Embody: Jacquemus

The French fashion star and his dearest model, shot by Ari Versluis.  

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Kathia Nseke wears Jacquemus A/W16

Graphic, bright, endearing, French—we doubt you need any other words to call Jacquemus to mind. The lauded label, founded by LVMH Prize winner Simon Porte Jacquemus some seven years ago, has the worldwide fashion radar ringing season after season. As much a realist as a dreamer, the Frenchman behind the house regularly has the web swooning over his IG account, where selfies of the white-clad friendly giant alternate with popping bursts of carefully arranged colour.

The designer is his work; the picture perfect epitome of grown-up innocence. “I love waking up early,” he tells Glamcult and photographer Ari Versluis in Paris. “I’m not a night person; I don’t like focusing on issues like drugs or sex. I love the sun, parents, nature, family… the things I like are little.”

A careful look at Jacquemus’s social feed sees him celebrating all kinds of women; from his grandmother and his best friend Marion to superstars including Rihanna, naturally garbed in his eponymous label. Yet it is a young, inexperienced model from the banlieue whom the designer takes to the set of Embody when we ask him to be photographed with someone who epitomizes his practice.

Her name is Kathia Nseke; Simon met her “in the easiest possible way”, while casting for his spring/summer 2016 presentation. “The moment I saw her, I completely fell in love,” he reminisces. “She had this sort of innocence and naivety in her eyes, and didn’t know anything about fashion. I said: ‘You’re going to open the show!’” Then adding, with a smile: “She thought a Jacquemus coat would maybe cost €100!”

Negativity has no place in the Jacquemus universe. “What else can I say about this?” he thinks aloud when we ask him to elaborate. “It’s about believing we can do something. Yeah, to really believe.” Growing up in the south of France, Jacquemus was always barefoot, surrounded by what he dubs a “peasant” environment. Think: sunflowers, soil, solitude, horses and donkeys—elements that still mark his work today. Don’t call it utopian, however. “It’s not,” the designer states adamantly. “I just think that colour can make you smile. Ah, that sounds like a bad line…”

Jacquemus’s vision is a (consciously) naive one, with Nseke perfectly portraying that search for sincerity. “I see my fashion as filmography. When I design I imagine a scene, a full story. I see light, I see music, I see it all together. I don’t just do clothes, that’d be boring. Well, I love making clothes, but I don’t wake up for making a skirt.”

Presented on and for adults, the work of Jacquemus is an ever-maturing take on refusing to grow up. “When I design, I always imagine a woman child,” the designer discloses in his thick-but-charming French accent. “It’s never someone chic.” And although “woman child” could here easily be replaced with the ordinary or actual translation of le fille, it is exactly that which describes Nseke and any Jacquemus collection best. Thinking about what’s next, it is the most innocent of desires that forms Jacquemus’s future. “I always think: Wherever I will be, I will be happy. That might sound so simple, but it’s hard. It’s not an easy dream.”

Photography: Ari Versluis

Words by Leendert Sonnevelt

Kathia Nseke wears Jacquemus A/W16

Embody is an ongoing collaborative project by photographer Ari Versluis and Glamcult, exploring the relationship between influential contemporary fashion designers and those who influence their work.

www.jacquemus.com

www.ariversluis.com

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