The Glass Wardrobe Files – we interview Alex, otherwise known as @margielacollector

ASKING to remain anonymous for this interview, the Maison Margiela collector – who goes simply by the name of Alex – appeared on Instagram in 2018 under the handle @margielacollector.

The account instantly became something of an enigma through its sharing of rare Margiela designs, which was accompanied by little information other than an email address and a note of free shipping worldwide.

The mysteriousness of it all echoed that of the designer in question, who remained out of sight for the entirety of his tenure.

The reason for selling? That the sheer span of his collection had over consumed him. Before departing with the wealth of it, however, Alex published Charo, a book documenting his collection – one of the most impressive collections of Maison Margiela that the world has seen.

Alex, behind the scenes of photographing for Charo.

How did you begin your collection?
I was 19 years old. Charo Mora, a fashion historian and teacher, piqued my curiosity through her classes. I discovered Margiela thanks to her—and then I started collecting.

Congratulations on the publication of your book Charo. I understand that you launched your own company La Ribagorzana to anonymously produce this wide-ranging tribute to Martin Margiela – an incredibly humble move. How would you describe the purpose behind your collection?
My working method.

Maison Margiela Wedding Dress, AW05/06I found this one in a private sale at MMM headquarters at 163 of Rue Saint-Maur.

Maison Margiela Glitter Tabi, 1995 Auctioned at Ritz Paris Hotel in 1995, all benefits for ACT UP to fight against AIDS. It is one of a kind, hand-made, signed and dated by Martin himself. These shoes were part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York exhibition Camp – Notes on Fashion.

How did making the book alter your appreciation for Maison Margiela?
Charo is the farewell to a deeply personal, one- off collection; the final hurrah before each piece sets off along a new path; a snapshot of a disintegrating universe giving rise to others. Chance moments like these need to be captured in time, as a fitting celebration of a unique occasion.

Why have you chosen to collect the brand that you do?
For over ten years, I invested my time, energy and passion in bringing together some of Margiela’s most striking creations, but I decided that they must make way for other dreams.

The need for beauty that drives all collectors has latched on to something else: it has shifted to the country-side around Charo [which is also a small town in Aragon, in the Pyrenees of north- eastern Spain], a landscape that rings with the same beauty that thrilled my imagination for years as I slowly built up my collection, piece by piece.

As a designer cloaked in mystery, how difficult has documenting Martin Margiela’s legacy been?
I had guidance from these women: Georgina Ordinas, a designer and friend, who radiates an inner and outer beauty. I never bought a single Margiela without picturing how she would look in it.

I will never forget the moment she put on the sleeveless jacket from the semi- couture collection together with one of the fur wigs that Bless [a design studio founded in 1997 by Désirée Heiss and Ines Kaag] made for Margiela; it was one of the most beautiful experiences in my life.

Rosa Orrantia, the woman who brought the very first Margiela collections to Spain, a pioneer brimming with contagious enthusiasm for the designer. Rosa is the person who showed me the real Margiela, the one encountered by the women who bought his clothes. I saw the relationship they forged with them, their emotions. Rosa can remember the materials for every single item of clothing, down to the last stitch.

For me, the handbag and jewellery designer, Elena Cardona, defines creativity. She taught me how to understand Margiela from the inside out. The whole process. She worked on designs with Martin for a decade and she gave me the opportunity to work for him when I was only 20.

Maison Margiela Broken Porcelain Vest, AW89/90 My last acquisition, overwhelming.

Maison Margiela Denim Coat, SS91. Photographed in Charo. One of my favourite images.

Where do you source your pieces/artifacts?
They are gathered from across the globe. For many years, the clothes stayed wrapped up, fast asleep. But in January 2018, they finally emerged from their boxes, perfectly conserved, to explore life in Charo.

Which items tend to become your most treasured and why?
I would encourage people to enjoy clothes, to look for a product that they feel comfortable with, that represents them, that makes them feel special, that they feel proud to wear. They become the most treasured.

What is the greatest opportunity that your collecting has afforded you?

Maison Margiela Enlarged Buckle Leather Vest, AW89/90.  Perfection.

Maison Margiela Plastic Bag Top, SS90 This reminds me how many hours I spent in front of my computer, no sleep, searching and bidding in auctions in EEUU, Europe and Japan

In your opinion, what does our love affair with archival fashion mean for the fashion industry at large?
Unfortunately, a too obvious reality – sheer inspiration.

Maison Margiela Semi Couture Ensemble, AW97 This was the first Margiela piece I ever saw in my life, I was 19 years old.

Maison Margiela Artisanal Paper Vest, SS90. This came from a very good friend, Diane Pernet, who treasured it during many years at her apartment in Paris.

What have been the high points of your collecting?
Sourcing the following pieces: Comme des Garçons SS97 Lumps and Bumps dress; Miguel Adrover AW01 Coca-Cola dress; Céline by Phoebe Philo SS17 Yves Klein dress; Martin Margiela AW97 semi-couture ensemble; Loewe by Jonathan Anderson SS15, the first look of his first show; Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquière AW06 wool ensemble and the Helmut Lang AW04 horsehair pieces.

by Lily Rimmer