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Like for Like Margiela vs Vetements
Martin Margiela Hommes SS99 and Hari Nef in Dazed’s Summer 2015 issuePhotography Ronald Stoops, courtesy of Bozar / Photography Collier Schorr, styling Robbie Spencer

If you like 90s Margiela, you’ll like: VETEMENTS

Fan of the iconoclastic Belgian fashion house’s early days? Then get familiar with this rule-breaking Paris-based label

Like for Like is a new series that explores cultural connections, giving recommendations to help promote the discovery of groundbreaking underground fashion, film, music, arts and culture.


The beginnings of Maison Martin Margiela in the late 80s and early 90s is a fabled era of fashion history. Put it this way, their third ever show – held in a playground where children took to the runway to dance along with the models – was so monumental that Raf Simons credits it as the moment in fashion that had the biggest formative impact on his life. Margiela’s shows in the era were heaving with people desperate for a glimpse at the enigmatic house’s new collection – models (in a symbolic rejection against the age of the Supers) had their faces covered: you had to focus on the clothes. And there was much to draw the eye – shoes were sellotaped to the feet, familiar items were torn apart and reworked or splashed with paint, fabric scraps and plastic bags were transformed into garments of unexpected beauty. And of course, the labels themselves were blank – the only thing that marked a piece as belonging to the house were four white stitches.

It wasn’t only models who were rendered anonymous – the label’s founder, Martin Margiela, famously eschewed the spotlight of fashion to remain as in the shadows as possible – to the extent that very few pictures of him exist. Instead, the maison conducted business as a community who, for years, only communicated by fax, never face-to-face. Its members all wore (and still do wear) the great democratising uniform of a white lab coat. The house may have a new lease of life under the masterly direction of John Galliano, but its influential early days certainly go down in history. 


Whether you’ve spotted their deconstructed Antwerpen tees on Instagram, heard about their Paris fashion week show in a sex club or noticed their clothes cropping up on stars including Kanye and Rihanna, VETEMENTS have been hard to miss over the last year. Turning away from the current trend for superstar creative directors, their label is a collective of seven anonymous designers all trained at prestigious fashion schools across Europe (including Antwerp’s Royal Academy) and in the studios of the Margiela maison. When it comes to rejecting the limelight to remain something of a mystery, the house’s influence may have rubbed off on them a little – but don’t get caught thinking they aren’t going boldly in their own direction: theirs is an aesthetic that remains unique. 

Their collections are shown on a gang of friends and street cast models (some from the ranks of Russian agency Lumpen), and feature chopped up jeans, tracksuit bottoms and familiar brand logos that get spliced back together and reappropriated. Playing with form, MA-1 jackets, shearling coats and motorcycle leathers grow in proportion with sleeves that hang almost to the knees, and even yellow rubber-style gloves and grandma florals get a new lease of life. It should come as little surprise, then, that their work has already caught the attention of LVMH, who shortlisted them for this year’s prize. “I feel like there is a new energy in here,” explained one of the designers of Paris’ new fashion breed backstage at their AW15 show. “We want to push give it a new life. Things are still quite dusty, old and conservative.”