When it was announced that Maison Martin Margiela was intending to collaborate with H&M for the latter's latest designer venture, it wasn't as shocking as it would have been four or five years ago. Karl Lagerfeld, Donatella Versace, Marni and, most significantly in this instance, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons have all lent their expertise to H&M. Still, the fact that Martin Margiela, the man who founded the label in 1988, is doubtless the most elusive character in fashion history made this something of a coup. It is the stuff of fashion legend that he never agreed to a single face-to-face interview or even to be photographed throughout his career.
Little is known of Margiela's past, save that he is a graduate of Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts and worked as a design assistant at Jean Paul Gaultier between 1984 and 1987. It is said that his reluctance to step into the spotlight is a direct reaction to Gaultier's superstar status. Margiela preferred to concentrate instead on the clothes. And what clothes. From the perfect, sharp-shouldered jacket to fine white jersey printed with trompe l'oeil sequinned dresses and from wide-legged slouchy trousers to the by now famous circular-heeled tabi shoes, this designer's work formed the fashion insider's wardrobe of choice.
Martin Margiela retired from his own label in 2009. Ever since, the collections have been designed by at least some of his long-standing team who have done much to stay true to his signatures. It is true to the spirit of this forward-thinking label that this collection is possibly the most creative H&M has ever stocked. Some of the house's most memorable fashion moments have been re-edited. Aimed at both men and women, garments and accessories have been labelled to indicate the season for which they were originally designed. It's an overview of the Margiela archive, but updated for the H&M customer to include different volumes, shapes and materials. Trompe l'oeil in the form of black bras on flesh-coloured bodies and invisible wedge boots make an appearance as does supersized clothing, such as pea coats and oversized bleached-denim jeans.
Then there are duvet coats, a car-seat-cover dress and clothing made of belts. The collection, which launches on 15 November, will be stocked in around 230 H&M stores worldwide and will also be available online. Expect long queues on Thursday.