Isabel Marant

15 Jan

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Born in Paris, Marant designs her clothes so that they look great but don’t get in the way of everyday life. As a child she was a tomboy and aspiring vet who hated wearing skirts and dresses.

Her father was French and her mother a German model. They traveled a lot during her childhood to places such as Africa, Asia, India and the Caribbean which later influenced her work.

In her teens she rejected the traditional girly style of the other girls in her suburban Paris neighborhood in favour of a more simple look. She asked her father for a sewing machine and began to rework old clothing into her trademark bohemian style. Speaking about fashion she says ”I did not even know what it was!”

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She had planned to study economics but abandoned that to study design at the Studio Berçot fashion school after successfuly selling clothes in a small Parisian shop with a friend.

After this she went on to apprentice with Parisian designer Michel Klein. She then collaborated on collections with Bridget Yorke for Yorke and Cole. She also assisted art director Marc Ascoli on projects for Yohji Yamamoto, Martine Sitbon, and Chloé.

She designed and made jewelry for a time after this. She launched a collection of oversized jewelry in 1989 and a knitwear label in 1990 called ‘Twen’ with her mother.

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When she felt independent enough she established her own label and set up a studio. She aimed to design and sell clothes that she herself would buy, ”clothes for girls, working women, who have taste  and are willing to spend a little money on their looks without breaking the bank.”

In the past decade Isabel Marant has gone from cult Parisian designer to international commercial big hitter. She draws inspiration from many things, her 2013 summer collection was inspired by ”Elvis and Hawaii”. She says that she is her own muse. She always tries on her clothing during the design process instead of viewing it on a model, “It’s really me . . . most of the time I have to try things on myself to feel if it’s right or not. I cannot see it on a model because a model, she’s just perfect.”

Many celebrities are fans of her work including Alexa Chung, Victoria Beckham, Katie Holmes, Sienna Miller, Diane Kruger and Rachel Weisz to name a few.

In 2012 Marant launched a wedge sneaker that instantly becomes a best seller, with numerous imitations both designer and high street.

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Marant wanted her Spring/Summer14 to be ”tough, but also romantic.”  It’s a mash up of tough and soft: beautiful broiderie anglaise tops in soft pinks and whites paired with skinny leather trousers with lace-though seams. There are cut-off denim shorts and jeans with frayed criss-cross detailing running the leg, and cotton sundresses in fresh white, their skirts a layer-cake of ruffles. There’s a note of Victoriana, too, in the the puffed shoulders of sexy little black blouses and flower prints.

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A few days before the S/S14 show, Marant’s collection for H&M was unveiled early, owing to that most auspicious of reveals: a web leak. ‘My collections are copied a lot,’ she shrugged, ‘so I wanted to say to everyone, you can have some Marant.’

You only need to take one look at today’s ultra-fresh, ultra-wearable ready-to-wear to understand where the demand stems from.

Today her headquarters lie opposite the Banque de France, in what she calls ”authentic” Paris. Her clothes are sold internationally and she has shops in Paris, Spain, the UK, Lebanon, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Soho in New York and Melrose Place in Los Angeles.

Although she works ferociously during the week, every weekend for the past six years she and her partner, the accessories designer Jérôme Dreyfuss, and their nine-year-old son, Tal, have escaped to a cabin in a forest outside Paris with no electricity and no hot water. She and Dreyfuss have been together for 16 years. They remain unmarried as they are both too ”busy” but will someday get married when they are both retired.

Isabel Marant photographed in her Paris studio by Rannjan Joawn for the Observer.

Who knows what is next for the designer who apparently can do no wrong when it comes to fashion. Popular fashion icon Alexa Chung once said ”I buy everything Isabel Marant ever looked at.” Which says a lot coming from someone as savvy as Ms Chung.

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