in 'marseille je t'aime,' jacquemus takes the spotlight off parisian fashion

As he curates two exhibitions at the OpenMyMed 2017 Festival in Marseille, we meet the charming, enchanting Simon Porte Jacquemus.

by Sophie Abriat
Apr 7 2017, 1:25pm

Simon Porte Jacquemus is no longer the promising new kid of French fashion, he is now much more than that. His label is now 17 collections in, over seven years. The designer has made huge strides between his first collection, L'Hiver froid, and his latest, L'Amour d'un Gitan. With sales approaching €5 million in 2016, and a dream stockists list including Broken Arm, Selfridges, Nordstrom, Net-a-porter, Dover Street Market, and more — Jacquemus sells well. The September 2016 issue of the Business of Fashion ran with the headline, "Jacquemus: Bigger Than You Think." It's a true success story for this child of Provence. 

Simon was only 20 when he designed his first collection. He was registered for the first time as part of the official Paris Fashion Week schedule in 2012, and was awarded a special prize by the LVMH Prize jury three years later. This May, the 27-year-old designer will be guest of honor at the OpenMyMed Festival, created by the MMMM (Maison Méditerranéenne des Métiers de la Mode). There Simon will present a double exhibition titled Marseille I Love You: Maisons and Archives at the MAC (Museum of Contemporary Art Marseille) — from May 12, 2017 to January 14, 2018 — and Images at the MuCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée) — from May 13 to July 31. On May 13, Jacquemus will run a show especially for Marseille, featuring his spring/ summer 17 collection Les Santons de Provence in the Place d'Armes of the Fort Saint-Jean. 

"My grandfather will come to the show," is the first thing Simon told us. "My family and part of my village will be there, I am very excited. If any of my collections were meant to be shown in Marseille, it had to be Les Santons de Provence, in Marcel Pagnol's homeland. It's like a dream." The designer spent his early years in Mallemort, a little village at the foot of the Luberon mountain range, halfway between Marseille and Avignon. "I grew up inland, 40 minutes away from Marseille. As a teenager, I would take three different buses to get to Marseille." says Simon. "I fell in love with the city and I always felt good here, I can't explain it. I often come back to spend a few days in a remote hut in the Calanques." 

Jacquemus and Marseille have a long-term affair. "I like the idea of sticking my label's name on Marseille and the South of France. The idea behind the project is showing that France is beautiful, beautiful everywhere. Not only in Paris, although we don't intend to create a conflict between cities. Paris gave me everything." His love for Marseille is even proclaimed in the bio of his Instagram account: "I like blue and white colors, stripes, sun, fruit, circles, life, poetry, Marseille, and the 80s." 

Simon left his homeland when he was 18, and headed to Paris. Two years later, the wheels of his success were already in motion. His third collection titled l'Usine — made from boiled wool and featuring cropped tops and sophisticated skirts — seduced Rei Kawakubo. In the meantime, the designer had met Adrian Joffe and worked for two years as a sales assistant for Comme des Garçons. Jacquemus's designs were introduced into the Dover Street Market store two seasons later. All his poetically named collections tell a story. Le Chenil, the spring/ summer 12 collection, showed Caroline de Maigret in a long red dress and rubber boots covered in mud, surrounded by dogs. In La Piscine, fall/winter 13, Clara 3000 walked the runway with flip-flops and black knee-high socks.

The designer is a big fan of Marie Laforêt and Isabelle Adjani, French actresses and singers big in the 60s. If you watch the latter dancing with Alain Souchon on a hot summer's day in the film One Deadly Summer — with her asymmetric dress, beads of sweat hidden beneath her black fringe — you can see that woman has a Jacquemus sensibility flowing in her veins. It just so happens that the actress attended the label's show last February; a very poetic collection with a runway like a long pink ribbon, in which the models walked slowly dressed in long fitted black coats and delicate white or spotted tops, to a Gypsy-inflected soundtrack. "I initially wanted to make a Parisian collection, but the South caught up with me. I built this collection around the figure of the Gypsy, with references to Picasso." 

The designer's roots and his love for his family are hugely important to him. "They surround me, we share very deep connections. I talk with my grandmother on the phone almost every evening. What I really love is spending time with my little cousins, playing with the donkeys. It is the lifestyle I like. I love my homeland, simple things that are not boring, far away from the hustle and bustle." It's a way to preserve his innocence and, "not to lie to myself." 

For the MAC, Simon has created new works inspired by the city of Marseille, by the museum, and his own collections. As part of the Maisons project he created his first sculptures, playing with the structure of the circle and the square, his signature. The Archives presentation is a photographic experience devised by Simon and made by photographer David Luraschi; it plunges the viewer into the human sculptures of artist Willi Dorner, whose performance piece Bodies in Urban Spaces, was the source of inspiration for this work. For the MuCEM, in the chapel of the Fort Saint-Jean, Simon created a more intimate installation, staging his personal images and inspirations in a patchwork of videos, about a hundred, placed on a 32-foot-long wall. 

"You will find videos from my phone, of flowers, shoes, my cousin, a moment in life... so that the public enters my phone." Simon also decided to make a book about Marseille, surrounding himself with friends, photographers, painters, and contemporary artists. "Everybody isn't able to come to Marseille, I wanted something more accessible, I wanted to share Marseille well beyond borders." The book includes photographs, still lives, portraits, paintings, collages, exclusive images made by twenty other artists — including the photographers Pierre-Ange Carlotti and David Luraschi, as well as the contemporary artist Ruth van Beek. "This is not a book about fashion, it goes beyond that. I already made a book in 2013 about 'la Grande Motte', but it think this one is more accomplished. We have more resources now. I would like to publish one book a year, I think it is a nice way to communicate."

'Maisons and Archives' is on view from May 12, 2017 at the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Marseille (MAC). 'Images' is on view from May 13, 2017 at the MuCEM


Text Sophie Abriat
Photo David Luraschi 

Simon Porte Jacquemus
openmymed 2017