White, as a general rule, is not a colour associated with style. Worn incorrectly, a white suit will make you look like a Liverpudlian footballer circa 1996, white shoes will make you look like a paid-up Marbella resident and driving a white car will do both.
That said, in the case of enigmatic Belgian fashion label, Maison Martin Margiela, white is most definitely alright. Known for a staunchly avant-garde approach (past collections have included coats constructed from lustrous blonde wigs and shoes in the form of cloven hooves) and a penchant for alabaster hues, last night saw the launch of a 20-year retrospective in Margiela's honour.
Following a few silly strong lychee cocktails on the terrace of Somerset House – where the exhibition will remain in-situ for the next three months - in the company of some silly slim fashion folk (all of whom were, incidentally, wearing black) we made our way into the depths of the gallery to see what all the fuss was about.
From the wall of Northern European techno which hit us as we entered the space, to the inflatable Tabi boot (the one that looks like a hoof) which fills the lower floor, the show has been produced with a view to emulate Margiela’s bleeding-edge catwalk offerings.
Showcasing key pieces from the past 20 years, under surprisingly transparent headings such as “The Trench Coat”, “The Artisanal Collection” and “Trompe L’Oeil”, the exhibition articulately reveals Margiela’s lateral approach to design. Featuring pieces such as a pair of haphazardly whitewashed brogues, a jacket manufactured from shredded Margiela press releases and a sweater made from military socks, it’s plain to see why the label has been awarded a seminal solo show, despite its relative industry infancy.
Words by Teo van den Broeke
The exhibition, which was shown in MoMu, Antwerp and Haus der Kunst, Munich last year, will remain in situ at Somerset House until September 5.