A close encounter with an iconic Parisienne
She draws parallels between her creative process and being a chef, she thinks it’s best to watch fashion week naked from your sofa, she’s electric, her smile infectious, she’s the leading lady behind her own eponymous label, she is, Isabel Marant.
On the day we meet Isabel, she`s discreetly smoking a cigarette, wearing a grey sweatshirt and white jeans from her own label (inspired, she says later by the very design on the mat lying on her studio floor). Her hair is pulled back into a high top-knot, with absolutely no make-up, having been on a late night out the night before, but still looking totally radiant, her style is so effortless. Her laugh fills the studio and she speaks with such contagious enthusiasm.
What follows is an informal, intimate conversation with Isabel Marant and some accompanying photos captured in her studio near Place des Victoires. I really hope I can share with you and do justice to what was a truly great encounter with an icon of our time. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did meeting with Isabel that day back in May. Grab a coffee or a glass of wine and read on…
As an icon of Parisian chic, what is your idea of Parisian chic?
I’m often asked what is Parisian chic! It’s funny… people think I am representing Parisian chic in a way… like a kind of attitude and what’s the difference between an American girl, an English girl and an Italian girl! You know, in the end I think it’s a lot about attitude! I think French girls pretend not to take care of themselves because they are very natural, they want to give the impression like they just woke up looking like that…And it’s true, I think French girls make a lot of effort pretending they are not making any effort! And you know it’s the same with my fashion; people call it effortless when I do a lot of work to make it look effortless and I think that’s the trick to Parisian chic!
What inspires your collections, and how do you keep inspired?
The inspiration can come from anywhere and anything. I remember I saw a woman putting up her hair and I found the gesture so feminine and so sexy that I wanted just to work on the neckline and the shoulder line so a collection can really start by that. I remember for the last pre collection, I went to see the Poliakoff exhibition and I fell in love with the colour and I really started to work from this exhibition. It can be something lying on the floor (referring to the mat)… It’s what’s around me. It can be a song, a detail in a window… It’s what attracts you at a certain moment. I define myself a lot like a cooker, it’s like you feel for a certain taste and you have ingredients that you start to put together and it’s the way you cook them, so I just take pieces of things that I like and I put it on the board then and I start to create a story out of what I see and I try to understand what it means where it’s going to bring me.
What inspired the forthcoming collection (fall/winter 2014)?
I was feeling for khakis – green, a mix of khakis, khakis, khakis… And again shoulders, I am obsessed by shoulders and legs. So they were the two things there from the beginning and from there I started, I was big into fabrics, military textures but without doing something really too military.
How does your own lifestyle and personal sense of style influence your collections?
It’s very me, I mean, I only design things that I am really feeling for and that I want to wear. When I went to fashion school.. the director of Studio Berçot was Marie Rucki, such a smart and precise and clever person that she really puts me on the rails. I remember that she was correcting our work, everybody was around the table and she was saying, hmm this dress are you happy with it? I said ‘Yes yes, I’m happy’ – you’ve been like working all night long on designing the dress. So she said; ‘tomorrow you will sew it and you will wear it and then you will see if it’s something you want others to wear’. And I think that was the key for me to the way I design. I’m not thinking only about me, if I feel it’s something I won’t wear it’s not a good starting point…if it’s not working for me why should I do it for others?
What’s fashion week like for you?
For me it’s like over painful. I just want to disappear straight away when it’s over. I’m very lucky because my show is always at the beginning of fashion week and most of the time I just escape the day after my show because I must say that I feel very baby bluesy after a show. You put so much energy into a show, you work with a lot of people – models, hair dressers, art director, press people so it’s quite intense and suddenly ‘pfft’ everything is vanishing because everybody runs to another show. And it feels like oh, my god all that for this… for those ten minutes of show and then you just feel empty. I will say, fashion week is like a combat, because it’s a kind of battle for everything; to get into the shows, a battle between people because they all peer at each other like ‘oh what is she wearing’, and I’ve always thought, you’re so much better behind your computer looking at style.com or whatever having a coffee and watching fashion week naked on your sofa!
For the girl looking to achieve that effortless ‘French girl style’, What are the Isabel Marant essentials you cannot live without?
I have so many! All the jeans! I do one each season, I love working on them, either it’s patch or it’s printed, or detailed. I cannot really pick out one but I think I have a whole pile in my cupboards of those I cannot get rid of. There are jackets that I really love and that I wear all the time. I think there is one knitted fur jacket that I was wearing during the whole winter because it is so comfortable and so warm that I cannot get rid of it. Actually I have three of them because one is like a lining, it’s under all my coats, and I’ve got one that I try to keep clean and I have a third one for when the second one will be dead. I think there’s also several shoes that I am not able to get rid of like the boots with the fringes that I did for H&M for example, actually the H&M collection I did was a lot about all the clothes I cannot, I won’t live without.
It’s such a perfect day…describe your ideal Parisian day..
A sunny day in Paris, I will go to a café, buy some magazines and take some time and look at people walking in the street and maybe go to an art gallery… meet a girlfriend and just wander Paris.
Note: This piece is part of a collaboration for ‘a week of chic‘ with Nettement Chic. A warm thanks to all at Isabel Marant Studio, Isabel Marant for taking time out. Kate Davis of Nettement Chic, Isabelle Knight & Francoise Deleu.