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“AW 1996”Via @margielatab1 / Instagram

The Instagram documenting the Margiela Tabi’s 28-year reign

The @dazedfashion Instagram of the week belongs to @margielatab1 – the anonymous account archiving every single version of the iconic shoe

The Margiela Tabi – do you even fashion if you don’t have those famous cloven toes on your Instagram feed? Our account of the week @margielatab1 certainly doesn’t think so, dedicated as it is to documenting the past 28 years of the shoe’s resonance throughout fashion. Recognised by Martin Margiela himself as “the most important footprint of (his) career,” his answer to the idea of an “invisible shoe” has left its mark since its paint-tracking debut in 1989, earning its place in fashion footwear mythology because (according to the designer at least) “it’s recognisable, it still goes on after twenty-five years, and it has never been copied.” 

Instead, the design has proved endlessly adaptable to Margiela’s aesthetic, literally acting as a blank canvas when lack of funds for new shoes in his follow-up collection meant the designer just used white emulsion to paint over the original set. Originally inspired by traditional tabi socks worn with kimono in Japan, Margiela’s Tabis have since ranged from plastic pairs that usefully double as emergency fish bowls, to the ‘Topless tabi’ consisting of only a sole and heel attached to models’ feet with rolls of scotch tape. 

And @margielatab1 is the account archiving them all. While choosing to remain as anonymous as the designer they admire, the owner behind the feed is satiating our love for all things archive Margiela, evidenced by both the current MoMu exhibition on his less explored years at Hermès, and the upcoming We Margiela doc this year. Here, we talk to them about the iconic shoe, why we’re so obsessed with Margiela archives and the endless appeal of ugly beauty.

Why did you start the account?

@margielatab1: There are so many styles of Tabi, so many variations of the original. After all these years, why not document every single Tabi ever made?  

How did you get into Margiela?

@margielatab1: I do not remember exactly, but it was something like seeing someone wearing a pair of Tabis and thinking how ugly yet appealing they were and wondering who made them.

What’s your favourite version of the Tabi?

@margielatab1: The ‘Topless’ Tabi SS96 – so fucking brilliant.

“The shoe is ugly beautiful. You hate it or you love it. Martin took it further by releasing so many variations of the original. The Tabi never got old or boring, but rather more exciting. Each style was fresh, as if a totally new shoe in itself” – @margielatab

Why do you think the shoe is so iconic?

@margielatab1: The shoe is ugly beautiful. You hate it or you love it. Martin took it further by releasing so many variations of the original. The Tabi never got old or boring, but rather more exciting. Each style was fresh, as if a totally new shoe in itself. The Tabi was never ‘on trend.’ Not popular enough to suddenly fall, and not unpopular enough to die. And as Martin once said, never copied once after 25 years.

How do you source images?

@margielatab1: I spend a lot of time sourcing rare imagery digitally, Vogue Runway archives is a good source. Rare Books Paris is the go to for rare and unknown imagery. I am quite selective in what I post. Usually I have to search and search, open multiple new tabs until I stumble on an image I have never seen and think will be perfect. I'm wondering whether I will run out of images eventually.

What’s your favourite fashion moment involving the Tabi?

@margielatab1: Björk in Maison Martin Margiela wearing AW95 pink Tabi Pump, photographed by Glen Luchford, 1995. Oof, I need them.

There was recently a Margiela sale in a porn cinema during Paris fashion week – did you go? What do you think it is about Margiela that lends itself to events like this?

@margielatab1: I didn’t, sadly, only because I do not live in Europe. Margiela was known for rebelling against the norms of the fashion industry, so setting up shop in a porn cinema plays homage to this. It’s ironic though, because in some ways Margiela is porn for the fans. Does it turn me on? Sexually no, but in other ways oh yes, yes it does!

There’s the MoMu exhibition, and the recent We Margiela documentary – why do you think the Margiela archive is still so fascinating today?

@margielatab1: Martin did what he had to do, then left. The house was never the same after that. After all this time, we STILL want more. But we won’t get it unfortunately. We find ourselves stuck, fantasising on what we were lucky enough to be given. So we keep going back, reminiscing on what was the very best of Margiela.

Do you have a favourite Margiela collection?

@margielatab1: It’s impossible to pick just one, but I would say my personal style channels AW00 – or, at least, attempts to.

What are some Instagram accounts that inspire you?

@margielatab1: @rarebooksparis,, @she_comes_in_technicolour