What Does Anonymity Mean? Reacting To Margiela’s Unmasking

The Internet simultaneously improves and ruins everything. Like last week, when Mathieu Blazy was outed as the head designer of the equally illustrious and mysterious Maison Martin Margiela. We now know who's designing the line. Which is good. Blazy deserves attention for his accomplishments. But his identity does scrape away some of the luster the Margiela name held. In a time where social media presence is at its utmost importance, what does anonymity really mean?

Over at Business of Fashion, Joe McShea and Lucian James pontificate on channeling anonymity toward the allure of a brand. The two believe if luxury labels can manage anonymity well, they'll reap the rewards, much like Blazy and MMM, or perhaps today's nom de anonyme, Baewear.

For 25 years, the Maison channeled its anonymity into cult appeal and a powerful brand. McShea and James say this veiled identity let the clothes speak for themselves rather than the figurehead who designed them. That's a genuine sentiment, which gives credit to the end product more than promoting a single designer. I like that.

But when the OG Martin officially left the company in 2009, the sentiment didn't feel as "creative" as it did businesslike. The void left by the eponymous founder felt, well, like a void: vacant without someone—anyone. The company responded to Blazy's outing with a heaping dollop of corporate speak, apparently across the board. [Editor's Note: We too received the following message after posting our own coverage of story, which we subsequently took down at the request of Margiela.] I don't like that:

"…we ask you to remember that the longstanding communication policy of the Maison has not changed and that MMM does not communicate on any individual member of its collective, as our work is done by a team and is credited only to this same collective. This is our official spokespeople policy, and it remains our only comment on this subject."

While this whole expose didn't tip my "holy shit" scale the way, say, unmasking Banksy did, it still showed the weight anonymity carries in this day and age. Margiela did feel like a secret society—Free Maisons, if you will. For aspiring labels nowadays, I'm not so sure it would work the same. Whether staying behind the curtain is better for the brand or the consumer remains the real question.