Simon Porte Jacquemus: “To be successful you need to do something special”
A couple of weeks ago Simon Porte Jacquemus launched a book Marseille, Je T'aime, two exhibitions and a runway show which took place in Marseille as a collaboration with the Maison Méditerranéenne des Métiers de la Mode.
Simon founded Jacquemus when he was just 19 years old and over the past eight years he's turned the dreams of a seaside boy from Mallemort into a reality. Through his label Jacquemus, Simon has become the new face of French fashion - with a bold, exciting aesthetic which is known and admired all over the world. Meeting Simon in Paris just before the launch of his new project, we chat about Marseille, the future of France and why it's so important to pursue your dreams.
Tell us more about your Marseille project? It seems really special.
So, first, there is collaboration with Maison méditerranéenne des métiers de la mode. We wanted to do something more about fashion in Marseille for two exhibitions with our clothes. I was very happy [to do this], but I don't see myself putting clothes in a museum at 27 years old! If I exhibit in museum, it's about something else - you know? So I decided to do photo exhibition - a culture exhibition - with a video exhibition for my clothes. So in both museums we have different approaches and ways to use fashion. It's another way to connect the public to Jacquemus, but it's not directly about clothes - it's more a way to show clothes in a different, more artistic way.
And also to show Marseille? I know that for the show, you casted with people from the city.
It was so nice, I was a bit afraid, because it's doing a casting for a collection that you have already shown. And because you have already seen a look on someone - it's fixed in your head. Therefore I was a bit afraid, but it all went well and they were so happy to just have the possibility to do a show. The ladies, they were shaking. Even one girl from my village!
For the video Marseille Je t'aime, you worked with an artist Willi Dorner. How did you meet him?
I saw this artist on the internet and I sent him an email saying, "Hello, I am Simon Jacquemus. I would love to work with you." Afterwards - few weeks after - we were shooting the campaign for winter 2016. For this project, we decided to re-do something with him, with all of the archive collections from the beginning on 11 dancers and on this very special pyramid.
It's some kind of human installation?
Yes, it's always human installations in a city, but it's more the sportswear, the way he dresses his models. And when I saw his artwork I thought "Oh, it could go with my work".
For the book Marseille Je t'aime you collaborated with a bunch of different artists. Who are they and why did you choose to work with them?
One is photographer Pierre-Ange Carlotti, who has worked with me since the beginning. We wanted to use him again for Jacquemus, but his work is famous now because of a small backstage book. For me Pierre-Ange is a boy from the seaside and I want him to show that. So we have a special story with him with literally only girls, naked lying on the beach and a very famous swimmer in Marseille.
We also worked with a painter from Berlin who did a painting of Marseille, and David Luraschi, who is my photographer with whom we did portraits of different people in Marseille. We also have Stephan Burger, who is from Switzerland, who did an installation with different objects in Marseille.
Speaking about your vision of Jacquemus: your collections are very dreamy and you always say that you tell stories. As a successful designer, how do you find balance between telling stories and the commercial side?
Since I started, my second collection was paid by my first collection - which meant that I started with no money and I know that I have to sell. I am doing that story, but I have to sell clothes at the end, and for me it's half and half - there is no one way. I am always fighting for myself - the concept, strong image or film - something I like and then I try to transform it. We are 100% transparent with Jacquemus. We don't sell anything that you don't see in the show: what you see - it's what we sell. I try to strike the balance, and I don't think that commercial is easy and simple now, because we have so many propositions in all the shops like H&M and Zara that copy everyone. If you want something like a white nice shirt you can find it everywhere and to be successful you need to do something special that people want to buy for 600 Euros.
When did you decide that you wanted to become a designer?
I didn't know that it [could] be a job, but I always wanted to create stories. I was really excited by women and by girls on the TV, with the idea of creating a story.
Did you have access to fashion at that time?
I think we all have access to fashion. Every child in the countryside, if he wants, he could have access. Your mother can work in Jean Paul Gaultier, but the access is in your head. My mother didn't have any big designers in her wardrobe, but she had imagination. The way she was [wore clothes] was very beautiful and very special - so it was my access to fashion, I guess.
Can you describe your mother's style?
She was very special, she could have grandmother dress [one day], a totally pink look the next. I don't know how to explain it. She had such a strong personality. She could wear anything: big bag, big hat, and she was beautiful, always.
Who is a Jacquemus girl? Is it a Parisian girl or Southern girl?
I have nothing against Parisians, I am Parisian by the way, I am living in Paris. I am against the comparing of France and Paris, for me - it's just France. There are French periods in my collection. I want to set a mood... so, it's a French girl with poésie. France and poésie - what I love.
What is so unique about France for you?
I am in love with France. I still lose myself on YouTube looking at French actresses or parts of films. It's so special, it's a culture of France.
Considering the political situation going on, there is a great tendency in modern designers to channel their political views through their collections? What is your view on this?
So I will never do it, it's not my thing, my fashion is positive. Since the beginning, it was always positivity, diversity and so, due to my words, my Instagram, people know what I think, but I don't [want] to do a collection with just this... it's not strong. Sometimes people use politics for just doing fashion and I don't know if it's always right. What is right is to be always positive, send a positive message. For me, it's deeper, the idea of the brand... something behind the image.
Is it 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 by that. Every season was a new start for me. But when I was 19 years old, the world was open and kind to me. What was really hard is 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.
Can you say that Rei Kawakubo has influenced your work as a designer?
I always say, that I was a student that came to Comme des Garcons - I think it was a great school. But it's not just about the clothes, it's sort of like the attitude - really believing what you are and to be free.
Lastly, what advices can 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.
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