Fearless Women: Isabel Marant, The Anti-Designer

If you were to ask Isabel Marant who’s her muse, what inspires her, she’d answer effortlessly: herself. It would be a mistake to consider her arrogant, “a typical French”. The truth is Isabel doesn’t design anything SHE wouldn’t wear.

That’s one of the reasons her brand was an immediate success among clients but not an instant hit with fashion journalists. She wasn’t designing something to revolutionize the fashion world, wasn’t interested in shock value. Lots of her presentations took place without a journalist’s face in the crowd. Her friends were enough; they were in love with her ethnic-inspired clothes, masculine but boho in the same time. And, as it happens, they had friends of their own interested in comfortable but refined pieces.

Once she got on the Japanese market, things took a turn for the better: “I asked them to pay me before delivery, as soon as the order was confirmed, which allowed me to invest into the buying of the fabrics, etc.”

Andreea Diaconu Isabel Marant

Romanian model Andreea Diaconu, posing for Isabel Marant

Marant is exactly the kind of woman you don’t dare to dream of – free of peer pressure, intelligent, successful, driven that has, somehow, managed to avoid the usual compromises designers have to make. For example, she hates the idea of having to deliver two extra mid-season collections per year, no matter what: “I feel like a machine to vomit garments”.

Yep, that’s Marant – extremely visual in her fearless statements. She doesn’t mince words: “I always think, “OK, again another collection. Why new clothes, when we have so many, I know we don’t need it. What is going to be the difference?”

How can you not love her? She isn’t afraid of an uncomfortable question other designers’ can’t bear say out loud. The same question, I might add, that many people who find fashion useless always think about. Thankfully though, for me and other millions who love her creations, she always found an answer to it.

It’s always rejection, love and hate [when it comes to designing]. Then I [go through] a psychological healing. From that, the excitation comes again

Marant is a force from the way she talks, to the way she lives and the way she looks. She’s 49-years-old, has a 12-year-old kid, doesn’t care much about make-up and has a partner who happens to be also an accessory designer,  Jérôme Dreyfuss. They’re not married, yet they share a love of 18 years.

Isabel Marant F/W 2014-2015

Isabel Marant F/W 2014-2015

Isabel Marant never was your typical beauty. As a child, it was frustrating seeing her mother’s grace, former top model, and her brother’s fine features. It wasn’t easy to build up her self-esteem, especially since her parents stopped loving eachother when she was six. After their divorce, Isabel really understood she had to fight for herself: “At 9, 10 years old, I knew what I wanted to wear”.

Can you imagine little Isabel? Cutting fluid dresses from her father’s silk paisley robes, accessorizing them with his over-sized checked slippers. Dad’s cashmere sweaters were a treasure in itself, although too big for her skinny body.

Isabel Marant F/W 2015-2016

Isabel Marant F/W 2015-2016

This steel determination was going to be her superpower later on. She went at it alone, refusing to work as a designer’s apprentice beforehand: “I had a very precise idea of what I wanted to do and I was totally determined to do it myself and not work for somebody else”. Much later she finally dared to ask Vogue France editor-in-chief Emanuelle Alt to style her shows. That was a crucial turning point in her career. While the clothes didn’t change, Alt’s idea to pair them with suede thigh-high boots changed people’s perspective on her clothing line. Suddenly, it had a sexy, glam vibe about it.

This kind of woman, her type of woman was Isabel interested in promoting on the catwalk. This is also her only regret – the fact that the 40-year-old woman isn’t so visible as she’d want: “Sometimes we give an image of life that will never exist, using models who are 15 and pretending they are 35 or 40, and when you are 35 or 40 you want to look like this when you will never be able to. So there’s a bit of a disconnect.” I can’t – most of the girls [the model agencies send] are 15 years old. I try to use girls who have personality. When they walk in a room, I’ll think: ‘Ah! There’s something to this girl.’ It’s more a way of moving or being that means something to me.”

I think we have too many things. It’s just killing everyone.

Involved in all her company’s decisions, riding the wave of success… you’d think Marant was stressed out of her mind. But all of that changes when she “hides” from the whole world, at her cabin in the woods, with her son and partner. No electricity, no warm water: ‘You know when you have all that pressure, pressure, pressure and sometimes I’m crying because I cannot achieve things, but when I’m in my cabin in the forest I say, “Finally I’m so happy.”

photo credit: Karim Sadil, fashionisers.com

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