Martin Margiela, the most mysterious of Belgian designers

A career that started with a bang and ended suddenly? It is indeed that of one of the most respected Belgian designers in the fashion world in question. Back on an extraordinary career.

  Martin Margiela, the most mysterious of Belgian designers

Martin Margiela was born on April 9, 1957 in Louvain, in the heart of Belgium. At only 17 years old, he joined the famous Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, from which he graduated in 1980. With five classmates (Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs and Marina Yee), it forms the ' Antwerp Six ', avant-garde stylists who stand out for their minimalist creations. In 1984, he joined jean paul Gaultier , with whom he worked until the launch of his own label in 1988. Fashion journalists got carried away and did not hesitate to highlight his work. So much so that the following year, he was crowned with the prestigious Andam prize, the National Association for the Development of Fashion Arts, while his Spring-Summer 1990 show in Paris was one of the first to present creations upcycled .

What events mark the career of Martin Margiela?

In 1991, a new turning point in his career. the Galliera Palace devotes an exhibition to him: his pieces are then presented alongside those of Jean Paul Gaultier and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac . In 1997, it was up to him to take the helm, this time at the Rotterdam museum. He then presents a retrospective of his work, and highlights his most emblematic creations. The same year, he became artistic director of the women's ready-to-wear collections at Hermès, where he served until 2003.

Martin Margiela spring-summer 2009 fashion show in 2008 in Paris

Who is Martin Margiela really?

Martin Margiela was never very adept at public performances; photos of him are as rare as they are dated. Very secretive and mysterious, he has always preferred to focus on his creations. Moreover, on the catwalks, his models often parade with their faces hidden, by a mask, a haircut or a flesh-colored stocking. Among its most emblematic pieces, we find in particular the famous Tabi boots . Introduced in 1992, they are inspired by traditional Japanese socks and separate the big toe from the other toes. At Margiela, no big ostentatious logo, but visible seams, unfinished finishes and micro-embroidery of threads — white or colored, depending on the collection. Line 6, now renamed MM6 , is intended for modern women who wish to express their femininity differently. We find the designer's rebellious style, as well as the very personal touches that have made his pieces a success. His name is also well known to perfume lovers: his juices (By the Fireplace, Jazz Club, Funfair Evening, At the Barber's) are signed Replica .

What has become of his brand since his departure?

The Belgian designer did not wait for success to calm down to retire. In 2009, nine years after opening his first store in Tokyo, he announced that he was leaving the fashion world for good without explaining his reasons. After inspiring a number of pros — including Raf Simons, who said he got into fashion with one of his parades of 1991, or even Demna, artistic director of Balenciaga since 2015 who worked eight years for the Belgian house – he therefore gives up on creation. This does not prevent his collection called 'Artisanal' from being labeled haute couture in 2012 and entering the calendar of this prestigious fashion week Parisian.

John Galliano's first fashion show for Maison Martin Margiela in January 2015 in London

Two years later, John Galliano became the artistic director of the label first renamed Maison Martin Margiela then Maison Margiela, and has since perpetuated Martin Margiela's legacy. In 2021, the documentary ' Martin Margiela: In His Own Words ', directed by Reiner Holzemer, is broadcast on Arte: this is the first time that the couturier looks back on his career, his influences and the work of his workshops. He takes the opportunity to explain the part of mystery that floats around his Discretion: Martin Margiela ultimately wanted to be known for what he created, not what he was — a completely counter-thinking of the creator starification movement that has been going on since the 2000s.

Today, the heritage of the Belgian designer (just like his mark) can be found in the pages of A Magazine curated by Maison Martin Margiela , which dedicates each issue to a personality — Dirk Van Saene, Bernhard Willhelm or Hussein Chalayan.