This Brand Spotlight came about when my coworker noticed that I couldn’t stop bringing up Jacquemus in almost every meeting or brainstorm. And I’ll admit it, as a fashion obsessed content creator, Jacquemus is always top of mind when I’m daydreaming about my next outfit, trip abroad, design aesthetic, or content idea. The brand has managed to perfect the modern day amalgamation of aesthetics and interests into one distinct POV. AKA there’s just something about Jacquemus.
And the longer I follow the brand, the more I’m learning what that something is. Yes, the brand is known for its dreamy minimalist collections, stunning runway shows, and of course the viral Le Chiquito micro mini bag. But it’s also something else– a certain je ne sais quoi. It’s that rare and sought-after super power of creating things that actually feel fresh, impactful, and genuine in the current world of fast fashion and long standing heritage houses. And it’s driven by the youthful naivety and boundless creative sincerity of founder Simon Porte Jacquemus. Simon’s not just a designer; he’s a storyteller, even saying so himself: “I don’t do clothes, I do stories.” Everything Simon creates – from the collections to the shows to the content – shares a narrative that not only ties back to his personal experiences, but also connects with universal emotions and themes, including family, happiness, and love. It’s because of this intimate, non-filtered connection that the brand remains original, innovative, and most importantly, unapologetically authentic in the current world of fashion, and why I keep coming back for inspiration (and more Le Chiquito purses obviously).
So take this brand spotlight as my own personal love letter to the brand that inspires me to be fearlessly creative. Here is everything you need to know about Jacquemus.
Farm to Paris
Simon Porte Jacquemus grew up in a small town near Marseille, France. His parents were farmers and he spent his early childhood helping his family sell produce to the local markets. Despite living in a culture far away from fashion, it was his small-town in the South of France and its inhabitants that shaped Jacquemus’s design tastes. He loved how the countryside residents dressed in clothes that felt warm and as Simon described “smiley”. But he was particularly inspired by the way his mother dressed, saying “she had a very creative way of dressing, like no one else in the village…she was eccentric, but I loved that.” It was his mother who he designed his first creation for, a skirt made from linen curtains and Converse shoe laces.
However, Simon knew that if he wanted to take a career in fashion seriously, he had to move to the big city. He became obsessed when someone told him “If you can make it in Paris, you can make it anywhere.” And so, Simon set out to make that happen. Simon moved to Paris when he was 18 and briefly attended the ESMOD School of Design. However after a month of leaving, Simon’s mother tragically passed away in a car accident. His mother was his muse, support, and inspiration. After her passing, Simon decided that life could change in a second and he didn’t want to waste any more time waiting for his dreams to happen. He decided to drop out of school and dive full force into starting his own brand, dedicating it to his mother and naming it after her maiden name: Jacquemus.
After dropping out of school, Simon took a job at a local COMME des GARÇONS boutique in Paris to financially support his dream. It was there that he captured the attention of COMME des GARÇONS Founder and Designer Rei Kawakubo and her husband Adrian Joffe. They were impressed with his natural eye for design and helped get his early work in London’s Dover Street Market, ultimately leading to Jacquemus’s big breakout on the fashion scene.
From there, at only the age of 22, Jacquemus was invited to present his collection at Paris Fashion Week in 2012, making him one of the youngest designers to hold a show at a major fashion week. In 2015, Jacquemus won a special LVMH prize, granting him 150,000 euros and a year-long mentorship from the LVMH group. The recognition led to monumental growth in the years to come as Simon fine tuned his craft and creative vision with the support from a prestigious group within the fashion community.
Back in 2017, the worlds of streetwear and luxury just started to blur, with new hype-worthy collaborations reigning supreme. While many fashion houses were now focused on logo-laden sneakers and hoodies, Simon was set on staying true to his brand’s identity and personal story. He put out a jaw-dropping collection titled “LA BOMBA” that was a breath of fresh air among the sea of luxury streetwear dominance. The collection was a sultry, playful take on luxury resortwear that was inspired by pictures of his late mother on the beach of the South of France. The SS18 LA BOMBA runway show was set in the Musée Picasso in Paris, and models walked down the museum halls wearing a variety of neutral-toned colors with occasional pops of vibrant yellow. The whole collection evoked memories of the designer’s childhood and his mother’s style, from the asymmetrical tops and draped dresses to the loose tailoring and earrings inspired by the door handle of his mother’s house. The sun-kissed styles, sensual details, and personal touches of the collection quickly became the brand’s trademark and the Jacquemus aesthetic we now know today.
What set LA BOMBA apart from any other collection during this time was the fact that it was actually accessible for a luxury French brand. Set at reasonable price points, the styles were eccentric, minimalist, and raw with purposeful details that made the styles look like they had a story behind them. The off-the-shoulder thin straps on the draped midi dresses evoked the look of coming back in from a long day at the beach. The bare backs and sheer dresses created a “holiday in the South of France” glow. While the asymmetric cuts and looser silhouettes emphasized an effortless “on-vacation” aura that still defines Jacquemus’s “comfortable elegance”. This unique combination of a strong visual identity paired with price points consistent with contemporary brands is still an integral part of Jacquemus’s continued success and popularity.
“I’m very open. For me it’s not about being strategic; it’s about being spontaneous.” - Simon Porte Jacquemus
It was also during the LA BOMBA era when Jacquemus started to experiment with other art forms. Collaborating with acclaimed fashion film director Gordon von Steiner, they set out to create a film that would introduce the brand and the LA BOMBA collection to a younger, digital audience. Shot in one take, the film gives a minute-and-a-half glimpse into the magical feeling of getting lost in the stories and people of the South of France, with models, dancers, and acrobats moving throughout various scenes of a coastal house all while donned in the designs of LA BOMBA. If you’re already familiar with Jacquemus, I’m sure that hat comes to mind when thinking of the LA BOMBA video. While the hat’s epic size could have flopped (no pun intended), it actually looked sophisticated, whimsical, and forever Jacquemus. This wouldn’t be the last time Jacquemus played with extreme sizing in its collections.
It is actually the LA BOMBA fashion film that made me want to become a fashion film director myself. The creativity in the one shot and the concept of melding together fashion with personal storytelling still inspires me today when I’m thinking of the next video idea. This film really is the epitome of the Jacquemus je ne sais quoi, mixing sincerity with creativity, and of course, fashion.
Micro Idea, Major Success
The LA BOMBA collection brought in a huge wave of praises and attention from critics, reporters, and fashion insiders. However, it was the accessories from the collection that took Jacquemus to mainstream fame. To balance out the gigantic proportions of the hats, Simon paired them with miniature sized bags named Le Chiquito (Spanish word for tiny). The bag’s design was initially met with some doubt from Simon’s peers. As he recalls, “People were like, ‘Simon, it’s never going to sell; you can just put some cards and keys in it.” However, the designer stuck to his gut and knew the bag was “too cute and viral” not to sell. And he was right.
The toy-like size, exaggerated top handle, and boxy shape fused together playful attributes with a timeless structure, making it incredibly attention-grabbing online. The bag took off on social media, with style icons including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian bringing it to cult status. For his Fall 2019 runway show, Jacquemus debuted an even tinier version of the bag, the Mini Le Chiquito, that was about the same size as a binder clip. The micro mini bag led to an entire fashion movement, causing countless memes and other brands jumping on the “only fits spare change” bag trend. Simon envisioned the micro mini bag to be used as more of a piece of jewelry than a functional bag. While the micro mini version may not be that practical, it’s the spontaneity to experiment with new concepts and buzzworthy ideas that proves the creative genius of Jacquemus.
The Le Chiquito is still the most popular and recognizable style in Jacquemus’s catalog, with people going back for new colors, detail updates, and sizes every season. Just take one scroll through StockX and you’ll notice there really is a Le Chiquito bag for everyone. Today, handbags now account for more than 30% of Jacquemus’s revenues.
Spontaneity Over Strategy
While LA BOMBA and the Le Chiquito bag catapulted the brand into global status, it was only just the beginning. The next few collections after LA BOMBA were just as, if not more, impressive and highly regarded. From his first menswear SS19 collection LE GADJO to his over-the-top LE RAPHIA SS23 show, Jacquemus found his footing as a designer, skillfully blending luxury with accessibility and most importantly, fun. “With every collection, I’m finding the right balance between conceptual and spatial and something that’s wearable,” Jacquemus says.
Jacquemus doesn’t take themselves too seriously, but instead knows how to use the power of storytelling to create art that is compelling, authentic, and fun.
French fashion houses are known for being aspirational, only marketing to the high-end traditional buyers. But Jacquemus has proven that fashion can connect to a new wave of customers.
Take for example the Jacquemus social media accounts. Instead of perfectly crafted campaigns and imagery from world renowned photographers, the account feels personal, because, well, it is. Simon runs the account himself, posting things that capture the Jacquemus essence: from shameless selfies to playful pictures of products, sunshine, friends, poetry, and yes, a mix of stunning campaign work as well.
In addition to its social media accounts, Jacquemus also showcases its marketing brilliance through stunning running shows. The shows are usually the most-talked about and anticipated during fashion weeks because they’re designed for social media. From the locations to the content and runway designs, Jacquemus knows how to create a viral moment. The brand celebrated its 10 year anniversary with one of the most stunning, original, and talked-about runway shows the fashion world has ever seen in 2019. Set in the middle of a sprawling lavender field in Valensole, Provence (a short trip from Simon’s hometown), models walked down a long, straight hot pink runway for the SS20 collection titled LE COUP DE SOLEIL. The collection was just as vibrant, comprising both menswear and womenswear and filled with dreamy pastel color palettes, boxy oversized blazers, and lots of prints. From there, his runway shows continued to defy the norms of fashion weeks, set at random times and magical locations. The LE SPLASH SS22 show debuted in Hawaii, with the sand as a runway and the ocean as a backdrop. And we can’t forget the LE RAPHIA SS23 show as models walked through falling pines of raphia set against a minimalist neutral backdrop. While the most recent LE CHOUCHOU Fall 23 show was presented on a bold red runway (the color of the year) outside the stunning Château de Versailles as attendees watched from rowing boats on the water.
Like Simon said, he doesn’t create clothes, he creates stories, and Jacquemus has a special knack at coming up with moments for consumers to feel part of these narratives.
Another key part of Jacquemus’s ability to connect to a modern audience is its specific collaborations with other brands and designers. Jacquemus recently partnered with Nike to create a sneaker that had a personal connection to Simon. The Nike x Jacquemus J Force 1 is inspired by the Air Force 1, but steals elements from the Nike ACG Terra, which Jacquemus founder Simon describes as his “fav shoes ever”. Because of Simon’s affinity for the shoe, it created a genuine sincerity behind the collaboration that made buyers feel part of a unique story. It just goes to show that Jacquemus doesn’t create empty hype. They create things that are meaningful.
So what’s the secret? Simon states it perfectly: “I’m very open. For me it’s not about being strategic; it’s about being spontaneous.” I love how Jacquemus doesn’t take themselves too seriously, but instead knows how to use the power of storytelling to create art that is compelling, authentic, and fun.
If there’s anything you take away from this brand spotlight, I hope it’s that whatever your art form may be, just remember that the magic exists in the passion, not the plans.
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