The home shopping channels industry is a fascinating world. There's a distinct flavour to the channels, such as industry leaders QVC and HSN, with glossy, chatty personalities, bizarre products and even more bizarre product demos, naff graphics and crazy availabilty countdowns (BUY NOW!). Hair removal appliances, jeggings, treadmills, charm bracelets – it's a one-stop shop of stuff you don't really need. They are truly strange, yet at some point, we've all sat and watched a segment or two, and it is clear that people are spending because the industry is now worth billions. Indeed, in an inspired move, Maison Martin Margiela have used the channels as a starting point for their latest film, but more on that later.
First, let us consider the history of the industry, in an effort to understand its curious appeal. It all began in 1977, when talk radio show host Bob Circosta was asked to sell advocado-green-coloured can openers live on air by station owner Bud Paxson, after an advertiser traded 112 units of product instead of paying his advertising bill. Hesitant at first, Circosta reluctantly obliged – and to both men's great surprise, all 112 can openers sold out within the hour. Paxson sensed the vast sales potential of home-based commerce, and founded the world's first shopping channel on cable television, later launching the Home Shopping Network nationwide. Circosta was America's first ever TV home shopping host, and became one of the most instantly recognisable salesmen in the Free World.
Of course, a Margiela film isn't going to have a bubbly, pushy presenter; rather they have replaced that stalwart figure with the anonymous, white-coated representatives, synonymous with the brand. The Objects and Publications video satirically plays with the idea of home shopping: a deadpan American voiceover and a slow product demo which exhibits the latest objects from the house's Line 13. A tape measure wrapped around a tailor’s dummy; an antique knife rest spinning on a revolving table. There is also a traveling pouch, cotton leather stationery and fortune cookie eggs, which sit in a traditional cardboard egg box – “once cracked, the egg reveals an unexpected message.”
Since its inauguration in 1989, the house has inspired a conceptual, remodelled approach using raw finishes, deconstructed fabrics and white paint. The Objects and Publications collection was introduced in 1999 and includes door-stopper eggs, magnifying glasses and trompe-l’œil wall hangings, white, blank Russian doll silhouettes that curl up one inside the other and cotton, hand-stitched calendars. The identity of the house has been developed through its showrooms, shops and films, defining its identity through objects and shapes as opposed to a person or a word.
Maison Martin Margiela have carved out a distinct niche in the world of fashion film. The house has created a series of shorts, housed on their website and YouTube channel for over five years. Inspiring, educational, lo-fi and humourous, they incorporate clever communication methods such as writing on a chalkboard, collage, time-lapse photography paired with phone-audio, pencil sketches, architectural details, behind the scenes Super 8 Footage. So here, alongside the new film, are some of our archive favourites...
Read our Maison Martin Margiela Cheat Sheet here.
Text by Laura Bradley and Mhairi Graham