A Tribute to Jenny Meirens, Margiela’s Right-Hand Woman

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AnOther Magazine A/W08Photography by Daniel Stier

We pay our respects to the co-founder of the subversive fashion house, who has passed away at the age of 73

Besides the cleft toe of a shoe or a radical skewing of proportion, there is one thing above all that makes a Margiela garment instantly recognisable: four white stitches in the fabric, marking the ghostly silhouette of where a label might usually be sewn. The tale of how this symbol came to be was told to AnOther’s Susannah Frankel earlier this year, during a rare interview for T Magazine by the elusive Jenny Meirens, Margiela’s right-hand woman. “I was certain we shouldn’t – we couldn’t – just come out with something that read Martin Margiela,” she said, of why branding had no place at the subversive fashion house. It was a radical decision to make during the 1980s era of excess. “Our lawyer couldn’t believe it because, of course, you cannot protect a blank space. We lied to him and said we were going to print it with Martin Margiela on the reverse side. But we never did.” 

Yesterday it was announced that Jenny Meirens had passed away in Italy, in the same country that the concept behind those four white stitches was conceived, in 1988, at a bar in Mantova. Maison Martin Margiela may have been born of humble beginnings, but the pioneering contribution that Meirens made to fashion with the house forms the way that we engage with design and industry today – aesthetically, conceptually and critically. She was also incredibly business savvy, and without her guiding hand Margiela’s lucrative and unexpected work at Hermès, the subject of a recent retrospective at Antwerp’s MoMu, might have remained a mere pipe dream. We have her to thank too for the pioneering use of street-casting, and think-outside-the-box show invites, such as the placement of a classified advert in a free newspaper welcoming attendees to view the house’s Autumn/Winter 1989 collection, shown in a derelict playground in the outskirts of Paris.

Make-up artist Inge Grognard, a long-time friend and collaborator, uploaded a black and white portrait of Meirens captioned with a few words: “The woman behind Martin Margiela. Too soon. You will be missed enormously.” She certainly will.