A Human Perspective

By Roxanne Robinson

At the start of a new decade of age and time, Simon Porte Jacquemus reveals how looking back is really about looking ahead.


It seems as if a line is being drawn in the sand between fashion’s new guard and the old guard. When it comes to designers, Simon Porte Jacquemus, 30, of Jacquemus is of the former and has throngs of young fans eager to catch a glimpse of the action as witnessed outside the Paris La Defense Arena on Saturday night. He debuted both his men’s and women’s Fall collections. It’s important to note it wasn’t his pre-fall women’s collection which is common for a co-ed show this time of year. 

What could have been just an exercise in nostalgia was revealed to be more in a post-show interview with Jacquemus. The designer said he and his team contemplated the need for fashion in today’s political and social climate and what really made more sense. “It was the first time of my career I thought about a collection as my last one,” he said explaining it was about building a ‘vestiaire’ or collection to have forever. “My first piece in fashion was a linen skirt I made for my mother at 7 (which was 1997) so I decided to ask Laetitia (Casta) to return to the runway with this classic linen style that was minimal and pure.” The designer who lost his mother, beauty and fashion plate twelve years ago, may also have been channeling her through the 41-year-old French actress and model whose supermodel career was on fire in ‘97.

Of course, he didn’t really think it was his last collection. “It’s important to say you have doubts and be sincere, at least to the people listening. I think everyone has doubts about their job and I feel free to say there are things you can do besides fashion; you can be so many other things in this life.” 

One thing he didn’t doubt was his stance on showing a linen-based collection for the fall delivery further addressing the retail cycle that has been under examination for going on fifteen years now. “Winter is delivered in June so maybe the rest is too wintry? There are no real seasons anymore and the buyers aren’t buying the same way as they did 50 years ago in that sense,” adding “I love summer obviously and do off-season dresses; What I show is what I sell. I don’t do a fashion exercise; I don’t do art. I sell clothes and for a good price.”

Perhaps though the most profound statement was the combined collections together not as a one-off move but rather a fresh look at what sustainability means. His sales cycles also referenced 1997 as he plans to show only two collections a year and help guide those buyers and customers to return to those former cycles.

The move sincerely speaks to human sustainability as an important concept to consider. “This collection is also my reaction to the conversation around ecology and sustainability which I think is really marketing and wrong,” adding “You respect your team and customers when you only work on two collections. It makes more sense like in our grandparent’s time to have only winter and summer wardrobes.” His statement addressed the burnout of the ‘rhythm’ of endless deliveries that is taking its toll on the players of this industry, many who have departed roles even without back-up due to the relentless pace. ”It’s important to put people back into the sustainability conversation.”

He cited an example, a fabric factory they work with is not doing “green” fabrics. “We are not going to stop working with this company after ten years together. Humans have to be first and finding the right balance is key.” He posed this issue to his team. “We don’t need 100 fabrics to show a collection; we can use fifteen fabrics. Use the time gained by working with less to think about how we can really change things.”

The venue was also an about-face to the Instagram gold that a lot of his location shows have been for the designer. Past the outdoor gate crush, guests entered a black hole quite literally with the sole light source being a single spotlight that shone in what looked like a boxing center ring. 

“I’m not going to do a big show in front of a river for instance as I will try to focus on what I want to say about the clothes.” Thus the clean palette concept was by design. The show began as a sporting or entertainment event with an announcer as the spotlight dimmed to dark and then a flash of bright light lit up the runway comprised of a massive white carpet square. 

The arena also played to the accessibility factor the designer aims to achieve. “Growing up my idea of fashion came from tv and it was Jean-Paul Gaultier who I was watching. He taught me you could be cool, accessible and in fashion,” adding “When I say something in my work, my grandmother and my neighbor understand it. It’s really important to speak to the audience and not just to the fashion public.”

After Casta opened the show in a classic 90s midriff-baring look, Bella Hadid exited in a fitted slip dress with a peek-a-boo bra – a silhouette popularized by Dolce & Gabbana at the height of their career in the 90s – both made from the show’s biggest visual message, beige linen. Jacquemus continued to express popular silhouettes of the time but fused with his own skill of redefining staples like the man’s shirt. For example, on a woman’s look, a man’s shirt was tightly fitted in the front but ‘blouson’ down the back. There were bralettes-a-plenty, high-waisted pencil skirts; boxy big shoulder blazers, fitted midriff cardi’s, thigh-hi boots worn with short-shorts and baby dolls and halter mini-dresses throughout. If the latter sounds more like the 60s don’t forget the 90s had a moment of looking back to the Mods. Square-toe sandals and boxy bags prevailed for accessories.

The men had you thinking Will Smith a la The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or even Big Willie Style. There were a lot of loose vests and cropped puffers, the only nod to winter. A double-breasted suit with baggy pants shown in one of the rare black or navy looks on a model wearing a beanie channeled 90s bad boy Mickey Rourke. Cargo and skater-inspired pants reigned being shown with flys open to reveal a tapered boxer short underneath. “My brother was a skater and I remember always seeing his underwear, thinking it was so ugly.” 

Lest he got stuck in the past, the designer added one crucial accessory to back up his own environmental convictions. A chic leather holster to hold a metal water bottle hung around the necks of male models, definitely out of step with the 90s. The only time people carried those at that time were heading on a camping trip.