2019 DOC NYC movie review: ‘Martin Margiela: In His Own Words’

November 18, 2019

by Carla Hay

Maison Margiela fashions in "Martin Margiela: In His Own Words"
Maison Margiela fashions in “Martin Margiela: In His Own Words” (Photo courtesy of Dogwoof Pictures)

“Martin Margiela: In His Own Words”

Directed by Reiner Holzemer

World premiere at DOC NYC in New York City on November 8, 2019.

If you think about how much the fashion industry relies on photography and a designer’s image to sell products (it’s why designers always come out on the runway with the models at the end of a designer’s show), it’s pretty remarkable that Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela could spend 20 successful years in the business and avoid being photographed or interviewed. Yes, there are a few random photos of him that you can find in an Internet search, but he wasn’t a complete recluse at the time he was in the fashion industry. He was backstage at his fashion shows, where there were photographers galore, and somehow, he convinced them and other people around him not to take photos of him. At the height of his success, Margiela abruptly quit the fashion industry at the end of his last fashion show in 2008, and then he really becoming a recluse.

“Martin Margiela: In Own Words” is a documentary that tracked down the elusive Margiela and interviewed him in his home, but only his hands are seen on camera. For many fashionistas watching this movie, it might be the first time hearing him speak. (He has a very soft-spoken, almost sing-song voice.) During the course of the movie, he shares his memories of his life in fashion and what he’s been doing in the years since he “disappeared” from the scene.

Margiela (whose real name is Margiela Statin) also opens up his archives, as the documentary shows him flipping through many of his original sketchbooks and showing some of his early illustrations. We also see that Margiela loves Barbie dolls, which served as his earliest models (mini-mannequins, if you will) when he developed an interest in fashion as a child. He still keeps many of his handmade Barbie-doll fashions from his childhood, including his first amateur design: a gray flannel blazer inspired by Yves Saint Laurent. (Yes, it’s shown in the movie.)

As a child, he says he was lonely but had a vivid fantasy life. His earliest memory of wanting to be a fashion designer, he says, was when he was 7 years old and saw a Paris fashion show on TV. His grandmother, who was a dressmaker, was an enormous influence on him—someone whom he considers to be the most important person in his life.

As an adult, Margiela teamed up with business partner Jenny Meirens to launch Maison Margiela, a Paris-based company that had its first collection in 1988. He says of Meirens, who died in 2017, at the age of 73: “We both had a fascination with Japanese designers, which was very intense.” One of Maison Margiela’s early signature looks consisted of shoes designed to look like animal hooves. Another signature Maison Margiela look was to have four stitches in odd places on his clothes.

Sandrine Domas, who modeled for Maison Margiela in the early 1990s, is one of the people interviewed in the documentary, and she remembers how people often thought those four stitches were a mistake and wanted to remove the stitches. It’s an example of Margiela’s eccentric humor that he liked to play with people’s expectations on what should and shouldn’t be part of haute couture.

Other people from the fashion industry who are interviewed in the documentary (and, quite frankly, do nothing but gush over Margiela) include former New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn, who says that Margiela is “definitely in the top 10” of the greatest fashion designers of all time. Jean-Paul Gaultier, who used to be Margiela’s assistant, marvels at how impressed he was with Margiela’s first runway show, and admits that, at the time, he didn’t think the show wouldn’t be as good as it was. The NEWS showroom founder Stella Ishii compared that first Margiela show to Andy Warhol “shattering the art world in many ways.” Pierre Rougier, who was Margiela’s publicist from 1989 to 1991, raves that Margiela “was ahead of his time.”

How so? Carine Roitfeld, who was editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris from 2001 to 2011, says that one of the things that Margiela pioneered was to do street casting for models, by randomly inviting people off the street to model in his shows on a first-come, first-served basis. He also encouraged his first street-casted models to smile and interact with the audience, which was the complete opposite of the runway norm to have models walk stone-faced and aloof from the audience. There’s footage in the documentary of these street-casted models in action.

So with all this praise, glory and success, why did Margiela shun the spotlight? He explains in the documentary: “Anonymity was my protection as a person.” Later in the film, he says of the fashion industry: “I’m too serious for that world.” Nina Nitsche, who was Margiela’s assistant from 1998 to 2008, said that when Diesel came in as a major investor in Maison Margiela in 2002, things started to change—and not for the better. Diesel’s emphasis was on the Margiela brand being “sexy” instead of “mysterious.”

Margiela essentially confirms that his disillusionment with the fashion industry was around the time that Diesel started controlling his company. He also wasn’t keen on Diesel’s push to have more of the business on the Internet, and that’s when he knew the fashion industry was going into a direction that he didn’t like. As he says in the documentary: “I felt like an artistic director in my own company, and that bothered me, because I’m a fashion designer.”

There are two moments in the movie where Margiela gets emotional. First, when he talks about the night in 2008 when he shocked everyone by quitting the business right after his runway show. He says his biggest regret was how he chose to leave because “I never had a chance to say goodbye to my team.” The documentary then shows him writing a note on the screen that says, “Thanks to everyone who helped my dream come true!”

The other time he gets emotional is when discussing how flattered and awed he was that the ModeMuseum in Antwerp, Belgium, had an entire retrospective exhibit for his fashion. There’s some footage of the exhibit’s grand opening in 2009. But, ever the recluse, Margiela wasn’t there, although he obviously knew what was in the exhibit.

“Martin Margiela: In His Own Words” director Reiner Holzemer shows an admirable amount of restraint, by staying true to the movie’s title, and not putting himself on camera or having a director’s voiceover narration to steal some of the spotlight from Margiela. Many documentarians who would do a film where they’re the first to interview a famous recluse on camera wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to show off how they achieved this feat, and make sure the audience could see their other investigative journalism skills.

The movie’s main shortcoming is that it’s a non-stop praise fest of Margiela. The worst thing that people say about him is that he’s a perfectionist. A little less fan worshipping and a little bit more of objective viewpoints could have made this a more balanced film. However, that minor flaw does not take away from the fact that Margiela is a fascinating subject, who is a lot more open in telling his life story than people might think he would be.

Although he spends his creative energy nowadays by painting and making sculptures, at the end of the movie, he hints that there’s always a possibility that he might return to the fashion industry. Whether or not he ever does, this documentary serves as an exemplary capsule of Margiela’s fashion legacy, told from his perspective.

UPDATE: Oscilloscope Laboratories will release “Martin Margiela: In His Own Words” in select U.S. virtual cinemas on August 14, 2020.

Zac Posen shuts down his fashion business; House of Z was launched in 2001

November 1, 2019

by Daphne Sorenson

Zac Posen
Zac Posen (Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian/BFA)

Celebrated fashion designer Zac Posen has shuttered his House of Z business (based in New York City), and he’s announced that he’s stepping away from the industry to decide what his next move will be. Posen said in an interview with Vogue about House of Z, which had been put up for sale: “I’ve been personally trying to find the right partner for some time. But time ran out, and the difficult climate out there… it’s not an easy time in our industry.”

According to Vogue: “As early as April of this year, Yucaipa Cos., the investment firm founded by Ron Burkle, was seeking to sell off its stake in the label.” House of Z employees, which numbered about 60 people, have all been laid off as a result of the business being shut down.

“It’s been 20 years of love, I’m very sad,” Posen told Vogue of his fashion career. “But I’ve had the great fortune to express myself creatively, and to have made some incredible work with unbelievably passionate people. The community of people who have come through House of Z and are currently here—it’s a powerful force.”

At age 18, Posen (who was born and raised in New York City) was accepted into the womenswear degree program at London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design at the University of the Arts London. He became an instant success by bursting onto the fashion scene in the early 2000s. In 2001, at the age of 21, his work was being shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, worn by celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, and he opened his own fashion company. By 2004, he had won the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Swarovski’s Perry Ellis Award for Womenswear.

Posen made popular the “mermaid” style dress for evening gowns. The celebrities who often wore his fashions included Katie Holmes, Rihanna, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Lopez, Claire Danes and Kate Winslet. He was a consistent attendee of the annual Met Gala.

Like many haute couture designers, Posen expanded his business into low-end retail, through a partnership with Target. Posen also branched out into reality TV, as a judge on “Project Runway” from 2012 to 2017. He was the subject of the 2017 documentary film “House of Z,” which chronicled his challenges of staying relevant and profitable in a fickle industry.

Amazon Prime Video announces fashion-competition series ‘Making the Cut,’ hosted Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn

June 26, 2019

by Carla Hay

Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum (Photo courtesy of Lifetime)

Amazon Prime Video has announced details of its fashion-competition show starring Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, the Emmy-winning former hosts of “Project Runway.” The show is called “Making the Cut,” and it will premiere sometime in 2020.  British supermodel Naomi Campbell, fashionista Nicole Richie, journalist Carine Roitfeld and fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra will be judges or guest judges on the show, which began auditioning contestants in January 2019. There will be 12 contestants (whose identities are to be announced) on the first season of “Making the Cut,” according to an Amazon Prime Video press release.

The executive producers of “Making the Cut” are Klum, Gunn, Sara Rea, Page Feldman and Jennifer Love. The show’s production company is SKR Productions.

The show’s grand prize has not yet been announced, but designs that win a challenge in each episode will be available for purchase on Amazon. The grand prize will also likely include some kind of deal where Amazon will sell the clothes of the winning designer.

“Making the Cut” joins a growing list of fashion-competition shows for contestants who are designers. Gunn and Klum were part of the original “Project Runway” team when the show debuted in 2004, and the duo left in 2017.

The “Project Runway” reboot in 2019 included the show moving from Lifetime back to Bravo (the show’s original network) and an almost complete recasting of the show’s stars. Karlie Kloss is now the host of “Project Runway,” which added mentor Christian Siriano (a former “Project Runway” winner) and new judges Brandon Maxwell (fashion designer) and journalist Elaine Welteroth. Nina Garcia, who has been a judge on “Project Runway” since the beginning, has remained with the show during its numerous changes.

Netflix also has a fashion-competition series: “Next in Fashion,” hosted by fashion expert Tan France (of “Queer Eye” fame) and model Alexa Chung. There will be a rotating group of guest judges. Elizabeth Stewart and Eva Chen are the guest judges announced so far. The premiere date for “Next in Fashion” is to be announced.

 

Karl Lagerfeld passes away: Fashion icon was creative force behind Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Fendi designer labels

February 19, 2019

by Yvette Thomas

Karl Lagerfeld
Karl Lagerfeld (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Karl Lagerfeld—the iconic fashion designer who was the longtime creative force behind Chanel, Fendi, Chloé and his own Karl Lagerfeld Paris label—died at the American Hospital of Paris in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine on February 19, 2019. The cause of death has not yet been officially revealed, but several media outlets are reporting that he had pancreatic cancer. Although his age at the time of his death has been widely reported as 85, the Associated Press reports that Lagerfeld had two birth certificates—one that lists his birth year as 1933 and the other as 1938—and it has not been verified which one is authentic.

Karl Lagerfeld
Karl Lagerfeld and Nicki Minaj in Elle’s July 2018 issue (Photo by Karl Lagerfeld)

What is known for sure is that Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg, Germany, to a successful industrialist father and a violinist mother. He went to school in Paris, and apprenticed at Balmain before joining Patou in 1965. Lagerfeld joined Fendi in 1965, and later became the Italian design company’s creative director. He then made his mark at French label Chloe, followed by his career high point as creative director of the legendary Chanel company, beginning in 1983.

Lagerfeld started his own eponymous fashion label (Karl Largerfeld Paris) in 1984, and remained its creative director after it was sold to the Tommy Hilfiger Company in 2005. In addition to being a fashion designer and entrepreneur, Lagerfeld was an author and photographer. At the height of his fame, he became known for his eccentric personal fashion style, which included wearing a ponytail, mostly black clothes and always wearing sunglasses and gloves in public. Even though he was widely admired in the fashion world, Lagerfeld also had his share of critics and made statements that were considered racially or culturally offensive. In August 2018, the New York Times published a blistering critique of Lagerfeld that questioned why more people weren’t boycotting his work because of offensive comments he has made over the years.

Lagerfeld, who was openly gay, never married and did not have children. However, he famously treated his Birman cat called Choupette as if she were a human child. Lagerfeld’s health had been the subject of speculation after he did not take his traditional final bow at Chanel’s fashion show in Paris on January 22, 2019.  Chanel’s studio director Virginie Viard walked in Lagerfeld’s place instead. Chanel announced after Lagerfeld’s death that Viard has been promoted and will replace him at Chanel. Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld Paris have not yet announced who will replace Lagerfeld at their respective companies. Lagerfled’s last Fendi collection will be shown in Milan, Italy, on February 21, 2019.

Marc Jacobs Beauty to debut 2019 campaign with Irina Shayk in Russia

December 19, 2018

Irina Shayk
Irina Shayk (Photo courtesy of Marc Jacobs Beauty)

The following is a press release from Kendo Brands:

Marc Jacobs Beauty announces Irina Shayk as the newest face of the brand for 2019. A dedicated campaign and animation will debut at Sephora Russia on January 14 and Irina will be making a personal appearance at Sephora in Moscow on January 26. this is the first official image of the campaign featuring Irina, shot by David Sims with creative direction by Katie Grand, makeup by Diane Kendal, hair by Guido Palau and nails by Jin Soon Choi.

“When we entered Russia earlier in the year, we knew we wanted to have someone who inherently matched the beauty and strength of the region. Irina was a natural choice, and we’re thrilled to add her to the group of impressive women who have represented Marc Jacobs Beauty.” —Tara Loftis, VP of Marketing, Kendo Brands

Makeup artist Diane Kendal and model Irina Shayk (Photo courtesy of Marc Jacobs Beauty)

Irina joins iconic women such as Jessica Lange, Edie Campbell, Winona Ryder, Aya Jones, Kaia Gerber, Adwoa Aboah, and Lila Moss, who have been, and also currently are, serving as faces of the brand.

“I’ve loved and admired Marc for his wonderful fashions and overarching vision of beauty. It’s such an honor to represent Marc Jacobs Beauty in my home country.” — Irina Shayk

In the lead campaign image, Irina wears:

Irina Shayk (Photo courtesy of Marc Jacobs Beauty)

Eye-conic Multi-finish Eyeshadow Palette in 730 Frivoluxe
A longwearing eyeshadow palette of “chilled greige and violet” shades in fashion finishes – velvet, satin, silk, and lame – to layer and dress your eyes.

Highliner Matte Gel Eye Crayon in 55 Mist Me & 63 (Grape)vine
Matte lilac and dark purple shades of this malleable formula that glides on smoothly to line, define, smoke, smudge or layer.

Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara
Ultra-black pigment is delivered to even the hardest-to-reach part of the lash line thanks to the lash-maximizing, curvy brush for epic lashes.

O!mega Bronze Perfect Tan in 104 Tan-tastic
This super-sized bronzer instantly and universally imparts a radiant-matte finish thanks to its silky texture of micro-fine, jet-milled powder.

About Marc Jacobs Beauty:

Marc Jacobs Beauty is a collaboration between the designer and Kendo, the LVMH incubator of new beauty brands. as with his fashion, Marc’s rule-breaking creativity is at the heart of his makeup vision. for Marc, it’s about the spirit of youth, confidence and experimentation. He inspires you to push the boundaries and create your own style. so indulge in the impeccably exquisite textures, take liberties with provocative shades, and play with daring designs.

Marc defines beauty as imperfectly perfect. “I see beauty in many things and I am attracted to all sorts of imperfection, to style, to confidence or experimentation. it’s unexpected and surprises you.” Inspiration stems from the spirit of “the girl” and her makeup ritual. “I think the idea of transforming into this person you want to be, is a lot of fun…It’s the idea of a young woman enjoying creating her look, getting ready for her night out, or her night after her night out.”

About Kendo:

San Francisco-based Kendo (part of the LVMH Group, the world’s leading luxury products group) focuses on the development of global beauty brands. through original concepts, collaborations and acquisitions, Kendo brings to market fresh, relevant and innovative brands. the Kendo team combines product development, marketing and operations expertise to redefine the beauty landscape with brands like Marc Jacobs Beauty, Kat Von D Beauty and Fenty Beauty by Rihanna. today, brands within the Kendo portfolio are distributed in 35 countries.