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Women's Fashion / Fashion Equations

Maison Martin Margiela S/S12 Womenswear

A mathematical guide to the key inspirations and references in designers' collections by Laura Bradley, illustrated by Tom Baxter

Maison Martin Margiela S/S12
Maison Martin Margiela S/S12 Illustrations by Tom Baxter

In typical Maison Martin Margiela fashion, the house's S/S12 collection took inspiration from everyday items, from a household rug, a plastic carrier bag and leaves...

Since its birth in the 1980s, Maison Martin Margiela has become a house known for using commonplace objects in its clothing and accessory designs, from literal reworkings and reappropriations (waiscoats made from broken dishes and a top fashioned from disco ball squares) to more abstract references to everyday items. It's a clever approach central to the work of artists Fischli & Weiss and Erwin Wurm – we are familiar with such items and fascinated to see them reimagined. And in a fashion sense, it makes the analysis and decoding of a collection far more interesting for a journalist.

The key is always in the handling of the references; this season, they were particularly domestic – a Persian rug, plastic carrier bags and leaves. Dating back to 6th century Persia, the luxurious rugs were the overriding theme of the collection – forming the "runway", and serving as inspiration for clothing (a silk slipdress and skirt which looked like carpets wrapped around the body and a shawl made out of sequins stitched in an Oriental rug motif) and heavy, cylindrical heel carpet boots. Margiela is a house that stays loyal to its history and many ideas can be traced back through its rich archive – an examination of A/W03 will see initial experimentations with the carpet.

The plastic bag influence was two-fold – in the plastic sheaths wrapped around the models' bodies (not dissimilar to how a museum archives its exhibits) to the transparent high-heeled shoes. Plastic wrapping was first explored in Margiela's A/W02 collection and transparency has been a key theme throughout the house's history.

The leaf inspiration in the S/S12 collection was less immediately apparant. On closer inspection of the collection, it was clear that the jewellery had been influenced by foliage. The magnolia leaf, a species native to southeastern US and eastern Mexico, which boasts the largest simple leaf and single flower of any native plant in North America, became a spontaneous jewellery piece once dried and curled around a wrist or finger. In Margiela's recent couture show, foliage also appeared in the backdrop.


Laura Bradley is the commissioning editor of AnOther and published her first series of Fashion Equations in May 2008. Tom Baxter is an illustrator currently living and working in London.

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