In stark contrast to the ornately decorated bash that launched its collaboration with Versace last year, H&M debuted the new Maison Martin Margiela collection with an existential event dominated by artistic performances and installations. Held Tuesday night at a derelict building in New York's financial district, the affair led some 1,700 guests through a high-definition maze, forming, perhaps, one of the most memorable fashion events of the year.
“The party is about having an exciting evening full of surprises where, in every room, on every floor, you never know what you will find,” said H&M creative advisor Margareta van den Bosch. The brand, as a whole, commented, “Maison Martin Margiela believes in showing its work outside of the traditional context. This mix of installation and performance captures the spirit of the house and allowed the artists to interpret the collaboration collection in ways they saw fit.”
Charged with producing the event at 5 Beekman Street—a site that played host to Proenza Schouler's spring 2013 runway show and will be used by Levi's for its spring presentation in two weeks—was Belgium-based firm Villa Eugenie. Under the supervision of founder Etienne Russo, a team of 400 (30 of which were in-house members) sought to replicate the Belgian fashion label's avant-garde aesthetic in 160,000 square feet and nine stories.
“I haven't seen, in my life, a building so naked and raw to this extent,” said Russo, who started planning in June. “So this already gave us a direction to start with. From there it was easy when everything was treated as an installation with no decoration.”
In a nod to the label's habit of turning things inside out, the entrance had a street performer softly singing a cover of Marvin Gaye's “Sexual Healing” with music from the venue's internal sound system piped outward. Inside, cast-iron ceilings, exposed pipes, and peeling walls illuminated by dangling utility lamps and fluorescent lights paid homage to Margiela's penchant for deconstruction. To fill some of the floors with more unexpected sights and sounds, contemporary artists Daniel Arsham, Frédérique Chauveaux, and Noémie Goudal created custom sculptural pieces, projections, and photographs, while Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and the members of her troupe danced on 31 sand-covered squares spread throughout the space, leaving behind a single garment on each. For the finale, a shower of silver confetti fluttered down from the glass-roofed atrium.
There was, of course, the requisite pop-up shop, which sat on the top floor and allowed guests to shop the collection of re-edited archival pieces two weeks ahead of their public release. At bars on the seventh and eighth floors, guests could nibble on hors d'oeuvres from Olivier Cheng, such as black bass crudo, shaved asparagus tartlets, and pomegranate-glazed eggplant. Dessert included two different types of push pops, a Godiva chocolate trio with bourbon and white chocolate with passion fruit.
Russo conceded there was no real order to the night and the unconventional format was, in fact, the most challenging aspect. “To mix fashion with art and have the collection be interpreted in a different way was intimidating,” he said.