For a designer with such an enduring and recognizable style, it’s surprising to discover that Isabel Marant grew up among three vastly different fashion influences. She credits her Caribbean stepmother, whom she describes as being like “one of the black women on the YSL runway in the ’80s,” for giving her a sense of chic; her Kenzo-wearing German mother for imparting a “taste for ethnic things”; and her French nanny for passing on a sense of “really deep French style.” And yet, all these distinct references seem to synthesize perfectly in the 47-year-old Paris-based designer’s womenswear line. Her spring 2015 collection, for example, looks to African traditional dress interpreted through the imaginary lenses of modern artists. But no matter how far-flung her influences, Marant never deviates from her well-established design codes. The clothes are unfailingly sexy and sophisticated, even a bit bohemian or tomboyish at times, and utterly sans fuss.
Remaining true to the brand’s DNA comes easily enough (it is her own company, after all), but it’s also something Marant attributes to being a woman. “With my clothes, it’s really something that only a woman can have a feeling for,” she says. “The texture, the proportion, the way you live in your garment. I think it’s very difficult for a man to get this sensibility.” To wit, she employs an all-female design team to carry out her vision. She’s also fiercely set on maintaining a measured, consistent approach to growing her 21-year-old label, something that doesn’t always agree with the current pace of the industry. The increased number of collections and rate of demand is frustrating to many designers, but few are as candid as Marant. “I really feel like we don’t need all these garments,” she says with a sigh. “We just need the right things, and the right things need time to be achieved.”
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