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At Jacquemus, an Ode to Princess Diana

Simon Porte Jacquemus staged his latest show at the Palace of Versailles as part of a brand elevation push. Fittingly for the designer, the collection was inspired not by Marie Antoinette but a people’s princess, reports Dan Thawley.
Models walk the runway during "Le Chouchou" Jacquemus' Fashion Show at Chateau de Versailles.
Models walk the runway during "Le Chouchou" Jacquemus' Fashion Show at Chateau de Versailles. (Getty Images)

CHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLES — “You can’t just rent Versailles, you start a relationship,” said Simon Porte Jacquemus, who today joined the rarified club of fashion designers to have presented a collection on the grounds of the historically charged French palace. Entitled “Le Chouchou,” the outing was the result of a year-long negotiation to achieve Jacquemus’ dream scenario: guests watched a parade of autumn looks from a flotilla of cream and white row boats straight out of a painterly masterpiece.

The effect was bucolic, a far cry from the be-wigged Trianon coquetry that Karl Lagerfeld, Jacquemus’ favourite designer, effected when he paraded Chanel’s Cruise 2012 collection around the nearby fountains. With King Louis XIV’s gilded chateau a mere detail in the background (and not even visible in the Jacquemus’ runway imagery), today’s show was a very different take on Versailles: seen through the lens of a youthful outsider, the collection was an ode not to the chateau’s most infamous inhabitant, Marie “Let Them Eat Cake” Antoinette, but to a people’s princess from across the channel, the late Diana.

As the designer explained after the show, “chouchou” has multiple meanings. It can signify a favourite pet or student, translate as “darling,” or denote the humble hair scrunchie. He had the latter on his mind when building a collection teeming with references to Diana’s wardrobe choices, from taffeta puffball cocktail dresses to pearl chokers and her white lace wedding dress.

Throw in a nod to Jacques Demy’s 1970 absurdist interpretation of the 17th-century fairytale “Peau d’Ane,” replete with Catherine Deneuve in a giant leg-o-mutton sleeve, and you can begin to decrypt the layered references that led to this collection of predominantly eveningwear.

From padded lace knickerbockers and pannier skirts to ruched peplums on men and women alike — so far, so scrunchie — Simon’s approach was to strip back the heavy period references to their underpinnings before mingling them with barely-there tops and touches of formal tailoring, signatures of the label’s recent push towards more elevated occasionwear.

The backless blazer the designer wore to this year’s Met Gala celebrating Karl Lagerfeld appeared with a vermillion peplum over black suit trousers, an effect the designer attempted with various degrees of exaggeration, at times appearing as parachute-like boxer shorts mushrooming from trousers below.

Bubble volumes continued in more extreme silhouettes too, from a shapely trio of portrait collar coats to a strapless sphere of floral silver sequins that risked stealing the thunder from a finale of sweeping confections in tulle bleu, blanc et rouge. In the graphic polka dots and stripes that furthered the collection’s 80s attitude, there were whiffs of Emanuel Ungaro and Yves Saint Laurent — designers who both made history at the palace at the famed Battle of Versailles fashion show in 1973.

Back then, the new American vanguard was pitted against the French establishment. Today, Simon Porte Jacquemus’ only real adversary is the boundlessness of his imagination. Where might the designer’s Diana be wearing her Jacquemus finery if not dancing the night away in Versailles?

Further Reading

For the first-time, the industry’s hottest independent designer—a charismatic, social-media savvy storyteller from the south of France—reveals the financial underpinnings of his burgeoning company and plans for the next phase of growth.


As raffia fell from the ceiling, Simon Porte Jacquemus’ Monday show offered a fresh glimpse into the buzzy French label that’s harnessed a charismatic founder, clear brand identity and business model tailored to social media to generate €200 million in revenue this year.



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