You won’t see a pocket on a Jacquemus catwalk. Chances are, you won’t see a zip or button either. The French label, soon to be showing its eighth collection, has a specific MO: take something simple, a classic shirt or mini dress, and muck about with its silhouette. Tie a knot, turn it back to front, take a chunk of fabric out – et voilà. The absence of fastenings, though, has more to do with money than anything else: “When I started, I was super-poor,” says 26-year-old designer Simon Porte Jacquemus. “So I did what I could for very little money – and I haven’t changed that yet.”
Jacquemus was born in Salon-de-Provence in southern France. Moving to Paris as a teenager, he launched the label aged 19, just after his mother died – a seismic event that propelled him to where he is now.
The past is key to Jacquemus. He named the label in honour of his mother, citing her as his main inspiration, and the hazy landscapes of his childhood, playing in the fields, were writ large on a debut collection that paired boxy pastel dresses with little white plimsolls and matching socks. The Jacquemus girl, he says, “is not Parisian and that is important. She is French, and French girls are not elegant, they are raw, casual, spontaneous. She’s between a kid and an adult.” It’s a sentiment echoed in the colours – often primary, pastel or pink candy stripe.
Last spring, Jacquemus won €150,000 and a year-long mentorship as part of the special jury award in the LVMH prize, a score for any up-and-coming designer not just financially but also in terms of fashion kudos. Winning enabled him to get a studio, expand his team and get the label into more than 100 stockists worldwide. “At that point, I became an adult,” he says. There were, of course, anxieties over compromising, given the size of the LVMH conglomerate: “But they have allowed me to do exactly what I want.” Already his pieces have been worn by French pop singer Petite Meller, and Miley Cyrus, not that he cares. “I’m not obsessed with stars,” he says with a laugh.
Current season Jacquemus is easy to analyse, with patriotic blue, white and red running through geometrically cut mini dresses, jigsaw skirts and tops layered upon tops (the whole collection is playfully meta). Concept is crucial: he describes his collections as “stories” rather than clothes, and each tells a new and deeply personal tale. His most recent featured, among other things, a horse, a giant red ball being pulled by his cousin and a red tie dragged across the stage (thought to be a commentary on the ushers at Paris shows who are known as cravates rouges). It reflected a more emotionally charged period in his life. “Usually, the Jacquemus girl is smiley. But this time, things got a little darker…” The designer wants to stay true to his French girl audience but he also has ambitions, when things are “less fragile”, to take the label into menswear. As for pockets, as yet there are no plans for those.
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