Did Margiela’s Tabi go mainstream?

Carrie Bradshaw had a thing for Manolo Blahniks, Blair Waldorf for the Louboutin. And, for a completely modern paradox, Cardi B she can stand as a cultist of aesthetics ugly chic wearing a pair of Tabi of Maison Margiela while she is intent on shopping. She who made bold, provocative and sexy looks – the most distant from experimentation away from the spotlight of a brand like Maison Margiela – his stylistic code. An extraordinarily cult model inspired by Japanese design, it is known for being aesthetically controversial: despite being faithful to a current that has made ugliness its recognizable poetic manifesto, the Tabi they have achieved an appeal that is hardly comparable. For decades they have been the fetish accessory of fashion editors, stylists or creative directors struggling with editorials, magazines and shooting related to the sector.

They were the lowest common denominator of a world made up of subtle citations, codes and references that sanctioned belonging to a specific sect of devotees. adepts fashionable. And they have come a long way since 1988. Unexpected, perhaps unexpected, the appeal recently found on digital platforms by new communities increasingly involved in fashion. Process partly fueled by mainstream TV series such as Emily in Paris which contributed to the customs clearance of the Tabi, the fact is that niche fashion is experiencing a phase of particular interest. The Tabi have thus become the cult object of a large group of TikToker intent on delving into the history of the iconic shoes that separate the thumb from the rest of the toes. However, it is precisely distance that constitutes the focal point of this discussion: the Tabi have gone from being perceived as an experiment in vestimentary exegesis to a must-have object for a wider audience. Regardless of their cultural background and any implications of this kind, the Tabi have lost some of their original purity. Or, much more realistically, it could be an essentially generational problem: on the one hand that old school niche, fueled by the mythology of interviews not granted by Martin Margiela so seeing the Tabi on an adolescent or a celeb with a pop look takes on the connotations of a real heresy, on the other hand the free personal exploration of the new generations.

Allergic to the idea of ​​passively submitting to trends from the top of catwalks and shows, the Gen Z he is showing a restlessness that does not reconcile with the trickle-down effect. The Tabias well as the boots of Rick Owens or the heads of Comme des Garçons, are nothing more than a pretext to feel free to touch closely what was previously considered essentially untouchable. Whether it is to replicate the Margiela Kiss shirt or to take part in sales to be able to grab the Tabi at decidedly reduced prices, it is precisely the possibility of drawing on a different imaginary that stimulates the curiosity of the youngest. Not that niche brands and designers would mind the idea of ​​reaching ever larger market slices – Maison Margiela has even launched a collaboration with Reebok in 2020 and 2021 – basically we are always talking about an industry that uses creativity to make it a business. Thanks to massive sponsorships and partnerships with celebs, the catchment area of ​​many niche brands has significantly expanded. But net of one community certainly more numerous, it is very likely that the core business of these brands will always remain the niche. Also because, in reality, it happens that fans become even more loyal when their favorite designers become mainstream, proving that they have been lovers of the brand for a long time. It is rather a paradigm shift in the perception of exclusivity of a brand in a historical moment in which, moreover, the concept of luxury is continually overturned to get straight to the heart of the masses.

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