How Jacquemus Became Instagram’s Favorite Designer
As he celebrates his label’s 10th anniversary, Simon Porte Jacquemus brings high fashion to the South of France—and vice versa.
Simon Porte Jacquemus has a simple and savvy approach as a fashion designer: Will his clothes look good on social media? So far, it has served him well. It was, for instance, the reason he created La Bomba, a straw hat so massive it could shade a small village, for his spring 2018 show. “My team said, ‘Simon, no one is going to wear these huge hats, we’ll just make a few.’ We sold hundreds,” he notes. It is also why, for the same show, he shrunk down his Le Chiquito handbag to absurd (and adorable) doll-size proportions—a move that launched a thousand memes, and resulted in yet another success. “If it’s cute on Instagram, it will sell,” he explains. “That’s just the world we live in.”
And so, when it came to staging his 10th-anniversary show this past June, Jacquemus, who in the past has presented his clothes seaside in Marseille and guerrilla-style outside of a Dior show in Paris, chose the most photogenic place he could think of: the lavender fields of Provence. Having grown up not far away, in a small town between Marseille and Avignon, he had long fantasized about staging an event there, and waited patiently for the right time. “I wanted it to be postcard Provence, but pop,” he says of the shocking pink runway that he unfurled over the rolling hills, which brought to mind a Christo and Jeanne-Claude art installation within a van Gogh landscape. Whether experienced in person or viewed on the phone, it was inarguably breathtaking, made all the more so by the sensual, co-ed lineup of girls in sheer knits and vibrant peasant dresses and boys in boldly patterned shirts and board shorts. The looks were inspired, Jacquemus says, by the tourists he had observed as a child in the South of France. “They’d be from L.A. or Tokyo, and totally dressed up in the street markets. You’d say, ‘Oh, it’s too much,’ but at the same time it was very chic.”
Jacquemus was just 19 when he launched his line, following a one-month stint at fashion school. Back then, a lack of funds meant he couldn’t afford a fit model, let alone luxuries like buttons or pockets. Consequently, his clothes were minimal, boxy, and at times puzzlingly conceptual—but they exuded a youthful, sunny charm that proved infectious. A decade later, his collections have become “less naive,” as he puts it, and more elegant and feminine. Yet his obsession with the South of France—its colors and cabana stripes, farmlands and folk culture—has remained steadfast. “I don’t want to reference the Parisian woman,” he says. “I want to speak about the South. I want to say something poetic.”
Perhaps that’s why, earlier this year, he opened Citron, a citrus-themed café complete with wooden tables, terra-cotta pots, and a Mediterranean menu heavy on desserts, at the new Champs-Élysées outpost of Galeries Lafayette. A second spot there, a seafood restaurant called Oursin, is set to open during Paris Fashion Week in late September. Not surprisingly, Jacquemus designed the menu, decor, and uniforms of both joints to look tantalizing on social media. “What I do is storytelling,” he says. “I want to create a lifestyle.” So what does the next decade hold for him? Aside from a family, he’s hoping for a hotel—one made not just for the ’gram but also by it. Says Jacquemus, half-jokingly, “I’m waiting for someone to DM me a proposal.”