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Art of Style

The designer interview: Isabel Marant

Designer Isabel Marant wears her own label. Model: Jacket, briefs, sandals and choker Isabel Marant

She’s the French designer with the seemingly magic formula for cool-girl insouciance. But, as she tells EMMA SELLS, making women feel comfortable is the real secret to her success

Photography Hasse NielsenStyling Marian Nachmia
Dress and sandals Isabel Marant
Sweater, briefs and sandals Isabel Marant
Catwalk call-outs
From left: SS11; FW11; SS14; SS16; FW16; SS17
Garments must have a real purpose, and it’s really important for me to dress people for every day. I’m not creating clothes for special occasions
Dress and sandals Isabel Marant
When I feel like s***, I buy a pair of red shoes that I will never wear, and I’m very happy. Then I don’t need a therapist

Marant is a workaholic, often working late into the night at her studio with jazz or hip-hop on full blast. But she’s pretty good at switching off, too. She doesn’t do emails, so once the office is out of sight, it’s out of mind. She’s married to bag designer Jérôme Dreyfuss, but they never discuss work, often discovering they’ve had the same ideas once their collections are finished. And, despite repeated requests, they have no plans to collaborate. “I think we will never work together,” says Marant, “I think we would kill each other; we both have too strong personalities.” They and their son, Tai, leave the city each weekend and head for their cabin in the woods. It’s beautiful but very much off-grid, which lends some much-needed balance to her busy existence. “I need to put my hand in the mud, it clears your head,” she says. “Even doing the dishes is therapy for me.”

She tries to make her clothes as “human” as possible, combining a love of craft, embroidery and print with a desire to make them feel modern. And, while she has little patience with most of the labels that shout about their sustainable credentials (“It’s marketing and bulls**t”), she’s mindful of the factories she works with and the people piecing her clothes together. Ultimately, she sees the industry as a force for good. “I don’t like the way that fashion pushes people to consume, but I’m very pleased about the joy that you can give to people through clothes,” she says. “For example, when I feel like a piece of s**t, I could go to a psychologist, but I prefer to go to Le Bon Marché and buy a pair of red shoes that I will never wear, and I’m very happy. Then I don’t need the therapist.”

Tank, shorts, sandals and earrings Isabel Marant

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