It would be logical to assume such a private man would be anti-social or cold, but quite the contrary he is quoted by Stella Ishii, as being very warm and sensitive. He is reported as being tall and classically handsome. He often wears a tight black sweater in the winter or a T-shirt in summer, with Levi’s and a dark cap pulled down low over his eyes. At the atelier, you can often find him describing his collections with passion and intellect, often even demonstrating his techniques. At his shows he is always backstage, styling, preparing, and perfecting.
As a graduate of Belgium’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts and a former assistant to Jean Pul Gaultier Paris, Mr. Margiela was among a group of designers from Antwerp who caused a shift in fashion in the late ’80s by tearing apart and reassembling garments at the seams, introducing techniques that would have a lasting impact on everything from streetwear to haute couture. The acceptability of shredded jeans, for example, is largely influenced by Mr. Margiela.
“Martin’s influence in fashion has been quite vast,” said Kaat Debo, the artistic director of the ModeMuseum, or MoMu, in Antwerp. “Often what you see in the mainstream today is something that Martin introduced 20 years ago, and in a shocking way. For example, the showing of unfinished clothes with frayed hems or seams on the outside, which he did years ago, are things today that are seen as quite normal.”
“It is a brilliant way of rethinking clothes with a very simple strategy,” said Harold Koda, the chief curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "There is a weird tension that he throws into the clothes that is poetic, but it can also be unnerving in that it pushes you a little further. It’s not just pretty or simple clothing. It’s something that challenges you, even subliminally.”
In fashion, designers who achieve fame and success will reach a point where they will be approached to sell their business to a bigger fashion conglomerate. When you want success, money, power, creativity and artistry is the first price to pay. New changes means a new owner, which always brings guidelines, restrictions, and the inevitable progress reports, and marketing ploys. Helmut Lang, Ms. Sander and Tom Ford are just a few of many designers who have sold out creatively in exchange for global success. In Mr. Margiela’s case, he has had a hard time coping with these artistic restrictions, and the natural flow of how our current fashion world works.