Martin Margiela is a designer whose work occupies a unique position in the contemporary fashion world. The consistency of his vision has made him one of the most influential and iconoclastic designers of the last decade. Born in Limbourg, Belgium, in 1959, he studied at the Royal Academy Antwerp, and was one of the first wave of talent to emerge from the city in the early 1980s (known as the 'Antwerp Six'). In 1984 he began a three-year assistantship with Jean Paul Gaultier. He then founded his own enterprise, Maison Martin Margiela in Paris in 1988, showing his first womenswear collection (Spring/Summer 1989) that year.
Margiela staged his first collections in unusual locations such as an abandoned metro station and a circus tent. The fashion press labelled his fashion mood 'deconstruction'; describing Margiela's attempt to disclose the process and craft of making clothes. Martin Margiela eschewed the cult of personality that surrounds many designers and instead fostered a cult of impersonality, a further deconstruction of the conventions of the fashion industry. His appointment as head designer of Hermès womenswear in 1997, a time when big name appointments were in profusion, was considered very refreshing.
In 2000, the first Margiela shop opened in Tokyo, followed in 2002 by stores in Brussels and Paris. Each carry the full range of Margiela products including footwear (label '22'), publications and objects. Margiela has participated in many exhibitions, including an ambitious installation as part of Radical Fashion at London's Victoria and Albert Museum in 2001.
In December 2009, a press release was issued to say that Martin Margiela had left the brand that he had created. In 2019, the enigmatic designer was the subject of a documentary by Reiner Holzemer, Martin Margiela: In His Own Words.