Martin Margiela is the Belgian-born avant-garde fashion designer sometimes described as the couture Banksy, because he has never publicly shown his face for the photographers. But maybe it is truer to say that he is the Terrence Malick of fashion, because there are, in fact, one or two photographs of him (though unverified). This documentary loyally declines to show them, or even ask the always off-camera Margiela if they are genuine.
After what appears to have been a happy childhood, which Margiela recalls with a Proustian emphasis on the importance of his grandmother, he went into fashion and gained a devoted following for his theatrical happenings-slash-shows in Paris. These presented challenging creations, often repurposing and recreating existing garments, almost like the art world’s objets trouvés.
One startling display showed models in veils and masks, evidently alluding to Margiela’s own anonymity. And in 2008, he redoubled his enigmatic reputation by quitting the business just after his 50th birthday (the point at which many designers would be looking to reap big benefits in terms of wealth and prestige) and retreating into a life of contemplation: “I paint, I do sculpture, I do a lot of creative expression.”
Margiela was reputedly disenchanted with the increasing sexification of design, and he had presumably accumulated enough private wealth to withdraw from it all, though it is not clear if he intends to show anyone his paintings and sculptures.
Reiner Holzemer has made a film that is intensely supportive and uncritical – as fashion documentaries tend to be – and to those of us who are outside the fashion world, it can be a bit opaque. Yet it is refreshing to hear creativity discussed with such seriousness and commitment.
• Martin Margiela: In His Own Words is available on digital platforms from 10 April.
Source: The Guardian