New documentary presents Martin Margiela: In His Own Words

Anyone hoping to finally
view the face of the elusive Belgian designer in the new documentary Martin
Margiela: In His Own Words, which had its global premier at the Doc
NYC film festival on Friday, will be disappointed. The camera focuses only
on the designer’s hands, and archives and footage of the influential work
made by those hands. We must be content with the fact that Margiela finally
talks us through the period of his eponymous label, 1989 – 2009, before he
walked away from fashion for good. Although as director Reiner Holzemer
tells the audience, even his voice has been altered slightly to preserve
Margiela’s intense desire for the protection of anonymity.

The patient German filmmaker, who also created the 2017 fashion
documentary Driesabout fellow Belgian designer Dries Van
Noten, describes
courting Margiela for many months, and even when the designer had agreed to
participate, he was aware that he could bolt at any time as he has
apparently done before on other film projects. Initially Margiela wanted a
stand-in actor to play him, then he floated the idea of a woman’s voice,
then he said he would read prepared words. Finally when he was persuaded to
speak, Holzemer says the designer had so much to say he could have made ten

New documentary presents Martin Margiela: In His Own Words

Martin Margiela’s early inspiration

Margiela’s mother kept all of her son’s early drawings, sketches, his
boyhood Barbie dolls for which he made outfits including a copy of an Yves
Saint Laurent blazer which he would later create life-size for his
doll-inspired 1994 collection. She sold wigs, her husband was a barber, and
their son recalls spending hours in the barber shop, watching the hair
falling to the floor and clients walking through it. His parents’
professions, plus his dressmaker grandmother, ignited his passion to be a
fashion designer from as early as six years old, as well as inspiring later
styling decisions to cover models’ faces with wigs and his coat designs of
human hair. Other legendary collections reexamined in the documentary
include the first runway show held in a park with children running up and
down beside the models, in an outer arrondissement which made the fashion
cognoscenti uneasy; the trompe-l’oeil photo print dresses of 1996; and the
Stockman collection of 1997. The designer describes the creation of the
Tabi boot and reminisces about being a student at Antwerp’s Royal Academy
of Fine Arts, when he and his classmates would plot how to sneak into Jean
Paul Gautier’s fashion shows.

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Martin Margiela documentary on his myth and influence

The documentary’s conception coincided with the Palais Galliera’s 2018
exhibit, ” galliera being mounted in paris. this self-portrait is distinctly different than>We Margiela, the 2017
documentary on the maison which featured interviews with the late Jenny
Meirens and other vital members of his team.

Margiela touches on the physical toll the role of fashion designer took
on him, the stress of continually coming up with something new, the
pressures that the dawn of the internet exerted on the fashion cycle, and
the later demands from new stakeholder Diesel’s Renzo Russo to make the
collection “more sexy.” In the documentary’s closing scene when asked if he
had said everything he wanted to say in fashion, he places his glasses on
the desk and responds, “No”– cut to credits. Despite that hopeful note, the
director tells the audience that Margiela has no plans to re-enter

Jean-Paul Gaultier, who hired Margiela as an assistant upon graduation,
told him he was “too serious for this world.” Margiela agrees: “I was not
made to cope with the system as he does. He can handle it. In a positive
sense of the word, he is a real entertainer.” But fashion notables like
Carine Roitfeld and Cathy Horyn are at pains to point out his serious
influence on the world of fashion today. Horyn is even present in the

One can’t help suspecting that Margiela himself, nowadays a painter and
sculptor, may well have been sitting watching too.

We would never know. The perfect design.

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Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk
for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion

Images: FashionUnited



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