In honor of our Inhabitat panel, Reclaiming Design, which takes place at HauteGREEN today, Sustainable Style Sunday serves up a favorite fashion designer that is also fond of reclamation, Martin Margiela. He is a designer we can relate to here at Inhabitat. A visit to the Margiela store feels like taking part in a sophisticated craft lab experiment, white interiors and lab coated salespeople coexist with rough hewn details. This is fitting for a designer who after all is known for serving red wine in white beakers at his presentations.

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Margiela’s Artisanal line of reconstructed clothing is what really grabs us. It has been a part of his repertoire for years now. On a visit to the store last year I was taken by a lone black gown holding court on an otherwise empty clothing rack. The gown was made up of three vintage wedding gowns and then died black, explained my “clinician”. I ogled it as I tried on ankle boots from their “vintage reproduction” line. These pieces are rare, last year only 8 pieces were made for each one of 8 themes, one piece per store that would be changed monthly. Later I saw an exhibit at Barneys of pieces from the artisanal line that did not disappoint. This inspired me to learn more about the elusive designer…

The International Herald Tribune states that Margiela is:

a designer who founded his brand 17 years ago in rebellion against what he saw as the galloping consumerism of the 1980s. His winter 1989 show attracted an audience with an advertisement in a Paris free sheet and ended with models wearing the white cotton coats that are the uniform of all Margiela’s staff. Cloth printed with tattoos, vests made from broken crockery, boots with separated toes, sweaters created from army socks and clothes covered in plastic dry-cleaner wrappings were all early signals of Margiela’s fetish for recycling, for unfinished effects and for giving everyday objects a dysfunctional beauty…

But in tandem with the more outré examples or one-off artisanal pieces, Margiela pursued his fascination with cutting and sewing by developing classics such as trench coats, Prince of Wales recycled suits, patchworks of old jeans or simple dresses with displaced necklines. By 1998, tailoring for both sexes seemed more like modernist couture than urban oddities. Following a circuitous route, the designer had reached a 21st-century elegance.

In a interview Margiela answers some questions about his artisanal line:

You have been described as making clothes about clothes. Where do you think this fascination with clothing came from? It is from the structure of garments, and the challenge presented to us by the possibility of transforming or displacing the given rules of such a structure. This approach is especially true for our ‘artisanal production’ for which we rework existing clothes, fabrics and objects to create new garments. We would hope, however, that our work is more about clothes that are about wearing than just clothes about clothes!!

Please explain the concept underpinning your artisanal collection. What’s the difference between reworking an existing garment and pastiche? Well there you have stumped us! We see pastiche as having nothing at all to do with this process or its results! For us our ‘artisanal production’ (for men and womens garments they may be identified by the 0 (zero) encircled on their label), as we have said here, we rework existing garments, fabrics and objects to recreate new garments and accessories. We first adopted this approach for our inaugural collection for Spring/Summer 1989 and it has been an integral and important element of each and every one of our collections since. This quest to transform garments is born from a wish to treat the strictures of the structure of a particular garment as a design challenge. Often, more than one garment is combined to produce a new design so one consideration is that the initial garments are used as a raw material of which often only small elements of their original structure serve in shaping the new. Albeit that the initial impetus is one of design and not one of recycling, the result allows that these elements are given a second lease of life.

*some images via fuk and fashionologie