Exclusive: Watch Martin Margiela Tell the Story Behind the Tabi Boot

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Martin Margiela: In His Own Words, 2020(Film still)

As part of our #CultureIsNotCancelled campaign, we reveal an exclusive clip from new documentary, Martin Margiela: In His Own Words, which in lieu of a theatrical release arrives online tomorrow

This article is published as part of our #CultureIsNotCancelled campaign:

Martin Margiela has long been fashion’s most elusive figure. While still at the helm of his eponymous label Maison Martin Margiela (since his departure, the ‘Martin’ has been discarded) he refused the usual portraits, post-show bows and face-to-face interviews, choosing to communicate with the outside world only through a ‘spokesperson’ whereby both house and designer were referred to as a communal ‘we’ (to further retain anonymity, these statements were issued via fax machine).

Now, a new documentary, Martin Margiela: In His Own Words, directed by Reiner Holzemer – who also helmed Dries, a recent documentary about fellow ‘Antwerp Six’ designer Dries Van Noten – sees the seminal designer finally break his silence. “Anonymity for me was a kind of protection of my person,” he admits in the film. Narrated by Margiela’s voice – his face does not feature in the film, though his hands do, playing with objects from his childhood and archive – the film traces the designer’s life and career, from stitching miniature clothing for Barbie dolls as a child and sneaking into Jean Paul Gaultier runway shows as a student to becoming one of the most influential designers of his generation – and then stepping away from it all when his exited his label, and fashion, at the end of 2009.

The result is a portrait of a fiercely creative designer, whose vast influence remains omnipotent in fashion even today (the label he founded also continues, now helmed by John Galliano). As Carine Roitfeld says in Martin Margiela: In His Own Words, quite simply, “all of Martin’s clothing put everything else out of fashion”. Roitfeld is one of many contributors to the documentary, alongside other high-profile industry figures, like Jean Paul Gaultier, Lidewij Edelkoort and Cathy Horyn.

But the film also reveals another side of the designer; a person who both changed the course of fashion and was overwhelmed by it. “Some things are still painful for [Margiela], and he’s a person who reacts physically to negative experiences,” Holzemer told Jocelyn Silver late last year, when the film premiered in Manhattan. “I think in a way he loves to have things in harmony. If it’s too negative for him, he gets a physical reaction. It took him a whole year to get rid of his physical problems after he quit the job, and I said that of course I wanted to talk about those experiences. But I think he avoided trying to encounter those experiences, because they were very painful for him.” In the latter moments of the film, he thanks his team with a handwritten note – one of his longstanding regrets is that he left his atelier without ever saying goodbye.

“I think that in the end, I imagine that people can have the feeling that they’ve met him, or maybe even seen him,” Holzemer says of the film. “You become very intimate with his world.”

Here, as part of our #CultureIsNotCancelled campaign – which celebrates culture in the age of social distancing – we premiere an exclusive clip from the film, released digitally tomorrow in lieu of a theatrical release, due to the outbreak of Covid-19. In it, Margiela talks about possibly his most memorable creation: the split-toed Tabi boot, based on the shape of a Japanese tabi sock, which was shown as part of his very first runway collection in 1989, and is still produced today.

Watch the clip below.

Martin Margiela: In His Own Words is released on April 10, 2020, screening on Curzon Home Cinema and iTunes.