Question: Would you rather log on to your computer to watch a fashion show, or sit in the middle of a gorgeous wheat field before sunset, the sky alive with clouds, the wind rustling the hair of Mica Argañaraz, a vision in a long white slipdress with a dramatic flounce?
Simon Porte Jacquemus made a compelling case for the live runway on Thursday night as 55 models negotiated a long, winding path through the grain in his spring 2021 collection, soothing in its pale colors and natural textures, and seductive in its show of flesh, fabric peeling away in the breeze.
The designer is certainly in the league of Hedi Slimane as a masterful imagemaker, plying a sunny, pastoral French lifestyle with a deft hand on social media. The man does wonders with hand shadows, fruits and vegetables, table settings, adorable little handbags — you name it.
He was in his element on that sloping land in the Vexin region, about an hour outside of Paris. In an interview before the show, the wind whipping images off his moodboard plunked in the prairie, Jacquemus said there was no question in his mind that he would ever abandon physical shows. His was the first in France since Paris Fashion Week last March.
“It’s not negotiable,” he said, dressed head-to-toe in tawny workwear. “It’s at the heart of the strategy for a house like mine.…It’s a special moment, an emotion you transmit.”
The designer’s obsessions — Provencal interiors, rustic ceramics, arty furniture, outdoor dining and breathtaking skies — are compelling at the best of times. After coronavirus lockdown, seeing them come to life on the runway was like a little slice of heaven. Maisie Williams, Jeanne Damas and Isabelle Adjani, almost unrecognizable in her bucket hat and face mask, were among the 100 happy few to have a little space notched out in the crop for their individual chair. Who said social distancing can’t be poetic?
Some of the bare dresses, in want of seaming, fit awkwardly. But overall the collection exuded charm and subtle heat: the women’s looks hinged on linen slipdresses, pencil skirts, high-waisted pants and bra-like tops; the men’s on printed shirts and loose tailoring in crisp, summery fabrics. Jacquemus said he was mindful to make the looks coherent with his fall effort, knowing that it would be delivered late and likely linger on shelves longer than usual.
The designer called his collection L’Amour, and it certainly felt like a labor of love, as well as a superb merchandising feat. Instead of bombastic accessories, like the giant straw hats and bags that were catnip on Instagram, he further miniaturized his hit Chiquito handbag — now a stud earring — and used real blocks of Marseille soap, stamped with his logo, in lieu of beads on necklaces and bracelets. Can you say pre-order?
Rest assured, he will win the social media sweepstakes with this transporting outdoor spectacle, which may have bested his lavender-field show one year ago. He’s teasing it out on his Instagram feed, starting with aerial views of the models on that sinuous path. The last thing guests at the live event saw was Jacquemus, a tiny speck on the horizon, waving at the crowd. Let’s hope the applause reached his ears.