By Ivan Yaskey
When a designer spends a good portion of a decade or longer on womenswear, a switch over to menswear may mean one of two things. First, that the new men’s collection serves as a masculine extension of the original line, tweaked to suit the fashion-leaning but still practical buyer. Or, it takes also-ran status – like Michael Kors treated its men’s line for a while.
With these two paths in mind, seeing the debut of Simon Porte Jacquemus’ menswear line came with some degree of anticipation. When displaying his Fall/Winter 2018 women’s line in Paris, Jacquemus first revealed the news – at the time to dispel rumors he was headed off to Versace or Celine.
For those unfamiliar with Jacquemus’ eponymous brand, the former LVMH prize winner started it back in 2010, when he was just 19 years old. Those nearly 10 years saw the designer take a personal approach – silhouettes are based on what his mother used to wear in their French seaside town – and develop a signature, of sorts – lots of cool blues and sunny yellows.
During Jacquemus’ SS19 presentation at Calanque De Sormiou, a fairly isolated beach adjacent to stony cliffs in Marseille, this latter point came through. However, beyond the overlapping color scheme, the designer emphasized its independence: Rather than be an extension, much like Stella McCartney and Isabel Marant have done over the past few years, he’s doing something different. Specifically, based on an interview given in advance with WWD, that’s simplicity.
The presentation’s theme – “Le Gadjo,” a term meaning “gypsy” but used colloquially as a synonym for “guy” or “boy” – set the literal stage for four characters to appear on the runway: the athletically inclined guy, with his tracksuits, hoodies, and penchant for soccer; the swimmer, in his Speedo, who’s spent a day at the beach and is now relaxing in the cooler weather with a sweater; the outdoorsman, staying practical with cargos and a neck pouch; and, per the designer’s own description, the “bad-taste guy,” the type of person trying too hard with his printed, sometimes open shirts and ill-fitting pants.
The setting, both for the actual presentation and the collection’s concept, is Marseille and the culture that centers around living in a coastal city throughout the year. Much of the attitude is laidback yet sophisticated, and there’s always an underlying element of hanging out along the shores, no matter if the tourists are there or you’re walking along the rocky coast by yourself.
Within this framework, Jacquemus pushes transitional dressing to the limits. Typically, this category’s the place for light jackets and knits, jeans and tees, and layering, yet trench coats and chunky knits alongside Speedo-shaped swim trunks bring together both ends of the spectrum. It’s as if, on a warmer Mediterranean fall day, the collection’s figurative guy opted to jump in the waters, but brought a heavier jacket, just in case the weather suddenly turned cold.
So, establishing the extremes, much of the presentation settled somewhere in the middle. Models walking along the sands sported slouchy sweaters, in solid shades or color-blocked combinations. Both long-sleeve and sleeveless V-neck pieces could easily be layered over a tee or collared shirt when the temperatures drop, or, as the collection indicated, they’re perfectly fine on their own, in a “dressing solely for the sake of warmth” type of way.
For a seasonal complement, the collection progressed through a handful of long-sleeve button-downs. Here, it was clear that the tonal, geometric color-blocked prints, sunflowers, and silk fabrics fit within the vision of bad taste, but for the man with a smidgen of style sensibilities, they’re a natural pair for solid-color, rolled-up chinos.
Yet, as a contrast to this, the collection’s other half tended toward casual wear meant for those endless summer months, of days walking by or swimming in the waves, and then venturing through Marseille’s narrow, cobblestone streets later. Think of the Jersey Shore attire – from the actual location, rather than the reality TV show – dressed down and muted. What you end up with is chambray fabrics, athletic-inspired pieces, muscle shirts, knee-length shorts, pleated, cropped pants, and short suits, just in case you have to dress up, with some sun hats and beach bags thrown in for emphasis. And, while Jacquemus lolled around mostly in lighter, neutral hues, his signature came out at points, with bright, solid primary colors reminiscent of a buoy bobbing up and down among the grayish-blue waves.
Beyond just the visuals, construction followed through with similar fall-for-summer designs. Specifically, Jacquemus collaborated with The Woolmark Company on 27 pieces, utilizing merino wool – a material typically associated with moisture-wicking hiking socks and cold-weather sweaters – against expectations. Although it appeared in sweaters and jackets, Jacquemus further opted to add the breathable knit material to T-shirts and shorts.