One of my favorite pieces is a simple Martin Margiela grey sweatshirt. I wear it quite often and in a multitude of ways. Even though Margiela himself is no longer at the helm of his brand, he remains my favorite living designer. His aesthetic is clean and the designs are often witty and clever. The staff at the West Village flagship are incredibly warm and knowledgeable, which only enhances my respect for the man and the brand. But at the end of day, it’s nothing more than a grey sweatshirt.
Probably due to far too much wear, the label on the inside of the shirt was dangling by the most miniscule of loose threads. I’m not a good sewer, not even in the rudimentary sense of the word. So if it were to fall it would be gone forever. I eventually had it reinforced by the seamstress at the local cleaners. Had I allowed the tag to eventually fall would that have made the shirt worthless? On a consignment or resale level on eBay, absolutely. The store buyer and the potential customers have no way of knowing if something is made by a specific designer without proper documentation—the sewn-in label.
While some designers resort to overt branding such as large logos or step-repeat-patterns, others like Margiela and Yohji Yamamoto utilize subtle identifiers like stitching. Like the men behind the labels, the stitching is readily identifiable by a stratum of consumer society who appreciate designers that don’t appeal to a mass audience of consumers. Anne Hollander states that the way clothing looks doesn’t depend on design but on perception. The few inches of stitching on the back of the Margiela pullover elevates it from a sweatshirt to a piece recognizable to the the initiated.
In their respective works artists Peter Gronquist and Tom Sachs explore fetishization and consumerism. While I don’t see myself as the label obsessed consumer who wears the Gucci visor with matching sneakers of questionable authenticity, the logo-aware shopper and I are probably both coming from the same place of needing sartorial validation. That’s not to say that every item in my wardrobe is designer—quite the contrary. There is an abundance of high street pieces from H + M and Zara. But if the tags on those were to suddenly dangle, I’d have to honest and admit and I’d probably let them fall.