If getting a ‘new job’ is reason to celebrate, Simon Porte Jacquemus is definitely the master of ceremonies. Far from the fancy and opulent shows one can picture, L’Homme Jacquemus was presented in a very soft and cheerful scenario where laughs, nature, family, friends, music, colors and good vibes are the best words to describe the moment. We caught up with the designer in Marseille in order to learn first-hand a little more of the unique and special universe behind Jacquemus.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 15th issue of ODDA Magazine.
First things first. Congratulations on your #NewJob. What does a menswear collection mean for Simon right now?
You know, I started Jacquemus focusing on women because I wanted to speak about my mother, when I lost her… and so on. I couldn’t do a men’s line to be honest. So, when I fell in love, I found the right time to embark on this adventure. The man by my side gave me the energy to do all of this, to tell a story about men, and to get involved in this new project. That is why I started creating a ‘new job.’
June 2018, Marseille, Calanque de Sormiou, a vivid collection and an after party at the beach that recreated the perfect holiday time with paella and guitars playing live music with solo voices… What’s the story you wanted to tell the world with all this?
I didn’t want to only bring a fashion show, but to also show it all through my ‘perfect location’ and share my vibes: swimming in Calanque, looking at hot boys on the beach, a different character inspired by the south of France… the idea of having a paella and an aperitivo afterwards was nothing planned (well, it actually was for the hundred people we were as a whole), but I wanted to keep it more informal, to let it flow. Spanish guitars, gipsy voices from Calanque were an invitation to spend a holiday time with me. Nothing fancy, we were just in an actual paradise and not in a fake one.
I am Spanish and I could really see a resemblance between traditions. Having fun at the beach, enjoying the atmosphere and quality time with friends and family while eating and drinking. That’s heaven. For me it was like being in Spain actually, maybe because we are so close. Tell me, is this way of celebrating also common in Southern France?
Well, it depends. It could have been a paella, couscous, maybe a barbecue… It could have been anything. The idea was to make it familiar and recreate my way of celebrating with my relatives. The plan was to be us all reunited, and I love paella.
Le Gadjo is a reality and a new era not only for Jacquemus in particular, but for the fashion industry as a whole. What do you expect from this release?
I wish, I don’t know! I hope it is a new ‘kind of boy,’ a new version of a Mediterranean man who maybe is just born. Who knows!
Mediterranean vibes, shining sun, a colorful and vivid palette that made outfits come to life and whose colors merged with the nature surrounding the venue. We felt like getting ready to go on a cruise. Color blocks for some outfits and delicate prints (polka dots, sunflowers, lavender…) for some others. Please, describe for us the Jacquemus man.
Yes, it does have to do with all of this. I really love colors and I am inspired by an all-natural, Mediterranean palette, from the flowers to the sea. My collection found strong inspiration in all the different characters you can meet on the beach as well; for example, the ship guy could be someone who tries to be shaped but he is not. Men represented by flowers and wearing a tie, like going to a wedding and pretending to look good, to be like the gipsy guy or the other way round. There’s a strong cliché in all of this with an Italian source as well in this collection.
After the show, I had the chance of reading a few reviews and I really got surprised by the fact that a big portion of the gay audience marked your collection as homophobic not only because of the collection itself, but also of the models cast. What do you think of it and what was your intention? What do you think of the male stereotype in fashion? Do you think we must widen the body shapes in fashion?
I really don’t get the point in all of this to be honest. In my opinion, the actual cliché is to make guys look like girls, since everybody is currently doing that. It seems it is the only alternative possible. I really find ‘homophobic’ the fact of thinking and feeling that the trans guys can only be pictured in that way. I deeply respect trans guys, and I am really fed up to see that we have to make a mental picture of them looking like girls. The idea, with The Gadjo, was to show my inner vision of the man, of the Jacquemus homme. My woman is ‘very woman’ and my man is ‘very man.’
It seems people are just awaiting for your next move to see how they can criticize, in any way. So sad. I am gay, my environment is as well and got feedback from them telling me the show was ‘more gay’ than a lot of shows. What really bothers me is to have to see or to show only one type of boy, why don’t we just be more open-minded? Let’s try to think out of the box and avoid the idea of the one, muscled guy. We should just try to get out of the normed one. It is not about muscles, but about much more, about who is in that body. The opposite would have shown a non-healthy-at-all fashion show. Of course sport means health, and sport is a good thing. Why being skinny is always a bad thing? I don’t understand. It’s good to take care of oneself.
I tried to cast a lot of different kind of guys, with diverse profiles body types from all over the world.
A repetitive accessory we could hunt for man was that pendant pouch… do you want it to become a ‘special’ symbol such as the sun-hats and mini bags are for women?
I love accessories. They are a sort of ‘signature’ for me, indeed. I found it nice to do so with men as well.
At the early age of 19 you founded Jacquemus, whose name pays homage to your mother, your eternal muse. Why designing for a woman firstly? How did the process of getting into the male-tailoring world take place?
I never thought about designing for men. Since I was young, I only wanted to speak about women. I didn’t watch any menswear shows, I was obsessed about the idea of creating only for women. I don’t know, it was kind of spontaneous. When I fell in love, I knew it was the right time and felt to speak about men, and I am creating a great story about them.
Apart from your mother. Who is/are your muse(s)?
I don’t really have muses. It is more the idea of a Mediterranean woman all the time, which drives my direction in every single collection. So does my mother.
Clean patterns, deconstructed pieces, soft and fluid fabrics and a carefully thought out disproportion in accessories [e.g. maxi sun-hats and mini bags] are your signature. I would love you to describe who the Jacquemus woman is. Who does Simon design for?
In every single collection, I try to speak to a wide audience and try to make everyone understand my message, my concept.
So, my aim is to be understood by a lot of people in a special way. It is essential to be understood by the target I want to reach. I don’t know if everyone can buy my clothes, but I want to make them part of my mood, of my world.
I must admit it strikes me that a male designer gets to know in-depth the feminine body and universe and gets a woman feel so sexy, but comfortable at the same time in your clothes. How is this achieved?
My conception of a woman has clearly evolved over time. My current woman is not the same as the one I started thinking of. At the beginning, she was a more playful, naive woman.
I have deepened more and more into the woman’s body and my vision has, somehow, matured over time. It was a big process to understand the feminine shape and make them feel more and more beautiful in the most sophisticated way. It is a process that has been growing up hand in hand with the Jacquemus brand and now it is clearly different.
I read once that your intention at the beginning was not creating minimalist fashion but it was merely a matter of budget. Now, it is a signature. What did you have in mind when thinking of becoming a designer? How would the Jacquemus brand have been instead?
I don’t like the word ‘minimal’, I do prefer to refer to it as ‘no-detailed’. Minimal, to me, refers to a lack of character. I think even that, sometimes, people can understand my brand as somehow minimal in the sense of no detail: the shapes, no prints, clean patterns… but I wouldn’t describe my brand like that at all. I didn’t have a fixed plan, ideas just came all together. It was a very spontaneous process and was what it was. I just let it flow and everything started to work.
With such original designs, it is not a surprise being in the spotlight for the main fast-fashion hunters. What does Simon feel when his designs are ‘a source of inspiration’ for affordable fashion companies?
I love it, indeed [laughs]. I feel so happy. I mean, I am creating something by myself, with my hands and my objects, that will somehow be a ‘source of inspiration’ for others. It will become fast-fashion stuff. It is nice the fact that you will go to a store in the middle of nowhere and see ‘my’ heels. I can reach a lot of people. We are not talking about the same customer profile. Some people can automatically think of my designs and some others can see those designs and find it original without having a clue on where they come from. I don’t really care about that. We don’t really do the same… maybe they go faster than me. I was upset when I started, but now it is so good because I am one of the most-copied designed this season, so it is a good indicator.
Are there remarkable differences/similarities when thinking of a male and female collection?
One thing is clear and obvious: men and women don’t have the same body shape. Designing for women has more to do with the body, everything has to fit and drape on and requires an in-depth understanding of the woman’s shape. Men are more about details. I can’t conceive pieces I couldn’t be able to wear… it was important to me to keep this line. Yes, regarding menswear, I do try everything I design.
Do you conceive the idea of splitting the creative direction of menswear/womenswear by focusing yourself on one of the lines and choosing a partner reflecting the Jacquemus philosophy for taking over the other one?
Not at all. This is how I love to do it. Everything, from accessories to clothing, has to come from me. That’s the way of working. That is why I love being at Jacquemus because everything, from the sets to the shootings, all the process is supervised and carried out by me. If splitting lines was a thing, it would become another brand and wouldn’t be Jacquemus anymore.
Architecture, painting and cinema are the strongest assets when looking at your collections, but… what inspires Simon the most out of these three?
You missed a crucial one… music! I can’t create without music. I listen to music 24/7. It makes me feel like in a movie, it changes my mood completely. Music is very special to me.
A special one, for example, would be Água de Beber – Astrud Gilberto.
I would love to discover Simon through a representative:
Place – I don’t have a specific one, but the South of France could be one of my most-favorite spots.
Picture –Sunflowers, by Van Gogh. Also classic art from Picasso, Matisse…
Film – The Italian film Respiro and, to name another one, Spanish one Jamón, Jamón with Penélope Cruz.
If ‘fashion is poetry’ as you stated once, then… are you a poet? A surrealistic one maybe?
I hope so, yes! I’m telling a story, not only just selling pieces. Everything makes sense.
You are very active in social media, mainly Instagram, where your account clearly reflects your artistic vein and is a mixture of work and personal life. What do social media mean to you?
For me it has always existed. I’ve been using social media since I was eleven or twelve. I always share my vision on life, it is very spontaneous as well. It is not a thing I am trying to build or fake at all.
Our issue theme is titled Looking Forward, an invitation to look ahead. What does the future look like for Simon and for Jacquemus?
Happiness. It is the only thing I pursue. Being happy for what you have. Seizing the opportunity and the moment is essential.
Enjoying the now when possible.