After a show in Hawai’i with mostly local guests, Simon Porte Jacquemus landed in the salt mountains of the Camargue park in the South of France for his beautiful autumn-winter 2022 collection. The guestlist in France was far longer than the one for his Pacific trip, with trainfuls of international buyers, press, stylists, and models arriving through the Avignon station hours before the show. After car rides and bus rides they arrived at the otherworldly location at dusk, the Rhone and the sea crashing into the harsh terrain. Several remarked that it looked like being on the moon: clear water, icy salt, lilac sky. Between the mountains of salt, Jacquemus had carved out a runway that wound down a hillside. His models descended from the top of the mount, their trains whipping in the wind, their tulle veils blowing up into clouds, looking like chic extras in Dune. Once the looks were on eye-level the reality became clearer. Working with a brute hand and humble-yet-lovely materials, Jacquemus was repositioning his brand and his look away from the Pop vibes of recent years and towards something more finessed. “I started working on the collection with the obsession to restart from nothing, like a white page,” he said. The first two things he filled his page with were ideas of comfort and couture; “every couture,” he elaborated, talking about fusing the security of a blanket or pillow with the easy drama of a pleated ball skirt or cocoon jacket. His impending nuptials, set to take place in the South in two months, also influenced the scene: the show began with two models hugging and dancing. At 61 looks, that white page of ideas filled up quickly. Shearling coats, puffer vests, and cargo pants are what Jacquemus does best for men, and here he had loosened up the shapes for a more serene spirit, adding his new Humara sneaker in collaboration with Nike. For women, his simplest ideas are best, like a white tulle midi dress with a piece of burlap-colored canvas tied around its front for a pure, maidenly look. Jacquemus’s body-baring pieces are a good counter to the Lycra cling-couture of other Parisian houses: the diaphanous white dress Mica Arganaraz wore is unimpeachably pretty. Luxe ball skirts over trousers and a little white tulle explosion coming out the side of a black tuxedo dress added a little swoosh to the Jacquemus strut. In many ways, the collection was a harkening back to where Jacquemus started. His crafty couture of the mid-2010s defined that moment’s irreverent, bourgeois arty look – think of his polka dots of autumn 2017 or his prairie girls of the previous spring, clothes that were cute, cheeky, and surprisingly elegant. Jacquemus’s new take relies a lot on drama, but of volumes and precarious straps and cinching that may not translate as easily into a real life away from the Space Age salt mountains. It won’t deter him. “I want to be the name of my generation,” he said post-show, implying that whatever big fashion jobs might be available, he is not in the running. “I want to work for Jacquemus – and Jacquemus is a big house.” He stopped playing by the fashion system’s rules, but the fashion industry still wants him.
Jacquemus‘ spring-summer 2022 fashion show, presented on a cobalt catwalk cut across the sand of the Moli’i Gardens’s beach on the northern side of Oahu, was a beautiful outing that celebrated Hawaiian culture, community and nature. One said that the rainstorm, which postponed Jacquemus’s Hawaiian debut by about an hour and a half, could be interpreted as a blessing. When the rain cleared and the show started, an actual Hawaiian blessing was performed, giving thanks to the land, people, and history of this place. The sun faded into the Pacific; the waves lapped the shore. It was peaceful and without a cell phone in sight. Then came the fashion. Linen sets the color of sand opened the show, exploding into Hockney blue, shocking pink, and inky black swimwear by the end. Simon Porte Jacquemus’ proportions are intentionally abnormal – one part ruched, another cutaway. For spring 2022, he played with the shapes of scuba gear, cutting and winding unitards and bodysuits into tailoring. Some of the best dresses and trousers unfolded around one hip like a sarong, sexy and uncomplicated in their appeal. Backless blazers furthered the idea, though Jacquemus’s cargo trousers and board shorts might have a longer shelf life. Elsewhere, he played with short-over-long styling, garments worn in an illogical order for optimal optical appeal. He also introduced a new beadwork collaboration with the artist Tanya Lyons designed to look like water droplets.
The decision to take his runway show on the long road from France to Hawaii was a big step for Jacquemus and his brand. For some fashion followers, the choice to hold a destination show in a place connected with colonialism and tourism was a misstep – easily, the event could go “White Lotus“. But to many of the local guests in the audience, seeing a European designer arrive islandside was affirming. Along Waikiki’s main drag, luxury stores abound, and yet none of those designers have ever held a show on the island or maybe even set foot here. With the help of Hawaiian-born-and-raised stylist Ben Perreira and creative director Taylor Okata, Jacquemus worked to create a show that honored the local community. Only a handful of Jacquemus’s European staff traveled to the island, and only guests from the Pacific region and mainland United States were invited. Every model was local to the region, and for most, it was their first runway. The entire production crew was local. “Working in fashion, nothing has felt as fulfilling as this,” said Perreira preshow. “It’s time to speak about something else,” said Jacquemus of his choice to present his collection outside France. “I think the Jacquemus woman is not French – she is a sunny person. That’s what the brand is about: sharing, sun, love, and family.” The Jacquemus woman and man is also ironic, using a scuba snorkel as a handbag handle or wearing a leather floatie as an accessory. What’s next for the designer? “This is my last Pop collection,” he said. “Next season I am coming back to something super womanly, a new part of the Jacquemus identity.” It will be exciting to see where Jacquemus and his community of friends and collaborators go next.
We haven’t seen a Jacquemus collection since last summer. Just like some other brands, Simon Porte Jacquemus decided to ditch the traditional fashion calendar even further, getting closer to the “see-now-buy-now” model. His autumn-winter 2021 collection is already available on the label’s e-shop. Another change? The designer seems to leave behind his favourite sun-drenched, South of France theme, and takes a slightly more serious, utilitarian path this season. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still undeniably Jacquemus. Just a bit more streamlined and approachable. “The smell was like fresh grass. There were sounds like little birds when you went in. I wanted to make it like a green and blue bubble—nature but unreal. Like you go in, and you find yourself somewhere else.” The IRL show was called “La Montagne”, a title which set up the anticipation that it might have literally taken a crowd to the French Alpes-Maritimes, or another outdoor spectacular such as the epic lavender-field Provençal runway show he organized in 2019. But, no. Porte Jacquemus exclaimed: “That’s exactly why I didn’t want to do a mundane location or anything. I think a lot of people are doing crazy shows outside and I didn’t want to do the race of the most crazy spots of the planet. Because I wanted to focus on the clothes and on the design, and not repeat myself, into like a perfect formula.” In other words: Porte Jacquemus is still young enough to want to be a contrarian, to be the person who never gets caught into a trend or a stereotype. There was a lot of lockdown time with his team to think about how that would shape up. Giantly and tinily was the answer, a surreally playful over-and-under proportioning of garments. “The collection started really with the frustration of corona,” he said. “We had the option, you know, to repeat ourselves, to do a perfect jacket and a nice linen dress and stuff. That’s nice, it’s beautiful, but we were super-frustrated, so we wanted to explore more.” Notionally, the Montagne of his title might resonate with everyone who’s been on that vertiginous, lonely hike through isolation from friends all this time. In practice, it wasn’t at all about athleisure. “Because I know Patagonia does much better hiking clothes than us,” he said, laughing. “Because we’re a small brand doing fashion, and we wanted to mix that with, like French couture elements. So it was between that, and the naive, happy Jacquemus of before.” It was shot in profile, video-wise, mini and maxi pieces in the same outfit, randomly framing lots of skin. Cropped puffers and abbreviated tailored jackets over bras strung together with widely placed clips – abs on show, triangular slices of inner knee on show, all popping with shots of fuchsia, orange, red. Cool, not overly demanding, easy – sometimes you just need that.
After weeks of digital presentations, Jacquemus‘ spring-summer 2021 IRL show was a truly heart-warming sight. An audience of 100 guests – mainly French press, house friends and family of Simon Porte Jacquemus – were ferried to a gently rolling wheat field near Us in the French Vexin Regional National Park, about an hour outside Paris. After hundreds of Instagram posts, you surely know what the venue looked like. It was a visual dream, a bit like a more sober sister of last year’s lavender field fantasy. Before the lockdown hit France, the designer had been in touch with the dancer Alexander Ekman. Needless to say, everything changed at that point, but the reference remained. During a pre-show interview, Jacquemus said he wanted his collection to talk of love and celebration, “like a simple country wedding or a harvest festival.” Ultimately, he named the collection “L’Amour,” a declaration of love for his team and updated it with Provençal references such as hand-made ceramics, grandmother’s tablecloth and berry picking (actual strawberries were inside Aaron Altaras’ basket-bag). The collection itself was quintessentially Jacquemus: a variety of dresses that channel the Southern French girl, made in all sizes; for boys, Picasso-meet-Miro motifs and cut-out hearts on over-sized tailoring. A toned, sun-washed palette of clay and ecru looked summer-perfect, although I must admit I love Jacquemus most when he’s induldging in bolder colours. As usual, accessories are the sure best-sellers: fun earrings (a bar of Marseille soap!), leather accessories like a harness for a single plate, or the new Chiquito Noeud, a variation on the house bestseller. Last year, Simon dialed down to two shows per year, and this decision was definitely a good one. It’s not only a sustainable step, but it also lets the designer execute his vision to the fullest. And a live show is a live show, after all. “For me, the runway can’t be a video. It’s at the heart of what we do; it’s not superficial. It’s important to all of us to continue, just like a restaurant that reopens. It’s like a movie of a summer day. It’s our life.” That’s an inspiring dose of optimism for the uncertain times.
Jacquemus‘ spring-summer 2020 collection was a dream. Remember that vibrant pink runway going through field of purple lavender, under the gorgeously bright blue Provençal sky? Of course you do. “I wanted something sophisticated but at the same time as light as a cocktail in summer,” Simon Porte Jacquemus said back then. The above look – a pistacchio-green blazer, candy-pink ribbed top, white linen culottes and straw hat – says it all: spring is here. Yes, it’s a pity we can’t fully enjoy it under current circumstances. Still, open the window wide open, see the flowers bloom, hear the birds singing! Trying to stay positive.