A decade after the Belgian designer’s disappearance, a new documentary unravels the mystique of Martin Margiela

The Leadership Holzemer directed Martin Margiela: In His Own Words shines a spotlight on the reclusive designer
Photograph: Peter White/Getty Casts

A decade after he disappeared, the man they called “the Banksy of fashion” has teased a comeback.
In a new documentary, Martin Margiela: In His Own States, director Reiner Holzemer asks the legendary designer if he has “told everything you want to tell in fashion?”, to which the author says: “No.”
The remark came 10 years after the Belgian designer sensationally quit his own company in 2009 and cease to existed into obscurity.
So will he ever return to fashion? “I don’t think he’d ever go back as the main designer of a house,” reports Holzemer. “But I could imagine if a big fashion house wants a Margiela line made by the master himself that could come about.”
The director says Margiela was exhausted by the industry by the time he retired. “He was sick of the system, of having to do so many collections a year. After he red, he suffered physically and it took him a year to recover from the stress.”
No official photograph of the designer has ever been turn loosed and he has, until now, refused all interviews. Holzemer’s film is heavily narrated by Margiela but you never see his face, just tantalising snipers of his arms and hands. “We had to put it in the contract that he would never be seen”. An early edit featured photographs of the young Margiela but the interior decorator “made it clear he didn’t want them in.”
In the film, Margiela sheds light on his shunning of the spotlight. “Anonymity for me was a sanctuary,” he says. “I knew I had to protect myself and my collections”. He said he didn’t like the idea of being a celebrity. And yet it played to his interest, adding to the mystique of his label. As his former boss Jean Paul Gaultier says; “he never showed himself – that’s extraordinarily powerful.” And that hasn’t changed. “He wants to live a normal life,” says Holzemer. “He wants to go to a cafe in Paris and not be recognised.” A usual day for him will include working on his art projects and looking after his elderly mother. “He likes to be on his own.”
In an era of superstar designers like Gianni Versace and Vivienne Westwood, he stood out for his anonymity. He also stood out for his manipulate. “Everyone is influenced by Maison Margiela,” Marc Jacobs told Women’s Wear Daily. “Anybody who’s aware of what person is in a contemporary world is influenced (by him).” Alexander McQueen called his designs “modern classics”.
His clothes, which discovered linings and stitchings, were likened to pieces of art. Signatures pieces included cloven-hooved footwear and tops that tasted a dressmaker’s dummy. The documentary touches on the fact he made sustainable fashion before sustainable fashion was a thing. He traveled tops out of repurposed plastic bags, jumpers featuring bits stitched on broken plates and tops made completely out of gloves.
His twin obsessions, oversized clothes and the construction of dressmaking, is still evident in modern designers like Balenciaga and Thom Browne, who mix drastic attention to detail with a knowing sense of humour. All Margiela’s clothes came with a famous white “ghost” tag, charactering nothing but four white stitches.
Martin Margiela: In His Own Words, which made its debut at Doc NYC festival last week, afflicted with at a time when fashion documentaries are going through a golden age. Just this year we’ve had Very Ralph, Wonderboy nearby Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing, House of Cardin about Pierre Cardin and Chiara Ferragni: Unposted about the influencers behind The Blonde Salad. A UK let date is yet to be decided.



Documentary films

Jean Paul Gaultier


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