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TV review: Fashion’s Banksy unmasked, kind of…

Cover me: Hooded models were just one of Martin Margiela’s radical innovations


Martin Margiela: In His Own Words

Available to download from online platforms from Friday ★★★★✩

RECLUSIVE Belgian designer Martin Margiela is known as ‘the Banksy of fashion’ because he never lets the public see his face — which, given 99.9 per cent of the public don’t have a clue who he is anyway, can’t help feeling like overkill.

However, even if your idea of ‘ready to wear’ is any item that doesn’t actively growl when you open the dirty laundry basket, you’ll find plenty to learn and enjoy about this illuminating portrait of ‘fashion’s most elusive designer’.

The story starts with the big headline moment. ‘On September 20, 2008, Maison Margiela celebrated its 20th anniversary in Paris. On the night of the show Martin Margiela left the fashion world for good.’ So what was all that about, eh?

To answer that question, director Reiner Holzemer (who made a documentary about designer Dries Van Noten) sensitively rifles through Margiela’s past. Born in 1957, his parents were hairdressers, his granny a dressmaker and the young MM grew up making couture for his Barbie dolls. At one point his hands (all we see of him) show us a Barbie jacket he stitched, modelled after Yves Saint Laurent.

The likes of former Vogue Paris editor Carine Roitfeld pop up to tell us how revolutionary Margiela was. His radical designs included hoof boots and waistcoats made of plastic bags and smashed plates, and he sent models down the catwalk with tights over their faces. He led the trend in ‘street casting’ (getting ‘normal’ girls to catwalk for him) and ditching the ‘Frow’ (his shows were, daringly, ‘first come, first served’).

But success became too much. Unlike his first boss, Jean Paul Gaultier, who tutted that he was ‘too serious’, Margiela was, by his own admission, not cut out for the fashion limelight. He had no desire to be a celebrity. And, like Alexander McQueen, he chose to leave it — thankfully, in this case, living to tell the tale.