Upcycling is more than just recycling and can be very artistic. The works of Maison Martin Margiela are an example of artistic garments that are highly exclusive. They are very fashionable and represent the top of the fashion industry.
Over the last 20 years re-using old garments in new creations is a common phenomenon. But to call the haute couture techniques just recycling is a bit of an understatement. The process of up-cycling is more than just use old and raw material. By this kind of re-use the raw material is augmented into an object of higher status than the original object. It is about upgrading used material and making it more desirable than it was at the start.
In the art world the artist Duchamp, with his work the Bicycle Wheel and the Urinal, was leading in the concept of upcycling and a great inspiration, also for fashion. The haute couture garments are just like these objects, remade in such way that they leave the consumer cycle.
Reformulate the basic logic of fashion: making new of the old and create diversity by using unique garments with using existing design and methods. Fashion theorist Barbara Vinken explains: Every piece that is made according to this method, regardless of how many versions there may be, is a unique piece, because the materials that are used in it are unique. The piece now takes time into itself and will complete the work. It can age like a painting.
The works of Maison Martin Margiela are an example of artistic garments. Margiela’s upcycled garments are highly exclusive and very fashionable and they represent the top of the fashion industry. He bridged the gap between designer fashion and everyday clothes. Who Martin Margiela is as a person remains a mystery. You never see him on pictures and he never gives an interview. His designs are born from one single concept and they are often made from second-hand garments combined in a new way.
In the late 80’s he caused a breakthrough in the fashion industry with his designs. Unfinished hems, visible seams, short sleeves and ripped fabrics. He made the inside of the clothes the outside, used unusual materials like plastic and jute and he combined strong lines with technical new forms.
After this became clear that Margiela was not against but that he was pro garments. He was for traditional sewing techniques, re-using parts of old garments and making new items. In the designs he made you often see the making process, but his strongest point is that he can make it in such way the clothes are experimental but wearable and flattering.
Besides this unique way of making clothes, the locations he choose to show his collections are very unusual (the metro and factories). He also came up with a system to structure his different lines, because he never put a tag on his creations. Therefore, he uses a little white piece of fabric and gives it a number to show what line the garment piece is.