‘We Margiela’: the moving, untold tale of the cult designer's saga
The 'We Margiela' documentary film was pre-released in Amsterdam, Antwerp, St. Petersburg and at 10 Corso Como, Milan, on 26th October, and is fast becoming as much of a cult as its subject, visionary Belgian designer Martin Margiela and the story of his fashion label, founded in 1988. It is indeed the first time that a film tells the tale, from the inside, of the genesis and evolution of this incredible venture, which revolutionised, and still exerts a strong influence on, the world of contemporary fashion.
The documentary was directed by Menna Laura Meijer with Rotterdam production company Mint Film Office. It lifts the veil on Martin Margiela's enigmatic personality and his creation process, his face never once appearing on the screen, true to his philosophy of remaining anonymous and invisible.
The tale unfolds in a series of brief sketches, interviews and anecdotes, highlighting the people who featured in the Margiela saga since its beginnings: from his closest collaborators to the creative team, including designer Lutz Huelle, and also major buyers and suppliers. Many of them have their say for the first time and, often emotionally, they open the doors of their personal wardrobes and collections, picking out iconic mementoes and dresses, all carefully preserved.
Among those who attended the Milan preview screening were Sales Manager Vicky Roditis, model and showroom assistant Grace Fisher, photographer Marina Faust, Deanna Ferretti Veroni, who produced the label's knitwear for many years, and Alda Farinella, founder of the Jana fashion store in Turin.
The Italian fashion buyer, one of the first who believed in Martin Margiela, struggled to conceal how moved she was at the end of the screening. "Through him, women who did not fit the conventional beauty canon finally felt they were beautiful, and proud of wearing their clothes," she said.
'We Margiela' emphasises the crucial role played by Jenny Meirens, Martin Margiela's alter ego and the label's co-founder, who died in July 2017. Unknown to the general public, Meirens is interviewed at length in the film, though she too does not appear on-screen. But her influence can be clearly perceived, and the way in which, by taking charge of the company's management, she allowed the label to grow without ever compromising its free spirit.
The signature white label sewn with four visible stitches on the garments' back, the use of 'we' rather than 'I', the white blouses, the chaotic catwalk shows in surprising venues, the birth of creative ideas: all the elements which made Maison Martin Margiela a unique, ground-breaking label are laid bare for the audience, and are revealed as the instinctive output of a cohesive team of passionate men and women, for whose lives this period will remain fundamental.
The film also tells the story of how the adventure ended, with the label's sale in 2002 to Renzo Rosso, founder of Diesel and the OTB fashion group, followed in 2009 by Martin Margiela's departure.
The material collected for the shooting of 'We Margiela', including the interviews and pictures, is featured in a volume, also produced by mint film office, which will be published at a later date. The film has been co-produced by, among others, Dutch public broadcaster Avrotros. It hasn't yet been officially released, but is available on social media and online at wemargiela.com.
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