For fashion enthusiasts, the French Riviera is not what first springs to mind when the name Jacquemus is mentioned. Simplistic design? Yes. Instagram aesthetic oozing from every seam? Of course. Oversized and miniature accessories? Absolutely. But the Provençal designer is famous for being inspired by his upbringing, the languid farm hills and lavender fields of Aix-en-Provence. Roughly 125 miles too far from the Cote d’Azur.
Yet with his Spring Summer 19 show in September 2018, it was Simon Porte Jacquemus’ obsession with the Riviera which took centre stage. In the gardens of the Italian embassy in Paris’ 7th arrondissement, he launched a series of accessories that would catapult him onto the global platform.
“It’s a rather simple collection, I wanted to talk about a childhood obsession with the Riviera, with Monaco, Nice, also Portofino. It’s this woman that, we don’t know if she’s going to the beach, if she’s going out, if she’s going to a party. There’s something very nonchalant and very sophisticated at the same time that I have been obsessed with all my life…”
These were his words when asked by Elle from where he had conjured the inspiration for the collection. It is a vision undoubtedly reflected in each garment, with dresses, shorts, and handbags created to flit between a beach setting and a Riviera nightclub.
On the catwalk
The Riviera style is instrumental to what made this collection begin the Jacquemus-fever which has since struck the fashion world. In these stylish yet simple looks, there is an accessibility that is often lacking in other high fashion brands. Rather than wondering “where on earth would I wear this?”, Jacquemus transported you to the exact place you should be wearing it. After all, this is a show which made the French newspaper Le Figaro go as far as to say it was reminiscent of Princess Caroline of Monaco in the 1980s.
The straw bag and evening gown combination is the epitome of this collection. For Jacquemus personally, it is the epitome of the Riviera woman. Amongst the 41 outfits, the straw bag appeared in various sizes and colours – whether coupled with a formal gown, a flirty plunging-neckline-and-shorts outfit, or a versatile day-to-night dress, it succeeded each time in taking us to the Riviera.
It seems fitting that swimwear was featured for the first time in this particular Jacquemus collection. Miniscule bikinis and asymmetric swimsuits sashayed down the catwalk as you would see on La Croisette or Monte-Carlo’s exclusive beach clubs. Although not revolutionary themselves, their wearability trumped what any kind of swimwear innovation could have tried (and most likely failed) to offer. After all, what’s wrong with the classic bikini? Jacquemus thinks nothing – just make it tiny, of course.
This was his third collaboration with The Woolmark Company. His use of second-skin woollen garments created stunning bodycon silhouettes that left little to the imagination. When coupled with lace-up high-heels and miniature bags, the effortless style of a Riviera woman that Jacquemus emulates shines through flawlessly. It is the juxtaposition between these simplistic dresses and statement accessories that make it so eye-catching, so nonchalant and so Cote d’Azur.
An array of fringe glided down the catwalk, creating longer, more playful shapes, and the extreme tent silhouette appeared multiple times. It wouldn’t be the Riviera without a “carved-out” playsuit or short, where the cut emphasises the cinched-in waist and the length of the neckline and legs (as pictured above in the pink shorts). In terms of colour palette, Jacquemus is synonymous with muted tones, especially since his L’année 97 show which debuted in early February this year. However, in La Riviera collection the use of bolder fuschia pink and royal blue stood out amidst his classic white, olive, and beige.
The roaring commercial success of Jacquemus
This particular collection is attributed to what launched Jacquemus into being a well-known name amongst those who are engaged in style but not necessarily followers of high fashion. There is no doubt Jacquemus was well-known before La Riviera, but, with this collection, it became an intrinsic influence on high street brands. Rather than being catwalk-exclusive brand with few reaches into mainstream consumption.
It is no small feat to be an A-list favourite while still popularly influencing high street brands at the same time. We have all seen the disdain of Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada when she reels off the famous monologue about how trends “trickle downs” from the catwalk to the high street to the clearance store. Yet while fast fashion brands recreate the coveted looks, Jacquemus is still able to sell entire collections worth of clothes to the likes of Beyoncé and Rhianna. It seems he is proving Amanda Priestley wrong.
A trailblazer in Instabrands
It is worth asking how this collection launched such a frenzy around the brand as a whole. The response is so obvious it’s a wonder others aren’t following suit: Instagram. It is easy to get lost spending hours scrolling through Jacquemus’ photos, all so simple yet so beautifully shot that they make you wish you saw the world through his eyes. What does Jacquemus see that we don’t? How can two feet standing on uneven pieces of fruit be so pleasing?
When the Chiquito bag launched in La Riviera collection, swathes of people took to social media, with covetous reactions and criticism in equal measure. And memes. So many memes.
But this is seemingly the winning recipe. Even critics found it hard to admit that the items weren’t painfully stylish, such as the Chiquito which, no matter the size, has proven commercially successful worldwide. Between January 2018 and April 2019, there was a 230% increase in Google searches for Jacquemus. One reported “peak” in searches corresponded to La Riviera show, alongside the unveiling of the straw bag Le Baci and the ever famous Chiquito. It has been recreated by high street brand after high street brand, with stock flying off the shelves faster than fast fashion websites were able to imitate the designs.
The Financial Times reported the brand had a turnover of $10 million for the year 2018. According to Stylight Insights, the bulk of this comes from clothing sales, which represent 90% of its profits. Just 10% comes from the sale of accessories, but as these items have become becoming increasingly emblematic of Jacquemus, this is likely to grow.
Although some higher-end fashion brands may turn their noses up at the use of Instagram to promote what is meant to be exclusive, the success of Jacquemus’ online presence cannot be denied. It is hard to see how this recipe of accessible style, internet fame, and exclusive customer-base could fail.
Back to Monaco
Whereas the SS20 Le Coup de Soleil collection was the show to launch Jacquemus into the stratosphere, the fuschia catwalk shared by millions across social media, La Riviera influence laid an important foundation. The setting of the Soleil show was truly inspired. However, it was La Rivera’s clothing and accessories which created the initial evident buzz. Amongst the aestheticism, it can at times be forgotten by the average consumer that it is not just an Instagram account. It is a clothing brand first.
With La Riviera, Jacquemus had a very clear image in mind. He revealed this almost intimate image to Folkr: “[The idea is] a bit of a cliché, she’s going to the casino by the sea, she dances and drinks cocktails. All my life I’ve fantasized about Italy, the French Riviera, the Cote d’Azur. All my life I’ve imagined this woman in an evening gown and a straw bag. So beautiful. So simple, too, that she was unattainable. I’d like you to meet her.”
With this show, there is little doubt we were all able to do so.