Simon Porte Jacquemus has this wonderful knack of making you feel warm inside. Perhaps it’s his own introspective Francophilia – the South of France his eternal muse – or maybe it’s just because he doesn’t take himself (and fashion) too seriously, but each year, he makes us feel alive.
Opening Paris Fashion Week (a fashionable foothold he has now assumed for three years), Jacquemus once again presented this ineffable exuberance through a collection which, despite its wintery inclinations, was eternally sunny. Capturing this kind of perpetual sunniness is his strength – one honed through sartorial adolescence – and today it culminated on the outskirts of Paris in a capacious space he converted into a bustling Southern square. Guests – draped in mini coin purses and holding tiny Chiquitos – arrived at “Place Jacquemus”, a kind of surrealist, bucolic French wonderland.
There were persimmons ripe for the picking. Bright blue market crates stacked high. Provincial shutters and antique urns. Potted lemons, floppy tulips and tomato-red geraniums. Sunflower yellow, taffy pink and pale blue washed walls. A white linen tablecloth hung out to dry with two wooden pegs, just like his grand-mère would have done (the strong female influence on him since the passing of his mother). A simple ceramic plaque read: “Place Jacquemus” with a single painterly daffodil.
It was the kind of colourful, charming vista you’d imagine when stepping afoot in a little town in the South of France. It’s also the kind of vista you’d like your Instagram feed to feature, an idea intrinsic to the Jacquemus brand. In the past, Simon Porte Jacquemus has said he designs with a screen in mind; how a tiny dress, for example, will look on an iPhone, or how his oversized straw hat will fare on an Android device. Today’s show is evocative of this, with not only Instagram-able fashion, but the accompanying production also proving so socially viable you can’t but help share it. He is a master at creating a story; a spectacle, a dream; so much so, it prompted one formidable Frenchman front row to draw a most favourable comparison: “the new Karl Lagerfeld.”
He playfully – and purposefully – subverts the sobriety of fashion; making fun of size, silhouette and function. To see the impracticality of such is to miss the point entirely; it is his statement on the frivolity of fashion to be taken lightly, not literally. Take for example, fashion’s love affair with macro and mini handbags (of which he was arguably the modern pioneer with Le Chiquito). The former came draped over model shoulders with utilitarian straps and equally big pockets, so great models battled their size and lofty shape. But it was this season’s micro bag which is sure to whet – and perhaps perplex – the appetite of any eager fashionista. Almost a spoof of its former small-self – the new and improved Chiquito was so tiny it would only just fit the backing of one of his oversized hoop earrings – possibly two. The earrings, too, were inward-looking; they featured the 1stdibs.com textiles of his own abode and images of himself and his late mother in delicate plexiglass frames. Even the taboo action of holding your heels – forever a symbol of fashionable defeat – was rendered chic in a kind of beautiful parody, as a model sauntered down the runway, cornflower pumps in hand.
“I didn’t want people expecting from me only the sensuality, I have so many more things to say,” he said backstage, perhaps a subtle reply to last year’s maligned summer collection. This year was his triumphant return. Bold block colour, functional tailoring, militant flourishes, playful accessories – it was exactly what we want to wear when we visit the South, or anywhere, for that matter. Despite its sunny palette (even neon coloured the collection) it remained anchored in winter texture and silhouette. The whimsical, irregular footwear of seasons past replaced with sturdier soles; pillowy pointed-heels, chunky clogs – even rubbery rain boots (perfect for splashing about in muddy puddles). There were fuzzy sweaters and long slacks, button-downs and butter leather, coats and cargo pants.
As Karl Lagerfeld’s death casts a dark shadow over Paris Fashion Week, this is exactly the kind of sartorial optimism we need right about now. Clothes, shoes and bags to cheer you up, but above all else, make you feel alive.