Review: Martin Margiela: In His Own Words (2019)

Martin Margiela: In His Own Words (2019)

Directed by: Reiner Holzemer | 90 minutes | documentary

A goose down quilt in the shape of a coat, a split-tip shoe (like an animal’s hoof), a jute mannequin vest that can be hung around a mannequin. Martin Margiela’s designs are by no means average. The Belgian fashion designer is like no other capable of throwing all conventions overboard to arrive at unique creations, making use of techniques unheard of in the fashion world such as recycling and deconstruction of materials. He makes garments using other items of clothing, such as a sock sweater or tops and jackets made of (leather) gloves. Margiela chose this contrarian approach to express his dissatisfaction with the fashion industry, which is all about money, power and influence. His fashion shows were therefore not in pompous buildings in chic neighbourhoods, but in parking garages and at the Salvation Army. And while many of his colleagues love the media attention for their work, Margiela prefers to remain anonymous. He never gives interviews, does not allow himself to be photographed and always stays under the radar at his shows. What he looks like, only the people who are very close to him know. He continues that anonymity in his designs, because his models often wear large wigs, masks or transparent fabric bags over their heads when they show his clothes.

Documentary maker Rainer Holzemer is fascinated by artists and particularly likes to follow photographers and fashion designers. He has already made films about ‘our’ Anton Corbijn, William Eggleston and about another well-known Belgian designer, Dries van Noten. For ‘Martin Margiela: In His Own Words’ (2019) he managed to get many influential figures from the fashion world to tell what makes Margiela so special. Among them Jean-Paul Gaulthier, who took him under his wing in the 1980s before starting his own business in the late 1980s. But Holzemer has also managed to get Margiela himself in front of his camera. At least, we still don’t see his face, but at least we hear him talk and he gave the German filmmaker permission to show private footage in which we see, among other things, his parents. Of Margiela herself we only see his hands; after all, they are responsible for the fashion with which he revolutionized in the eighties, nineties and zero. The fact that he never wants to appear on screen and wants to remain an enigma is because he wants to protect his creativity from the market, he says in the documentary. In that light, it is not surprising that Margiela felt out of place at a large fashion house like Hermès (where he was creative director between 1997 and 2003) and that since the takeover of his label by Diesel boss Renzo Rosso felt less at home in the world. It had little to do with the fashion revolution that was so close to his heart. In 2009 the Belgian took a step back in silence.

Of course it is a wonderful marketing asset for Holzemer that he has Martin Margiela himself in his film, but for a documentary about a contrarian personality ‘Martin Margiela: In His Own Words’ is very conventional. A chronological overview of Margiela’s career in the fashion world is given, the well-known ‘talking heads’ comment on it and are especially full of praise for the rebellious Belgian, after which the protagonists themselves – or at least, his hands – explain who inspired him. . If you’re not that much into fashion, but if you want to get to know the person behind all those fascinating designs better, then this documentary will bring you home from a cold fair. Because all those famous headlines that are discussed talk a lot but in the end say very little. If you are into fashion, you would like to know what Margiela’s motivations are (or have been), but unfortunately it doesn’t get that personal. The withdrawn Belgian lifts just a tiny corner of the veil, keeping his true personality neatly covered and anonymous, the way he feels most comfortable. ‘In His Own Words’ promises to be a lot more revealing on paper than it actually is. What remains is an entertaining fashion documentary that may be somewhat disappointing in content, but which is sufficiently fascinating thanks to the special creations of Margiela.

Comments are closed.