When Simon Porte Jacquemus agrees to get together for a bite, three weeks have passed since his fall runway show and 10 remain until the winner of the inaugural LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers is revealed. His line, Jacquemus (his mother’s maiden name) is among the dozen finalists that stand a chance at winning 300,000 euros plus a year of mentorship from industry experts. For a two-year-old label that made its mark with amorphous yet elegant street wear, this kind of recognition is a big deal. That it’s stocked by hipster enclaves like Opening Ceremony and Dover Street Market—along with Vancouver’s Secret Location and Toronto’s Jonathan + Olivia—further confirms that the Jacquemus brand has that elusive je ne sais quoi.
He suggests the sun-filled Scandinavian-style eatery inside The Broken Arm, a two-floor concept shop that looks over Paris’s trendy Haut Marais neighbourhood. His studio is nearby, so there’s the convenience factor. But The Broken Arm is also where we can browse a rack showcasing his latest collection. We meet at 2 p.m. per his request, so I anticipate a languid lunch. But when he arrives—clad in white, including a pair of squeaky-clean Stan Smiths—the 24-year-old flashes a flirty smile and informs me that he’s already eaten steak frites elsewhere. When he orders a kiwi-apple juice and a thick slice of chocolate-flecked banana bread, I follow suit.
Click through to view the Jacquemus Spring 2014 collection
We are surrounded by tousled-chic ingenues who fit squarely into the label’s profile. Like the designer himself, they eschew any obvious logos, so whether they spend a lot on fashion or very little is moot. “It has always been my strategy to have accessible pricing,” he explains, noting that at 19, he was motivated far more by the idea of starting his own label (one that people his age can actually afford) than by going to school. When I ask how he’s feeling about the LVMH Prize, he freely admits he’s excited … with a shrug. (Like the clothing in his line, with its rounded shapes and solid colours, the designer expresses a particular minimalist enthusiasm.)
Despite Porte Jacquemus’ quite obvious design restraint, his line is far from boring. “Simple is jeans and a T-shirt,” he insists. “I do ultra-simple so it’s strong.” He applies a similar extremist logic to his hemlines; many of his boxy tunics could be mistaken for elongated tops. “It’s not short. It’s super short!” he says, with gusto. “But it is never vulgar. It’s like when you’re a little girl and you wear a super-short thing but you don’t think about your sexuality.” Banana bread nearly finished—he took his time—he pops into the boutique to grab one of the visors he recently created for French cap label Larose. He returns with one bearing his spring collection’s signature slogan: “J’aime la vie.” So is it true, is he an optimiste? “Yes,” he answers, as the afternoon sun radiates off his face. “Très, très.”