Masks and covered faces are defining characteristics both of Maison Martin Margiela and Leigh Bowery. At first glance Maison Martin Margiela’s interpretation of Leigh Bowery’s dripping makeup for ther Artisanal Couture AW13 collection might seem like a cunning semi-coincidence that was thrown in as a homage to Bowery. A closer look, however, reveals a deeper, slightly less literal connection between the two: reworking, reinterpreting and almost fetishising something old in order to create something new. Or in Margiela’s case, reworking a 1930s Chinese opera costume, Art Nouveau silk curtains and a sequined fifties dress.
You can almost picture the Margiela team in their white lab coats, carefully putting together these couture pieces, working in the same way that Bowery and his contemporaries would have patched together their outfits for the weekend.
Another Bowery-related reinterpretation is Margiela’s jeans and t-shirt, fully executed in latex. These everyday pieces of clothing are redefined and turned into objects of fetishism.
When Bowery and his friend Rachel Auburn presented their controversial collections of stitched-together rags in New York in the early 80s, the Evening Standard wrote: ‘Screams were heard on the subway last week, not another mugging, but a couple of young British designers...’ Thirty years on, they have turned into screams of joy and excitement, manifested in not only last week’s highly applauded Maison Martin Margiela AW13 Artisanal show. Kunsthalle Vienna dedicated an extensive exhibition to Bowery only last year and the V&A’s latest Club to Catwalk exhibition promises to provide a unique glimpse into his influence on 80s fashion.