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Martin Margiela is a fashion designer, and the founder of fashion house Maison Margiela. H
e graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Antwerp) in 1979, a year before the Avant-garde fashion collective the Antwerp Six.
To the uninitiated, at least some of Margiela’s designs may seem confrontationally anarchic, but to know them is to love them. After all, the common ideal that the designer is working against is far from forgiving. Until recently, Margiela showed his designs on “real” people, as those who work in fashion like to describe them, as opposed to professional models. The clothes themselves, meanwhile, have a timeless dignity – a humanity, even – which, in an industry that is often unashamedly fascistic where perceptions of beauty are concerned, is a rarity. Equally unusual, particularly for a conceptually driven designer, is the rich vein of humour that runs through the work. In Margiela’s hands, for example, a feather boa becomes an oversized stuffed boa constrictor; a “fur” coat is crafted in tomato-red Christmas tinsel; and a sequined dress is printed on to white or black jersey – that’s T-shirt material, then. And his creations are never knowingly red-carpet friendly.
Margiela’s aesthetic may not be obviously commercial – rightly or wrongly, this word tends to denote either fast fashion or characterless basics – his clothes sell extremely well, both in his own boutiques and less rarefied department stores, where a customer might pick up a Margiela jacket and buy it, just because it suits them, knowing little, or nothing at all, about the person behind its making, and proving that the customer might be more discerning than all too many would have us believe.