Fashion legend Martin Margiela is making a comeback as an artist rather than a fashion designer. The reclusive Belgian fashion designer has declared his return to the public spotlight, as an artist, after a 12-year absence.
He is exhibiting at the Lafayette Anticipations Galerie in Paris, after retiring from fashion design in 2009. The exhibition, simply titled Martin Margiela, is on display until January 2 and showcases a variety of his sculptures, pictures, and installations, many of which have never been seen in public before.
The gallery/museum noted in a statement that:
“This exhibition honors the idea that Martin Margiela has always been an artist, whose work has played out since, both within and outside the art world.” They continued to share: “[He] has always made us see things through new eyes. He developed a passion for discreet people, abandoned things, and forgotten places and events, going against the grain and giving on them a new dignity.”
About Martin Margiela
Margiela graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 1979 and worked for Jean Paul Gaultier from 1984 to 1987 before founding his own fashion house, Maison Martin Margiela (now known as Maison Margiela).
His signature designs were anti-fashion and postmodern. He would dismantle previously worn clothing and reassemble it using techniques like bleaching and slashing. In his designs, he would leave visible threads and linings to emphasize the importance of the atelier in the manufacturing process.
The “wig jacket,” a high-fashion example of this kind of revolutionary DIY deconstructionism, was a representation of a fur jacket made with fake brown hair that took 51 hours to stitch together. He has been known to pioneer conceptual fine art fashion and his impact can still be evident in designers like Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga and Hussein Chalayan of Hussein Chalayan.
Margiela was a riddle in and of himself. In stark contrast to the big-known designers of the period, who relied on their brand name and image, he insisted on having no photographs taken of him, no face-to-face interviews, and no end-of-catwalk shows. So, most people don’t know how he looks like. That added a certain kind of mystique to his brand and his label.
After 41 runway shows, which took place between 1989 and 2009, he announced that he was going to retire as a fashion designer.
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Photo of Vanitas, Martin Margiela, courtesy of Lafayette Anticipations