A few months ago, creative agency Studio Blanco was asked to reimagine and re-present the heritage of Maison Margiela, the legendary fashion house famous for its iconoclastic designs, to the company’s internal team and global partners. Studio Blanco, that crafts identities and design experiences for luxury brands, was — understandably — thrilled. “The truth is that we’ve been in love with Margiela since forever,” the studio tells us. “Our studio was born in 2005, but our addiction to the designer’s work dates back to many years before that. We first started collecting Marginal memorabilia ages ago: catwalk invitations, paper supports and whatever else either we or our friends (i.e. Margiela resellers in our town) would come across.” It is particularly Margiela’s humble simplicity and unpretentious aesthetic that has been a source of inspiration for the agency.
The challenge that Margiela set Studio Blanco was to come up with an alternative mode of communicating the company’s ethos beyond the conventional company PDF file. First off, Studio Blanco explains it was careful not to go down the nostalgic route that would look back to and romanticise the designer’s vision and the Anti-Fashion era. “Maison Margiela had always been a company ahead of its time, and therefore could not be reduced to a specific period in history,” says the studio. “Everything fell into place when we discovered the new codes of the Maison conceived by John Galliano. They were rooted in Martin’s original vision but Galliano had revamped them and subverted them to become something completely new. We set out to do something similar.” The Margiela codes are made up of a range of numbers from zero to 23, with each number referring to a particular type of product — like footwear or fine jewellery. Studio Blanco’s reimagined MM code takes the shape of a social media brand bible, dedicated to the weekly publication of relevant inspirational content that condenses the world of Maison Margiela into less than one hundred posts.
In order to create this archive of social media posts, Studio Blanco spent months researching the fashion brand’s history using both digital and physical libraries. “Among other things, we discovered that Maison Margiela was first founded in a little bar in Mantua, Italy, actually not that far from our studio. And that the luxury brand once had the invitation to one of its fashion shows hand-drawn by children of a local Paris school. We also found that the characteristic black tag that censors the models’ eyes in Maison Margiela’s early lookbooks is not just a nod to anonymity, but a way to get around the fact they could not pay image rights,” Studio Blanco says. The essential information about the brand was then divided into six chapters, dedicated to the brand’s highlights, the current creative direction, the product lines, the most iconic products, as well as the daily life in the Paris headquarters and the most important moments in the history of the brand. This information was published on a private Instagram account and, later, was collated into a comprehensive digital book.
“We had never worked on an internal communication project before so it sounded quite strange at first. But soon it became an exciting challenge to find the right tone of voice to speak to both old and new employees of the Maison. I guess this was the most difficult thing: selecting the right content and speaking the right brand language, both visually and verbally, in order to represent the inner voice of Margiela itself.” Studio Blanco’s reimagined MM code serves both as a tool to unite current as well as former Margiela employees, and informs its social media followers of the little-known stories from one of fashion’s most legendary and enigmatic designers.