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In 1988, MM6 Maison Margiela was founded by Martin Margiela upon building blocks that centered innovation in fashion. More than three decades later, the collective has held steadfast to these codes. Owning a reputation for garments that fracture the molds put in place by fashion archetypes, the maison has made a habit of gifting us with us sartorial spectacles across the years, like the line of hoof-toed Tabi shoes, the act of replacing models with marionettes, and, most recently, a complete revamp of functional wardrobe items.
In its Fall/Winter 2021 collection, in true MM6 fashion, the house entirely upended the forms and functions of typical garments. Debuted within the context of a mysterious French cabaret, the pieces were faintly familiar and simultaneously alien—shirts appeared to be made from the remnants of other pieces, garments were purposely left unhemmed, seams were exposed, necklaces became connected ear pendants, and clutches were made to appear upside-down.
In tune with a recent shift, in which the house announced its new direction as a genderless label, the collection also saw a collaboration with the luggage brand Eastpak. Following the wardrobe reversal concept, it featured reversible pieces like the waist-strapped day pack with labels sewn inside-out, a simple tote, and a solid black backpack with straps on both sides.
Curious about these unexpected new designs and its approach to uninhibited fashion, Whitewall spoke with the collective to learn more.
WHITEWALL: What was the starting point for the Fall/Winter 2021 collection, which focuses on a reverse of the typical wardrobe?
MM6: The idea of reversal for the Fall/Winter 2021 collection came about as a result of the collective feeling during lockdown that the situation in the world needed a significant shift away from what was currently happening. Expressed in multiple levels, inverting and shifting processes and even our overall thinking, ultimately [made] us look at common things—such us elements of a person’s wardrobe—differently while respecting them in such a way to infuse newness into familiar items.
WW: How did the collection and its presentation take cues from a French cabaret?
MM6: Historically, cabarets were places where different anti-establishment art forms came together, questioning the bourgeois society of the time; humor was usually coarse and a bit dark, yet presented in such a way that it was lighthearted and celebrative. The cabarets also served as frequent meeting places for writers, actors, their friends, and artists—a community, similar to that of the idea of the collective. From that, we knew we wanted the collection and the presentation to have drama, with a positive thoughtful undercurrent.
WW: Where does one begin when working with a concept that completely overturns sartorial norms, like you did for Fall/Winter 2021?
MM6: We are used to bending and breaking sartorial rules! We started working as usual and approached the collection with a new “reversed” angle. We believe the concepts get more recognizable if they are worked on pieces that everyone is familiar with.
WW: How did the collection stay true to MM6 codes while creating something completely new?
MM6: Deifying the obvious is inherent to MM6. When reversing the back of a garment to the front or using a top as a skirt, they are immediately decontextualized and transformed into something different. Turning inside out traditional pieces allowed us to deconstruct them and to emphasize the creation process which is also part of the MM6 philosophy.
WW: How does the collaboration with Eastpak work in tandem with this reinvented wardrobe concept?
MM6: We approached the Eastpak products with the same manner and dedication we apply to each collection. Their distinctive bags are part of everyone’s wardrobe, but when we made them reversible the result is unexpected yet still familiar as per the other traditional pieces in the collection. In fact, the pieces are completely reversible, so it is up to the wearer how they want to wear/style the item. The idea of being able to wear an item in multiple ways is another core code of the Maison.
WW: Would you say there’s a common ground connecting the two brands, or that the partnership brought your ethos and practices to new territory?
MM6: MM6 is guided by its own beliefs and ideals, and not by trends, expectations, or industry standards, and favors partners who are like-minded. The collaboration with Eastpak was rooted in the idea of these shared values to create something authentic to both brands, yet with a twist.
WW: As recently as Spring/Summer 2021, MM6 decided to become a genderless label creating clothing for everyone. Can you tell us about this decision?
MM6: Clothing is genderless by nature; it is we who have assigned certain styles of clothing to specific genders. Since the founding of MM6, we have always aimed for our clothes to be receptive to a non-gender and cross-gender audience, and a direction the brand aims to continue going toward.
WW: By veering away from gendered clothing and upending the typical function of garments, you’ve essentially removed all rules. What kind of design avenues has that opened up, and where does that bring the house next?
MM6: We will continue doing the same as we’ve been doing for years. Fashion is a reflection of society, and it seems people no longer feel it necessary to be labeled with a gender, so hopefully it means that we will reach an even bigger audience.
WW: Do you think that’s the future of fashion?
MM6: Fashion is often a reflection of society, and like society, fashion is constantly evolving. The pandemic has gone in and upended all people, every nation, and forced us to realize that we are not all different. Additionally, change is created by those who take risks and those who don’t conform. So yes, we believe that individual expressions of personal style, no matter the wearer’s gender, is the future of fashion.
WW: How do you see MM6 encouraging us all to dress fearlessly?
MM6: Each season’s collection offers wearers the opportunity to express individual and personal style. We hope to inspire people through unexpected pairings, styling, and presenting clothing worn in different ways, offering a twist on classics.
WW: The Spring/Summer 2021 collection included the MM6 Upcycled Patchwork capsule, which used leftover materials to create one-of-a-kind pieces. Can you tell us about the significance of the capsule in relation to sustainability?
MM6: We try hard to be resourceful and limit our impact. We do not always communicate about it, but we continuously repurpose materials and products from previous seasons. The SS21 collection in particular was created during the lockdown, when our access to materials was dramatically curtailed and we were forced to work mainly with fabrics we mastered. The constraint became an inspiration.
WW: Does the house have plans to continue this practice?
MM6: Yes, we look for ways to be better every season, in as many possible ways as possible. We are consistently looking at ways to source more responsible materials, apply sustainable development processes, and avoid overdeveloping samples by focusing on the creative concept of each collection.