Margiela’s loyal following extends far beyond its inherent luxe-seeking fashion know-how. Shoppers can always expect to find something for every occasion, and that it will fit and have lovely discrete details. Margiela has a similarly uncompromising vocabulary that Helmut Lang did during the ’90s and his departure from design is still being lamented in fashion circles. Will Margiela be the next name fashion purists pine longingly for?
During Paris Fashion Week last season, we couldn’t help but ask a boutique worker about the designer’s continuing relationship with the label. Obviously no stranger to this question, the employee simply said that he knew nothing of the rumors, and as far as he was concerned, he was still working. When we presented the same question at the flagship store back in New York, we received a similarly vague answer.
Several phone calls and a few face-to-face conversations later, we gained some more intimate insight. According to our source, Margiela and his Italian sales agent had created a pact very early on that if one left the company then the other would follow. Given Margiela’s vocal dissatisfaction with Diesel’s marketing approach and commercial distribution, it seems clear that the two are taking joint steps away from each other. As a follow up to this conversation, we were in contact with a designer of one of the numerous Margiela sub-brands, who simply stated: “He has not been present since last season.” Any lingering ambiguities were compounded when rumors spread that Diesel had started to interview candidates such as Raf Simons and Haider Ackermann for the position.
Change is clearly visible at store level, but a shift has been apparent in the quality of the products since the partnership with Diesel began: the amazing wool and cotton zip-front sweaters are no longer the weight of a vintage military cloak, the cut of the t-shirts went from interesting to extremely basic and banal. What’s more, Margiela showed furniture and interior prototypes at the Salone Del Mobile that exuded a mass production treatment of the usual artisan pieces. The mystery is not yet solved, but given the visible signs and ongoing rumor mill, it seems increasingly likely that the label’s dear namesake is gone.