Isabel Marant

A conversation with Isabel

photography by Tung Walsh
interview by Felicity Carter

  

SAY ISABEL MARANT, THINK PARISIAN COOL. HAVING FOUNDED HER LABEL IN ‘94, SHE INSTANTLY BECAME RENOWNED FOR HER ROMANTIC, BOHÈME, SLIGHTLY ANDROGYNOUS DESIGNS. WE MET ISABEL IN HER STUDIO IN PARIS TO TALK ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF THE BRAND AND HER CREATIVE VISION.

Much like the discreet, unassuming nature of her clothing, Marant herself has always been very down to earth, with a low-key approach to the industry. One year after establishing her house in Paris’ Marais district, she debuted her Spring Summer 1995 collection. In true Marant style she held the show in what she describes as a “debris-strewn courtyard of a squat,” calling upon her friends to model. From there, she opened her  first store in ‘98 in a former artist’s studio on Rue de Charonne in the Bastille district. A year later she introduced her diffusion line, Étoile by Isabel Marant during Paris Fashion Week. The connotations of laid back, long limbed, understated beauties has given the house cult status for over two decades, and it’s still going strong.
FC Do you have any fond memories of the time?
IM I remember back then, we used to go out a lot and we had so much fun. It was time without worries. Nowadays I feel that you have to  fight constantly, you have to  fight for everything, anything.
FC Who inspired you? Did you have any favorite creatives at that time?
IM I was really fond of all the minimalist designers, like Martin Margiela.
FC What was Paris like then?
IM In the late 80s, early 90s there were so many different music genres and movements. From Punk to New Wave Reggae and Rap, I remember there would be different crowds of people, and everyone would mix and have fun. There was so much energy and people also played much more with fashion; it was a real melting pot of cultures. As we got more into the 90s it became a lot more minimalist.
FC What is the role of Paris in your creative process?
IM Paris definitely taught me about the different cultures and how to take inspiration from each one. I am open to all kinds of movements, and the energy that brings; I’m curious about everything that surrounds me and that feeds my creative process.
FC The internet was not so accessible back then, what is your relationship with social media now?
IM I  find that it is full of fakeness and I hate all of that. It doesn’t affect me too much and people can do whatever they want, I am not judging, but I am not that interested in social media. I think it shows a certain weakness, and to me shows that the world doesn’t know where to go. More and more people are putting their energy into it and I think that it’s really sad. People are misunderstanding where real happiness is – to be recognized, known or famous isn’t real happiness. I think it was really great that Martin Margiela never had his photo taken, he never showed his face. If I could have done that, I would have been so happy because I don’t really like to be recognized in the street. I am selling my creations, it is not about my face.
FC Is it difficult to switch off, or are you eager to start the next collection?
IM Honestly, I think the tempo and timing we have in fashion is designed to push everyone to the limit. Plus, we now have Pre-Collections, which we never had before, adding more pressure. You need time to create and each piece deserves an amount of it, and it is difficult to do that now. Fashion feels like a race, it’s high intensity and it never seems to stop.
FC Your father was a photographer, is passion for photography something you have inherited?
IM My parents were very discreet about their jobs when I was growing up, and I never really realized that my mother was a model and my father was a photographer. I had always been surrounded by pictures, videos and he had a very precise aesthetic.
FC How much are you involved in the Inez and Vinoodh campaign’s creative process? Do you have a favouite campaign of yours?
IM I am very involved with all of our campaigns along with my art director, and of course we have worked with Inez and Vinoodh for a long time now. As for my favourite campaign, I always prefer the latest one!
FC Do you have any favourite emerging creatives – designers, models? What do you look for in your models?
IM I like what Vetements are doing. There seems to be a group of designers now in Paris that are doing some really interesting work. There are so many new models all the time! We had some new faces in my last show. I love to play with their individual characters. For my models I look for a certain confidence and attitude. It’s about when I see the girl in the room, and I will know that she just has something.
FC What is your thought about new generation?
IM I am amazed to see how much more realistic young people are now. They are very down to earth, more so than 10 years ago. I really believe we have a new generation that is aware and concerned, much more concerned than we ever were at their age.