You know Martin Margiela’s coveted clothing and shoe lines, but you’ve never seen his face – and that’s exactly the designer’s intention.
The Artist is Absent, which premiered this week at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, is a short documentary film that takes you back in time and behind the scenes of the alluring Belgian icon’s life and rise to fame.
Directed by filmmaker Alison Chernick, who is no stranger to immortalizing high-profile artists like Francis Ford Coppola and Jeff Koons, the twelve-minute experience feels like a stylized, high-brow music video with all the heightened emotion needed to keep you wanting more. Unfortunately, you won’t get your fix by seeing or hearing from Margiela himself, but that’s just the point.
“The mystery that surrounds him is fascinating,” Chernick told StyleBlazer. “People make up stories, but the film, by nature, seeks the truths. The truth is that he didn’t need the fame to validate himself.”
Margiela, who was obsessed with deconstructing clothing and accessories and turning them into his own obscure couture pieces, literally let his collections speak for themselves. His runway models were known to have their faces covered and he would often remain backstage during his shows. It was his way of rebelling against the glamour era of fashion that preceded him.
“He’s more interesting to me than most other designers,” said Chernick. “His choice to not have his image associated with his clothes …the fact he didn’t want the media attention – that, in itself, is super chic.”
Despite the success of his brand, Margiela left the company around 2009, although some claim his departure was much sooner. Last year, John Galliano was named creative director.
Whether or not Martin Margiela will return to fashion is an unknown. He’s anonymity seems to remain a priority and his future plans, if any, have escaped the media. Perhaps Chernick knows best.
“We emailed and exchanged some thoughts,” said the filmmaker. “He’s been enjoying painting as a creative outlet [and has] no plans to re-enter fashion from what I’ve heard. I’m pretty sure that chapter has ended …but who knows.”