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Martin Margiela Leaves The Company He Founded
December 09th, 2009 @ 10:21 AM - Paris
The king of conceptual fashion is calling it a day. Martin Margiela, the designer famous for never taking a bow and never being photographed, has retired from the company he founded two decades ago.
And, in an unusual twist, his fashion house will not name a successor, but will instead rely on his design team to come up with creative ideas. In keeping with the house’s archly secretive ways, no press statement was released announcing his departure.
However, Fashion Wire Daily has learned that a so far unnamed female member of the design team, who has been with the house for 19 years, will become head designer.
Margiela’s departure was not unexpected, since rumors have been rife for months that Margiela, 52, practically never appeared at the house’s headquarters on 163 Rue St Maur in the north Paris.
Moreover, Belgium-born designer is understood to have been at loggerheads for several years with Renzo Rosso, the owner of Diesel, whose group acquired control of the Margiela fashion business in 2002.
Margiela founded his house in 1988 after spending five years working for Jean Paul Gaultier. His whole, anti-conformist and anti-logo aesthetic won him near instant critical acclaim. Stitches were always apparent, interior details shown on the outside and adhesive tape left exposed in his avant-garde collections. His signature was four stitches shown at the nape of the neck of jackets or tops, with the actual logo hidden inside.
Underlining the arty quality, staff at all his shows wore white laboratory lab coats, while shows were staged inside railway goods wagons on “real” models - and not agency catwalkers – who often appeared on moving platforms.
However, his interest in the house clearly began to wane after Italy’s Diesel acquired control; and gradually made increased amounts of decisions regarding his retail concepts, shows and business development.
Margiela, who never gave interviews or posed for portraits, issued no statement. However, he is believed to be keen to concentrate on an artistic career. Diesel’s takeover also left him financially independent, though he could conceivably still launch a fresh fashion business; as any restraint of clauses in his original contract with Diesel would typically not last for many years.
Over the past few days, Margiela’s CEO Giovanni Pungetti began telling department chiefs that Margiela would not be coming back.
“It was really gradual and very progressive. It’s been a couple of years hat Martin has been delegating his designs to his various teams doing the different lines,” explained one insider.
Pungetti told senior executives that the seasoned assistant to Margiela would guide the creative teams, but neither her name nor her portrait has been released.
This past year, Margiela was only involved in very specific projects, his 20th anniversary show in March and an upcoming perfume.
The house’s communications department insisted that Margiela’s parting was amicable, but the house’s owner Renzo Rosso has issued no statement.
The label’s next presentation, and first without the founder, will be a display of its men’s Spring 2010 collection on Saturday, January 23, in the next Paris menswear season.
Pungetti told staffers that the designer had left for personal reasons, but old friends insist he was increasingly frustrated at the installation of executives from Diesel headquarters in Italy and was deeply unhappy about the more commercial twist Rosso had insisted on for the house.
Over a year ago, reports first circulated that Margiela had offered the position of creative director to fellow Belgian Raf Simons. After this proposal was turned, he approached Haider Ackermann with the same suggestion, though this too was rejected.
The house’s most recent collection garnered rather negative reviews for what most critics saw as its hackneyed rendition of Margiela’s oeuvre.
At the time of the 20th anniversary show in newly opened Centre 104 art center, Diesel’s Rosso conceded that Margiela was spending less time at the house, and only working on special projects.
Like most fashion labels, Margiela has been buffeted by the current economic downturn. Sales were flat at 60 million euros, or $90 million at current exchange rates, though over a six-year period, i.e. since Diesel’s takeover, sales have multiplied nearly four times. Under Diesel, Margiela built up a chain of some 40 freestanding stores or shop-in-shops, though no openings are planned for 2010.
The house has plenty of projects in the pipeline, including its the first fragrance, a license with beauty giant L’Oreal, due to hit store shelves in February, and a luxury suite in a boutique spa hotel due to open in Bordeaux this Friday.
But all that will be without the founder.