From his internship at Balenciaga, to heading up Margiela, to becoming one half of fashion’s most influential couple, we trace the ascendancy of the man behind new new Bottega
“You can’t keep such a talent under wraps,” declared Suzy Menkes when unveiling Matthieu Blazy as one of the designers at the helm of Maison Martin Margiela in July 2014. It was a breakout moment for the former Raf Simons protégé, who had up until that point remained largely out of the spotlight. However, the great unmasking of Blazy – which sent shockwaves through fashion media and the famously-cloaked house for disrupting its sacred code of silence – had been public knowledge on LinkedIn since at least 2011. With a humble 137 connections, Blazy’s profile was posted to the bygone internet forum, Fashin, and traced his career from graduating La Cambre in 2007 to becoming head designer of Margiela’s Couture and ready-to-wear lines in 2011.
Regardless, the exposé proved a boon to Blazy’s notoriety. Within a year he had been poached by Phoebe Philo at Céline and had been hawked as a wunderkind by his former boss Raf Simons on Instagram. Born in Paris in 1984, today, Blazy lives between Antwerp and Milan, where he has been working as the design director for Bottega Veneta since June 2020. Yet despite being a relative newcomer, following the sudden departure of Daniel Lee last week, he has now been promoted to the label’s top creative role. Though a hot-headed week of speculation and HFT rumours ensued, the writing was already on the wall. After all, the house didn’t say it would announce a new designer, but a new creative “organisation”. Below, we chart the fashion veteran’s ascendancy to industry favourite.
HE TECHNICALLY STARTED HIS CAREER AT BALENCIAGA, NOT RAF SIMONS
While studying at Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de La Cambre, Blazy briefly joined the ranks at Balenciaga, where he worked as a womenswear intern under Nicolas Ghesquière for three months in 2005. The following year, the designer spent four months at John Galliano, who would, rather ironically, take over from Blazy at Maison Margiela a decade later.
BUT RAF SIMONS SOON CAME KNOCKING
When Blazy left La Cambre in 2007, Raf Simons recruited the fledgling graduate as menswear designer, which is where he would meet his life partner, Pieter Mulier. Then Simons’ second-in-command, much like Blazy, Mulier has since made his way out of the shadows, having been appointed creative director of Alaïa earlier this year. Over the years, the duo have curated one of the most extensive archives in fashion, comprising Lanvin Aztec dresses, jazz-age Detroit clown suits, 1980s Gaultier, and dour, 40s war-time garments. As Simons moved to Dior in 2012 with Mulier as his right-hand-man, it’s alleged that the designer gently pushed a young Blazy forward into his next venture.
THE SCANDALOUS MARGIELA UNMASKING
Since the departure of its namesake designer in 2009, Maison Margiela had chosen to present its design team as a faceless, lab-coated flock of talents. That was until 2014, however, when Blazy was declared “the most famous designer you’ve never heard of,” by the press, having been catapulted into the spotlight by Menkes. In 2015, Blazy said that “Margiela was the first one I had where I could use my passion for vintage clothing and be completely honest about it. I love vintage because you have the idea of something very unique, often unbranded and completely emotional.” Many of his stand-out collections – namely AW14 – were testament to this, indebted to 18th century French lampas silks and Japanese 50s silk bomber jackets, otherwise having been forged from densely-embroidered, found jewels, with crystal door knobs affixed to jackets. Perhaps the most recognisable totem from his tenure at MM, however, were the diamante-encrusted masks, which Kanye West appropriated from Artisanal’s AW13 couture show for his Yeezus tour.
HE THEN JOINED THE SISTERHOOD OF SLOPING SILHOUETTES
As Margiela ushered in a new era under John Galliano in 2014, Blazy headed to Céline, having been headhunted by Phoebe Philo herself, which is where he first encountered former Bottega Veneta designer Daniel Lee. It was around this time, in 2015, that Blazy was nominated for the Dazed 100, where he placed 11th, just behind Olivier Rousteing, Shayne Oliver, and JW Anderson.
FAST FORWARD TO THE “AMERICAN DREAM”
In 2016, Blazy returned to work with Raf Simons at Calvin Klein 205W39NYC as part of the inner circle that the designer brought with him to New York. Of course, that circle also included Pieter Mulier, who carried the title of creative director and joined Simons for runway bows. Blazy was VP of design for womenswear and menswear, which is where he would stay until Simons’ abrupt exit in 2019.
BOTTEGA AND BEYOND
In June 2020, Blazy was tapped by Kering as design director for Bottega Veneta. Now, he follows in the footsteps of Alessandro Michele, Virginie Viard, and Sarah Burton, who were all plucked from second-in-command positions to head the respective design studios of Gucci, Chanel, and Alexander McQueen. Unlike, say, Alessandro Michele, however, who completely reinvented the Gucci aesthetic, it’s unlikely that Blazy will wipe the Bottega Veneta slate clean, especially not when its finances have been so solid.
Ahead of his debut show in February 2020, expect Blazy to soften the rich bitch design vocabulary that Lee established, pushing on the brand’s more unusual, but no less covetable, textures. Beyond crunchy Margiela balaclavas, Blazy was also responsible for all the Yayoi Kusama-esque shell dresses of the house’s Detroit show. Think less techno, more artisinal. Whether or not the label will continue with its more outré marketing strategy – comprising photo zines, the hardcore destination shows, zero social media – remains to be seen. But given that Blazy’s own relationship with social media is somewhat elusive (that infamous LinkedIn profile has long been deleted, as have some of his more personal Instagram shots) suggests that it could be a little while before we see a Bottega Veneta TikTok dance yet.