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Why We Can’t Get Enough of Isabel Marant

isabel marant, french fashion, designer

Isabel Marant at her studio in Paris (left) and her spring/summer collection (right)

What woman out there doesn’t love the effortless chic of Isabel Marant? I first started buying her clothes about eight years ago when I would travel to Paris for fashion week. At the time she was only well-known in France and among a few international editors, but I loved the fact that her designs were so wearable but had a certain je ne sais quoi that you couldn’t find elsewhere.

Over the years Marant’s look has evolved from a Boho and ethnic to preppy , while effortless French style has now become synonymous with her name. Season after season she’s created pieces that women want to have in their wardrobes including her high-top trainers, slouchy boots, embroidered shirts and fitted jackets. It’s no wonder that she counts icons like Emmanuelle Alt, Kirsten Dunst and Rachel Bilson as fans.

While the brand was only available at a few select retailers in Hong Kong, I.T has just reopened their first freestanding Isabel Marant boutique in the city on Ice House street, with one soon to follow in Beijing. Marant will be in Hong Kong for the opening on Saturday, but I managed to catch up with her in Paris to chat about her style and why we just can’t get enough of it.

Read on to find out more…

isabel marant, new store, hong kong, asia 

The new boutique in Hong Kong (above)

How did you become a fashion designer?

I actually studied economics but realised I wanted to be a fashion designer. I started with jewellery because I couldn’t afford to launch a clothing collection but I always made my own garments on the side. Step by step I started to manufacture pieces for my friends, and then eventually a few stores. I had my first show in 1994 and the look was similar to my first designs. It was about creating everyday pieces that you can wear easily but that have a certain attitude and behaviour. For me it’s important to do something that gives you a certain chic but with ease.

What is the starting point for each of your collections?

I never start with a theme – I think its too schoolish. I am more into an attitude and what I want to have. I always ask myself what we need in our wardrobes when we have so much already? From there the silhouette starts to develop, then fabric and texture. I also like to look at images. For spring/summer 2012 for example, I found a book with images of rodeo girls from the 19thth century. It was very interesting because these women were battling to show they could do as well as men. They resemble the women I like to dress up all the while they wore codes I am familiar including lace and an androgynous silhouette.

Describe your aesthetic?

I always say Isabel Marant is about mixing different ideas together so its difficult to describe – its putting a feminine top with something masculine or wearing a jean silhouette which isn’t made from denim.  I always try to work on items women don’t think about but that we love to wear. For me the relationship towards clothes is also a question of feeling well in your garment – if you are confident and secure you feel better.

How would you say the brand has evolved over the past 20 years?

Simply, my label is growing up with me. When I was younger I didn’t have the same expectation from a design as today. Today its more refined, balanced. When you are young you can wear anything. I am getting more grownup and I know my job better and better.

I am always very surprised by the range of ages I can add to my customers. It ranges from young girls to their mothers, and many of them live around the world. Women everywhere are looking for the same kind of look.

What would you say was the turning point in your career?

Definitely when we started collaborating with Vogue editor Emmanuelle Alt, who happens to be my art director’s wife. We knew each other for many years  and share the same point of view about fashion. It was interesting to work with her because she really showed me how to put my clothes together and develop a look for the fashion show.  I designed garments and she injected the attitude. I learnt a lot from her.

What is the secret to your success?

I’m very special in the industry – although I am a prêt a porter designer, it’s important for me to create something that you should wear and be able to wear all the time. I’ve got a lot of admiration for experimental designers but that’s not what I do. Why do clothes no one is willing to wear? For me I have a basic approach, I create what I wear. Most of my designs are made for me and women around me. I have 60 girls in my office!  

Fit is one of the key points. I know when a woman tries on clothes she wants to know how she looks, whether it flatters her or makes her look stronger. Its important that clothes brings you pleasure and confidence.

What is your biggest challenge as a designer?

You have to put yourself on the table each season and create something new. I love the challenge although it’s also frustrating because now things are going faster and faster. I don’t have the time to achieve things I want to do. Sometimes I am angry with fashion – it’s like a clinic, I don’t like that.

How would you like to be remembered?

For dressing and defining a certain generation of women like Coco Chanel or Sonia Rykiel did. That would be amazing.

Isabel and I (above)

Isabel Marant is at 10 Ice House Street, Central, Hong Kong, tel: +852 25379523.

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