• Sophie Wilson

Margiela, Warhol and the Creative 'Genius': a review of Martin Margiela In His Own Words

I watched Martin Margiela: In His Own Words at the start of lockdown and this is what I wrote about it afterwards.

The word ‘genius’, in fashion, is criminally overused. Today ‘fashion genius’ is almost interchangeable with ‘fashion celebrity.' It's often used to describe multihyphenates in praise of their ability to manage multiple creative projects at once (e.g. Virgil Abloh, Rihanna, etc.) Or its use is principally motivated by nostalgia for designers who are no longer with us. 

Evidence of Martin Margiela’s genius is in his dedication to a singular craft and unique vision. During his time at Maison Martin Margiela and Hermès, he approached collections with true originality – a rare feat in fashion and another descriptive not to be taken lightly – with ice cube jewellery that melts and dyes fabric as you wear it, with life-size doll clothes, with blank labels, distinctive white threads showing, and of course with his famous tabi boots.

At the start of Margiela: In His Own Words Stella Ishni compares the designer to Andy Warhol. Both men turned their respective industries upside down and deconstructed functional objects we take for granted. Margiela’s boutiques, where thrifted furniture was painted white, bear a resemblance to Warhol’s silver foil-covered Factory. But Margiela and Warhol are also opposites. Margiela shunned fame, a decision that had the adverse effect of making his fame last much longer than Warhol’s predicted 15 minutes. Words used to describe Margiela – deep, intellectual, serious – are the antithesis of Warhol’s constructed superficial pop universe. Warhol, too, was one of the original multihyphenates while Margiela stuck religiously to his craft as a fashion designer, not even wanting to stray into the territory of creative direction.

Margiela: In His Own Words is a beautiful, thoughtful tribute to Margiela’s time as a designer. In just 12 short years the fashion industry has become more or less unrecognisable. Blame it on PR, celebrity culture or the internet. The result is the same.

When I went to Antwerp three years ago I went to an exhibition titled ‘Margiela: The Hermès Years’ at the MOMU. I stood before the Marie-Hélène Vincent video, part of which was shown in the documentary, in which a French man recites a list of compliments in alphabetical order. The passage ends with tu es vraie vraie vraie. And that is what Margiela is: true, real. I long to have the courage to dedicate myself to my craft as faithfully and unapologetically as he did.

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