timely reminder that there is more to fashion than creating clothes for high-street chains – an approach currently too prevalent in MA courses. The results of this approach are currently being seen across young London designer fashion, which is awash with dumb little frocks and nothing much more. In my opinion, London designers are being encouraged to be over-commercial in the hope of receiving sponsorship and it is killing what this city's fashion should be about. The honest figures for sales of young designers' work are low and their hopes of survival very problematic in many cases. But at least we have St Martin's BA course to give us hope. What I want to know is why all this exuberant creativity so often evaporates on so many MA courses.

No evaporation of challenge and excitement in the Maison Margiela exhibition that opened last night at Somerset House. This is a fashion house that has remained a trailblazer for over twenty years, forcing us to ask all the questions that matter in fashion. What can fashion be? Why do we have fashion? How bold can it be without leaving people behind? Is a place for intellect in this form of creativity?

The extreme originality and bold risk-taking in this company's DNA answers them all with total conviction. I would like to think that the team at Maison Martin Margiela start every day with the basic question, 'Why are we doing this and for whom?' Every time they sit down to design they give form to ideas that take us on an intellectual and spiritual journey that lifts clothing to a level far above the London norm, a journey that feeds our souls.

The exhibition should be seen by everyone who feels that fashion can be much more than merely selling a few tacky little dresses, and should be compulsory for everyone involved with MA fashion courses.

And, in case you are wondering, Mr Margiela did not show – at least, as far as all the guest were aware.

(Maison Martin Margiela The Exhibition continues at Somerset House until September 5th)


  1. I am really looking forward to seeing this exhibition, and I hope I find it as inspiring as you did. It is amazing that someone could remain so original in design and ideals for 20 years.

    As for the commercial tendencies of current MA graduates... It really bothers me that people think "fashion" is just about wearing the right type of cute dress and carrying the right handbag. I guess the ideas that fashion magazines like Vogue peddle (in order to sell the products they advertise, of course) are filtering into the minds of those going to design schools. Shame.


  2. just discover your site, bravo, stéphane of

  3. Truly innovative and boundary-pushing designers with little focus on commerciality are often sidelined by judging panels of London's top awards for emerging designers. Could this be because judging panels consist largely of magazine editors and buyers from high street stores?

    Emerging designers are being encouraged to do watered-down capsule collections for the likes of ASOS and Topshop before they have even established their label's aesthetic and brand values. This is the force of the British Fashion Industry on Emerging Designers. Instead of being given the support to create freely from an artistic and cultural standpoint, many are being pushed to sell-out for financial survival.

    The British Fashion Industry needs to realise the artistic and cultural importance of fashion, and stop capitalising on emerging designer talent and commercialising it without funding and supporting the creative process behind it.