The greatest challenge in making a documentary about Martin Margiela—often referred to as “the fashion world’s answer to Banksy”—is the designer’s notoriously private persona. In fact, he has never attended industry events, granted press interviews, or even allowed himself to be photographed—always opting out of the traditional designer’s bow at the end of his shows. The fashion set was quite surprised when, 10 years after leaving the industry, the elusive designer collaborated with director Reiner Holzemer for an upcoming in-depth film portrait of his life and work, finally lifting Margiela’s veil of mystery.
Martin Margiela In His Own Words premieres at the DOC NYC film festival this week, and reveals how the intrepid designer became a fashion insider, while maintaining an anonymous personal profile. “I don’t like the idea of being a celebrity. Anonymity is very important to me,” Margiela says in the film. “It balances me to be like everyone else. I always wanted to have my name linked to the product I created, not the face that I have.” Featuring interviews with Jean Paul Gaultier, Carine, and others close to him, the documentary paints a full picture of Margiela, his inventive styles, and his lasting legacy within the industry.
From his early ‘80s ascent among the avante-garde Belgian design movement to founding the eponymous Maison Martin Margiela, the designer is well-known for edgy concepts: oversized proportions, deconstruction and recycling, and flat garmentry—as well as his iconic tabi boots and wig jacket. He staged fashion shows in imaginative locales, such as a Paris Metro station and the Salvation Army, to push the boundaries of how fashion can be defined. Even his models, often presented with features and faces obscured—and his deliberately spare labels with the signature four white stitches—were distinctive Margiela effects. The industry that revered his originality and rebellious spirit was shocked by his departure upon the brand’s 20th anniversary in 2008, and even more so afterwards, when he vanished from the fashion world altogether.
CR spoke with director Holzemer to learn what distinguishes Margiela’s creativity, why he left the industry at the height of his career, and how he became one of the most influential designers in fashion history.
What drew you to Martin Margiela as a documentary subject?
“I had just made a documentary about Dries Van Noten, and I was considering who in fashion would be a good following subject for a film. I am interested in biographies as much as fashion, and I was really drawn to Martin through his story and his philosophy of creating fashion solely focused on the garments. An exhibition came to Antwerp about his work with Hermès, and I was struck by how timeless and fascinating the clothing was. I had heard that he was very publicity averse. People told me that I was dreaming if I thought he would work on a film about his life…Then there was the exhibition he curated with Olivier Saillard in Paris, and Martin was looking for someone to create interest in it. He and I met to discuss the project, and we began shooting the film four days after our first meeting.”
How did his background affect his creative point of view?
“His grandmother, a seamstress, was his greatest influence. She always took time to explain things about her work in detail and her observations were key to his understanding of clothing construction. Also, he was raised in a small-town environment. Sometimes you can grow up with an abundance of influence and drown in all its possibilities, or not see what is important. Or you can grow up in the desert, and every detail of your experience becomes important. At age seven, he decided to become a fashion designer and followed his dream all the way to creating Maison Margiela. To this day, he is a very decisive person. When he finds something that intrigues him, he follows it completely. While the skills and technical aspects are necessary, it is more important to have a vision, a unique way of looking at the world, and to nourish that.”
In the film, Margiela says that he wanted people to “see [his collections] and take them for what they were.” Do you feel that his notoriously private approach allowed his designs to be seen more objectively?
“It was always his idea for the brand to focus on the garments. During his entire career, he was only concerned about the concepts and the clothing. He would say: “My face is not important; my work says all that I want to communicate. Everything is in the work.” When he started the brand in 1988, it was a time when everyone was looking to the latest trends and searching for designer names, rather than really looking at the clothes. That’s why he wanted to convince people to come back to the clothing itself. Even with the Margiela labels, everyone sees the four white stitches, but it’s all about the clothing.”
How did his emphasis on the clothes comment on fashion as a system?
“His primary challenge was continuing to do something that had never been done before. That was his overall comment and the main idea of his work. He never went the easy or simple way—he often chose to go against the current trends and what other designers were doing. His concepts of oversized pieces, very short or long lengths, asymmetry, and plastic elements show how he always looked for alternative ways of thinking and unique solutions.”
In what ways did his vision of women differ from other designers?
“I don’t know if many other designers felt this way, but he has always had a special respect for women and wanted to give them possibilities to be themselves. He felt that his clothes should make a woman feel more like herself and proud of who she is.”
What do you think is most important to understanding Margiela personally and creatively?
“It is fascinating that he managed to remain anonymous in our culture, which is so transparent and visible. He says that he feels stronger by being private, yet he knew that his work had to be much greater, if he wanted to remain anonymous. He produced such original clothing that he still influences the fashion world—pieces he created at the turn of the century are still reflected in designs today. The interesting thing about his work is that he often begins with a simple idea, but from an angle that no one has taken. Then he deeply considers it and inspires seasons of new work through that. The pressures of time and creativity are very great but Martin has a creative strength that I admire. His view of achievement was beyond financial and other markers of success, he wanted to make a greater statement with his work. Leaving his brand at its 20-year anniversary is a decision he made at the height of his career, because he felt that he had accomplished what he could within fashion. That is who he is—a creator wholly dedicated to his vision.”
Martin Margiela In His Own Words is now playing at the DOC NYC Film Festival.END
prev link: https://www.crfashionbook.com/culture/a29716666/documentary-martin-margiela-in-his-own-words-doc-nyc-film-festival/
createdAt:Wed, 06 Nov 2019 22:40:19 +0000
displayType:Long Form Article