The big rumor floating around the Paris shows this week is that Martin Margiela, the influential and enigmatic designer, is preparing his final disappearing act. Over the last year, Mr. Margiela, known as fashion’s “Invisible Man” because he never gives interviews and has rarely been photographed, has told colleagues that he wants to stop designing and that he has begun a search for his successor at the house.

In one move that has set off intense speculation about the company’s future, Mr. Margiela, who is 51, initiated a meeting here early this year with Raf Simons, another well-regarded Belgian designer who was renegotiating his contract with Jil Sander at the time. According to people familiar with the designers, who requested anonymity out of respect for Mr. Margiela’s wishes to remain private about his plans, Mr. Simons had discussed the possibility of replacing Mr. Margiela, but nothing came of that conversation.

Ultimately, Mr. Simons renewed his contract to remain at Jil Sander for an additional three years.

“Helmut (Lang) and Martin have had a big impact on me, but beyond that I cannot tell you anything,” said Mr. Simons, who declined to comment when asked about his conversation at a fashion show on Sunday.

The rumors about Mr. Margiela’s desire to leave fashion reached a fever pitch at the shows over the weekend as the Maison Martin Margiela prepared for its spring runway show on Monday night, which will mark the 20th anniversary of the house. Suzy Menkes, reporting in Monday’s International Herald Tribune, writes that two designers have been in talks with Renzo Rosso, the chief executive of Diesel Group, which bought Mr. Margiela’s business in 2002. She did not identify the designers and it was not clear whether Mr. Simons was one of those.

But she includes an intriguing comment from Mr. Rosso, who said, “We are very happy with Martin but for a long time he has a strong team and does not work on the collection, just special projects.”

If Mr. Margiela truly has not been involved in the recent collections, an assertion that appears to be debatable, it would prove his longstanding point – and the reason he has maintained his silence – that the clothes are greater than the creator.


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