On the back of our own Make Up Your Mind Maison Martin Margiela marathon, last night marked the inauguration of the house's new London flagship - characteristically, with the lowest-key fanfare possible. That's not to say the Margiela team did anything by halves: floors were strewn with confetti in the form of white paper discs (emptied straight from a hole-punch), white helium-filled balloons clustered overhead and surreal white candyfloss was served on the street outside, while tabi-toed 'footprints' guided guests into this latest sanctum of conceptual chic.
The word "new" was very much on the tip of everyone's tongues, as the space was very much a new departure for Maison Martin Margiela, outfitted with an interior crafted entirely from futuristic flashed glass (transparent at one angle, opaque at another) and shiny shiny metallic silver flooring. Of course, as always with Margiela, this "new" is created with elements of the old: in this instance, the very new glass walls were designed to showcase and preserve the existing decor of 22 Bruton Place, revealed by stripping back the fake walls and ceilings of the former furniture shop's interior, installed in the 1980s. As such original features including distressed layers of stucco and paint, tarnished radiator grilles and indeed even the kitchen sink are boxed behind glass like museum exhibits, alongside acres of mirror seemingly inspired by Margiela's "Glitterball" embroidery and used for display-cases and glass-fronted vitrines. The trademark "Whites" of Margiela spaces throughout the world seem to have been eschewed, only visible in changing rooms, the occasional calico-shrouded chair and the lab-coated sales assistants. Perhaps that was part of the problem. Although the idiosyncratic nooks and crannies of the glass-sandwiched space was very much in keeping with the label's ethos, the overall effect was clean, slick and - dare we say it - commercial, words which seem anathema to Margiela's always-idiosyncratic approach to fashion. Maybe this was inevitable: moving from the much-loved but often-missed Bruton Place 'premises' (without window displays or even signage) to a true 'shop' (glass frontage and all) is always going to seem like a step into the mainstream and while showing and selling Margiela's work to a wider public is no bad thing, a shop that grabs attention to quite this degree seems somewhat out-of-kilter.
Any reservations aside, the party was wonderful, guests turned out in force and Margiela's parting gift was easily the best of the year: a football scarf in soft grey and white emblazoned with MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA 2008. A team, it seems, that can always rally unwavering support for every venture.