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At Jacquemus, Mother Knows Best

In a collection dedicated to the designer's late mother, there was a nonchalance and even a rawness inspired by her fierce joie de vivre.
By
  • Tim Blanks
BoF PROFESSIONAL

PARIS, France — Designers have often claimed the style of the women in their immediate family as a source of inspiration, but there's surely never been a mum whose memory generated as much steam heat on the catwalk as Simon Porte Jacquemus's. Valerie was instrumental in everything about his life and career (he took her name for his business) and, even though she passed away nearly ten years ago at the untimely age of 42, he says her beauty was such that they still talk of her in the village in the South of France where he was born. He called his new collection "La Bombe" in tribute to the lasting impact Valerie had on people. If the clothes he offered were any indication, it's easy to see why she stopped traffic in a small town. Once upon a time, when she showed up at his high school in one of her looks, he'd be mortified. Embarrassment easily turned to inspiration once he found his calling.

For Jacquemus, everything about "La Bombe" was his mother: the headbands, the short skirts, the dresses twisted, draped, slashed to reveal the body, the wooden beading that decorated one look, even the earrings, inspired by door handles and curtain pulls in her house. If the shamelessly erotic charge of the clothes might initially seem a little outré to protestant sensibilities less accustomed to such blatant displays of filial affection, it was shorthand here for her fierce joie de vivre. Jacquemus has built a substantial business by making accessibly priced clothes with an edge he himself calls "naïve," i.e. fine fabric, and expensive craft would simply get in the way.

There was a nonchalance, even a rawness to the collection, almost like things you'd imagine his mother might create – or have made - for herself, achieving dramatic effects with simple means (wrapping a fringed shawl around her waist, for instance). The designer said he was also thinking about the casual sensuality of the girls of the French Caribbean, but all the wrapping, tying and ruching made me think for a moment of Emanuel Ungaro, another boy from the south who defined sexy dressing for his time. But that was another century, and Jacquemus's love letter to his mother was undoubtedly of a here and now that was much more free and easy.

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