"I didn't know that being a fashion designer was a job" – Simon Porte Jacquemus
In conversation with the designer
S imon Porte Jacquemus was just 19-years-old when he founded his eponymous brand. Eight years later the dreams of Jacquemus, a boy from the seaside town of Mallemort have came true. Just last month the now 28-year-old designer launched a book Marseille, Je T'aime, created two art exhibitions and executed a runway show — a collaboration with the Maison Méditerranéenne des Métiers de la Mode which took place in Marseille. Here we speak to Jacquemus about how his label became the new (and seemingly younger) face of French fashion, the future of France and why it's so important to persue your dreams...
To start with, can you tell me more about your Marseille project? It seems really special.
So, first, there was the collaboration with Maison Méditerranéenne des Métiers de la Mode. We wanted to do something about fashion in Marseille, one or two exhibitions, but I didn't see myself putting clothes in a museum at 27-years-old. If I do an exhibition in a museum, it's about something else. So I decided to do a photo and video exhibition of my clothes. Its another way to connect with the public, to Jacquemus and it's not about the clothes directly.
Tell us about the Marseille show. I know that you did a special casting in the city.
It was so nice but I was a bit afraid. We did a new cast for the collection with girls from my village, but when you've already shown the pieces and seen the look on someone it's fixed in your head. Thankfully all went well, even though the ladies were shaking.
To announce the show, you created the video Marseille je T'aime, with the artist Willi Doner. How did you meet him?
I saw Willi Doner's work on the internet and I sent him an email: "Hello, I am Simon Jacquemus. I would love to work with you." Afterwards, few weeks after, we were shooting the campaign with 11 dancers on this very special pyramid.
It's a human installation of sorts...
Yes, I always do human installations in city, but it's all about the sportswear and the way Willi dresses his models. I thought: "Oh, it could go with my work."
Then for the book Marseille je T'aime you collaborated with different artists, why did you chose to work with them?
For example, the photographer Pierre-Ange Carlotti and I have worked together since the beginning. Then I worked with a painter from Berlin who did paintings of Marseille. We also have David Luraschi, who is my photographer. Together we did portraits of different people in Marseille. We have Stephan Burger, who is from Switzerland, who did installations with different objects in Marseille. You know, this book for me, its the vision of Marseille vs. Jacquemus.
Speaking about your vision of Jacquemus... Your collections are very dreamy and you're always telling stories. How do you balance between telling stories and the commercial side?
Ever since the beginning, my second collection was paid by my first collection and so on. I started with no money but I knew that I had to sell. In the end it's half and half, there is no other way. I am always fighting myself on the concept and a strong image and then trying to transform it, so it's 100 per cent transparent with Jacquemus, the brand. We don't sell anything that you don't see in the show. What you see, it's what we sell. I find balance, but I don't think that being commercial is easy and simple now.
I didn't know that being a fashion designer was a job. I just always wanted to create stories.
Did you have access to fashion growing up?
I think we all have access to fashion. Every child, even in the countryside because it's in your head. My mother didn't have big designer names in her wardrobe, but she had imagination. She could wear anything — a big bag, a big hat, and she was beautiful always. The way she wore clothes was very beautiful and very special - it was my access to fashion.
When you begin making a collection, what is your starting point?
I'm always obsessed by the same thing! I don't try to make up collections and say: "Oh, what will the Jacquemus girl do this season? Wear flowers?" Yet it could be a fairytale with flowers.
What do you love most about living in France?
I live in Paris but I'm so in love with France. I still loose myself on Youtube looking at French actresses in films. It's so special. It's the culture of France.
Considering current politics in France, there is a great tendency for modern designers to channel their political views through their collections? What is your attitude towards this?
I will never do it! It's not my thing. My fashion is positive. Since the beginning, it was always positivity, diversity and so on. Sometimes people use politics for the sake of creating fashion and I don't know if it's always right. What is right? To be positive, to send a positive message.
With more designers entering the French fashion market, do you think it's difficult to grow your brand in France?
When I was young, I heard someone say: "If you win the fame in Paris, you will be known all around the world." I was obsessed with that. Every season was a new start for me. But when I was nineteen-years-old, the world was open and kind to me. What was really hard was that some people in fashion who are older, cut me. What they were saying was very negative. It doesn't mean that you have to love everyone, but still.
Speaking of designers, has Rei Kawakubo influenced your work?
I always say that I was a student that came to Comme des Garcons — it was a great school.
What advice would you give to young designers?
No advice is the best advice. Life is not just for fashion. Follow yourself and be true to yourself. If you believe in something, go for it.