[Movie] Martin Margiela: A Film About a Mysterious Innovative Designer (Director Rainer Holzemer)

I wrote this article in Japanese and translated it into English using ChatGPT. I also used ChatGPT to create the English article title. I did my best to correct any translation mistakes, but please let me know if you find any errors. By the way, I did not use ChatGPT when writing the Japanese article. The entire article was written from scratch by me, Saikawa Goto.



Movies and books covered in this article

(Click This Image to Go Directly to the Amazon Prime Video Movie “Martin Margiela: In His Own Words”: Image from Amazon.com)

I will write an article about this movie/book

Three takeaways from this article

  1. Continuing to break existing common sense is what made this legendary figure highly regarded by both colleagues and the public.
  2. He retired without ever appearing on stage in order to have people remember only his works.
  3. He was a man who demonstrated innovation not only in design but also in other aspects such as how to handle models, and anticipated the times.

I want you to experience the tremendousness of being called a designer who is among the top 10 even when going back to the 19th century.

Self-introduction article

Please refer to the self-introduction article above to learn about the person writing this article. Be sure to check out the Kindle book linked below as well.

Published Kindle books(Free on Kindle Unlimited)

“The genius Einstein: An easy-to-understand book about interesting science advances that is not too simple based on his life and discoveries: Theory of Relativity, Cosmology and Quantum Theory”

“Why is “lack of imagination” called “communication skills”?: Japanese-specific”negative” communication”

The quotes used in this article are based on notes taken at the movie theater from movies in Japanese and are not direct quotes from the foreign language original movies, even if they exist.

A Genius Designer Who has been Described as “the Last Revolutionary in the Fashion Industry” Without Ever Showing His Face

I learned about the name and existence of “Martin Margiela” for the first time through this movie. I’m a person who has no interest or knowledge about fashion at all. Even so, it was a very interesting work that I enjoyed watching.

It makes me realize that there are truly extraordinary people in the world.

A Revolutionary Who Constantly Poses “Questions” to the Fashion Industry

First, I’d like to start with a story unrelated to this movie.

There is a work called “Fontaine (Duchamp)” which is considered a masterpiece of contemporary art. However, even by just looking at that work, you might not understand why it is called a “masterpiece.” This is because “Fontaine” is a work that only has Duchamp’s signature written on a urinal. I won’t go into detail in this article, the reason why it was valued is because it “raised questions about the common sense of the art world.”

It means that one aspect of the value of art is in questioning what everyone has taken for granted and asking, “Does it really have to be that way?”

The same can be said of fashion. Martin Margiela is exactly the person who “raises questions about existing norms,” and in that sense, he may be called the “Duchamp of the fashion world”.

Even for someone like me, who is not knowledgeable about fashion, Martin Margiela’s shows and designs are undeniably “innovative” and impressive.

Surprisingly, he covered the models’ faces in the show that marked his debut as a designer. While a fashion show is indeed a place to showcase clothing, and the model’s face may be not important. But of course, no one must have ever thought of “covering the models’ faces.”

There are countless episodes like this. He was inspired by “worker wearing tabi” that he saw when he visited Tokyo and created boots incorporating the design of tabi(footwear worn under traditional Japanese clothing).He made jewelry out of colored ice and had the models wear them so that the clothing would be dyed in the color of the melting ice while they walked. He designed tops made from shopping bags.

Or, he put on a show in a vacant lot that is a children’s playground in the district that is not exactly a safe place to live. During the walking, the models carry children who rush in from the neighborhood and parade with them. This creates a feeling of “being shown something amazing.”

This kind of originality surprises even an ignorant person like me and earns praise from colleagues and critics alike. Various characters appear in the movie and praise Martin Margiela, but let’s focus on a few.

One of the top ten designers even when going back to the 19th century.

A revolutionary figure in fashion. Still innovative today.

It makes all the other clothes look old.

The show and the ideology are way ahead of their time.

You might feel that these are great praises. Among them, the praise that left the strongest impression on me was this one:

Margiela has been leading the fashion industry for the past 30 years. And even after retirement, he is still leading for 20 years. It’s great to be at the forefront of the fashion industry for 50 years.

Yes, Martin Margiela retired as a designer in 2008. It was the year of the 20th anniversary of his eponymous brand “Maison Martin Margiela”. Even after retiring, his influence is said to have remained strong.

There was a video that showed this. In 2018, a retrospective exhibition of all of Martin Margiela’s works was held at Palais Galliera, and there was a large audience. Regarding this retrospective exhibition, he said,

The fashion industry is fast. It becomes famous in no time and is forgotten. So, I never thought that people would still be paying attention to me 10 years later.

In the fast-paced world of fashion, I feel that the true greatness of the designer Martin Margiela lies in the fact that he continues to attract attention for an unexpectedly long time, even surprising himself.

In This Film, Too, He Does Not Appear, Only His Voice. A Genius Who Rose to the Top by Deciding to “Not Show His Face” for the Rest of His Life

In this film about Martin Margiela, he does not appear on screen. While you can see his hands and hear his unprocessed voice, his face and body remain shrouded in secrecy. In fact, he has never been interviewed in the first place, let alone photographed or filmed, if you think so, you can understand his awesomeness. Indeed, the Internet and social networking services were not predominant in those days, but even so the fact that the artist himself has become such a popular figure among his peers and the public without communicating anything other than his “works” is still a tremendous.

I don’t want to be famous. I want to remain anonymous. I can maintain balance by thinking of myself as just like everyone else.

I want my name to be remembered along with my work.

In the movie, Martin Margiela talked like this. He seems to think that “not showing his face” is a plus for both himself and his work. However, on the other hand, he also said,

It’s really difficult to make a name for myself without showing my face.

There are also the experience I have regretted the choice I made to protect myself.

Looking at the result, it can be said that not showing his face was the best answer he could have given, but that is something that can only be said because he was able to achieve great success. If he had lived a life of obscurity without being evaluated by society, he would have regretted that he had to show his face even if it meant giving up anonymity in order to make his work known.

As for his decision not to show his face, one person said that it may have been a torigger by a “show in a vacant lot for chidlen”. The show itself got excited and was later appreciated, but it seems that half the audience have felt “I don’t get it” and some people criticized him quite harshly. He speculated that this may have led to his deciding that he would not show his face.

Martin Margiela himself says this in the movie.

I’ve come to realize that I’m not good at talking about my own work. It’s not that I dislike interviews, but rather, I don’t like talking about my work. I want people to receive my work freely, as they feel.

I kind of understand this feeling. I know it’s strange to talk about it at the same level, but whether it’s fashion or anything else, I feel uncomfortable with “asking the creator for an explanation of their work” as discomfort as “there being a correct answer on a national language test.”

In any work, there should be room for viewers to freely interpret it regardless of the author’s intention. And I even think that’s enough.

In the movie, a character expressed their thoughts on Martin Margiela’s show, saying,

That’s why Margiela’s show is, in a sense, ‘kind.’ Because it encourages people to think for themselves.

The use of the word “kind” here is, of course, ironic. In other words, they are saying that “ordinary shows are not at all kind in terms of ‘encouraging thought’ because they are made to be ‘understandable to anyone,’ but Martin Margiela’s shows are the opposite.” This is also a phrase that suggests the importance of the viewer’s interpretation. And that is exactly what Martin Margiela wanted.

Martin Margiela’s Originality is Not Only Reflected in His Designs, But Also in How He Treats His Models.

In the movie, what was interesting was what the models who appeared in Martin Margiela’s show said. One of them praised him in this way:

I like Margiela’s touch. I don’t want some designers to touch me, but Margiela treated us as humans, not mannequins.

Although now various improvements may have been made throughout the industry, such as “underweight models with low BMI are not allowed to work,” I think that in the past, it was probably common to have mistaken ideas that did not treat models as human beings. However, Martin Margiela was said to have treated his models appropriately in such an environment.

It is also said that Martin Margiela’s characteristic was to expect “intellectuality” from the models. In the fashion industry, there is a tendency to prioritize a certain type of “sexiness,” but he made it a priority to seek models who are “working women” and those who do not care about their own “feminine charm.” Such thinking could be said to be “ahead of its time.”

Furthermore, Martin Margiela is said to be the originator of using ordinary people as models. He sometimes used models he scouted on the street instead of women who belonged to agencies. When scouted, these women naturally asked, “How should I walk?” since they couldn’t do things like model walking. However, Martin Margiela answered, “You are perfect just the way you are.”

Knowing such episodes is truly astonishing, revealing his intelligence and originality.

In this movie, someone praised Martin Margiela’s stance as “unique,” and spoke about his greatness like this:

“Margiela is counter-culture, so he’s unique. Counter-culture takes in dirty and un-beautiful things, and they shine on stage.”

As for the “dirty and un-beautiful things,” I could point to the unconventional idea in the show just before he retired. He deliberately added “iron marks” to the back of a white pantsuit he had made, saying that he would get bored if he continued to do things the same way. It’s not necessarily a “beautiful thing,” but by putting it out there through the filter of “Martin Margiela,” it shines on stage.

A certain person said,

Every time I see his works, the phrase “a change in perspective” comes to mind. His courage to do what nobody else does is amazing.

I think that his tremendous and innovative ability to destroy conventional wisdom is what attracts so many people to his work.

Of course, Martin Margiela himself said,

I always pushed myself. I liked pushing my ideas to the limit.

He also spoke about his creative work, saying that it was “harder than I could have imagined.” As a result, he achieved tremendous success, and it can be said that his efforts were rewarded. However, watching the movie, it seems that Martin Margiela himself likes to “create whatever he thinks is good,” and he said he is satisfied with his life after retirement where he can realize that. He is a true “creative” at heart.

The Request from Hermes and the Reason for Retirement

Martin Margiela had provided designs as a consultant to various brands before, but at one point he received a collaboration request from Hermes. He immediately accepted the offer.

Martin Margiela quickly recognized the essence of Hermes’ design and created items that felt like they had always been there. He proposed to hold a show inside Hermes’ store and presented very simple designed clothes. However, many people who saw those clothes reacted with confusion and frustration, saying things like “Is this why they hired Martin Margiela?” Newspapers also criticized the collaboration between Hermes and Martin Margiela in various ways, and one even went so far as to title their article “Devil in the House of God.”

Martin Margiela himself analyzed,

I think that simple was perceived as boring.

He also said,

It takes time for new things to become established. I think it’s the beginning of a new challenge.

Perhaps we should see that excessive expectations were born precisely because it was a collaboration between a world-famous brand and an innovative designer who was highly regarded.

This point may be somewhat related to why he retired. There are two main reasons, but first, the fact that his own brand was acquired was a big factor. It was an investment from someone who started a brand from scratch, just like Martin Margiela, and he expected to be able to design with a similar stance. However, in the end, the marketing department continued to present design concepts and change the words that represent the concept itself. He said,

My duty is to create. I am not a director who gives instructions to assistants.

He was particular about “creating things by moving his own hands.” Precisely because he was such a person, he had no choice but to distance himself from an environment where his ideal could not be realized, and it may also be a reason why he is satisfied with being able to create freely after retiring.

Another reason is that “the show started to be streamed online,” it seems.

I felt like the energy created by surprises on the scene was lost. When everything circulates on the Internet, I start to feel more and more sad.

It may be a feeling that the generation that grew up with the internet as a given cannot understand, but I somehow sympathize with this feeling. Although it is true that this was accelerated by the corona pandemic, I cannot fully agree with the world where “everything is completed on the Internet.”

In this day and age, you can’t really live by the attitude of “not having anything to do with the internet” anymore. But if it were possible, I feel like having a life without the internet would be okay for me.

If Martin Margiela had been born in the internet age, he probably would have fought in his own way for sure. Either way, I think he would have walked a life that led to the top. However, it could also be said that he was able to leave a legend precisely because he was not born in that era.

He is quite an interesting figure.


I had never even heard of him before, but I often pay attention to people who are involved in “creation,” whatever it is, and I found this film very interesting to watch. As for modern times, I think Banksy would be a symbolic figure, after all the fact that ones’ identity is unknown is very mysterious, and I think Martin Margiela is a “legend,” including his stance on the subject.

Published Kindle books(Free on Kindle Unlimited)

“The genius Einstein: An easy-to-understand book about interesting science advances that is not too simple based on his life and discoveries: Theory of Relativity, Cosmology and Quantum Theory”

“Why is “lack of imagination” called “communication skills”?: Japanese-specific”negative” communication”

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