Reclusive fashion designer Martin Margiela makes a comeback... as an artist?


Martin Margiela has always been protective of his privacy. This photo shows a scene from a 2019 documentary on his legacy. Photo: Instagram/@margielainhisownwords

As a fashion designer, Martin Margiela kept completely in the shadows. He insisted in the past that no photographs of him were taken. He conducted no face-to-face interviews as well, and never did the customary runway bow after his shows.

Then, after rising to somewhat of a cult status in the fashion circle, he announced his retirement (after his 20th anniversary show). This was after 41 runway shows between 1989 and 2009.

It now looks like Margiela will be making a comeback. Although, as an artist instead. The 63-year-old Belgian is scheduled to exhibit in Paris, opening on April 15.

Read more: New fashion documentary profiles Martin Margiela, the designer 'without a face'

"This exhibition celebrates the idea that Martin Margiela has always been an artist, whose work has since been deployed continuously in and outside the art world," reads the description on the gallery's website.

"It also sustains the power of a gaze that has never ceased to question our perspectives on the world and to offer it new attention."

Simply put, it will display a collection of his sculptures, photographs and installations, all previously unseen in public.

Margiela's obsession with anonymity has only spurred the appeal of his works. His lack of a "face" proves to be subject of fascination.

His idea, pointed out in a 2011 interview with the Independent (via a fax machine...), was that everyone should "focus on the clothes and not all that is put around them in the media".

The 2019 documentary Martin Margiela: In His Own Words explored the designer's private world. Yet, viewers still never saw his face.

They see his hands and they hear his voice – but never ever his face.

Margiela's designs were often deemed as ahead of their time. He sent out deconstructed and repurposed vintage clothes when upcycling was not trendy yet. He played with plastic and mesh embellishments in a rebellliously avant-garde manner.

Read more: Remembering Pierre Cardin, the French fashion designer of many paradoxes

Oversize clothing was among the highlights of his career too, which led to him being branded a boldly experimental designer.

In terms of his fashion journey, Margiela graduated from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1979 and worked for Jean Paul Gaultier between 1984 and 1987 before launching his Maison Martin Margiela fashion company.

His return now is something to take note of. If not as a designer, an artist that can probably astonish and surprise.

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