Isabel Marant is not one of those designers you see in front of the camera hosting a fashion reality show or spouting crazy things in interviews. In fact, the woman behind the cult label rarely grants interviews at all. It's about Isabel Marant the label, not Isabel Marant the personality, which is kind of refreshing as so much of fashion embraces and creates a cult of personality around designers.
So! It was a special treat for us to get a few minutes with the woman behind the brand that has a such a devoted following of celebs, models, and regular girls (like us).
We caught up with Marant at the opening of her newest Paris store located at 151 avenue Victor Hugo in the 16th arrondissement. That's the neighborhood typically compared to New York's Upper East Side (if you want to play that game--and apparently we do). It's a bit older, richer, family oriented, and posh--not the neighborhood you'd think of right away to house a new store for a perma-hip brand like Isabel Marant.
So why there?
"Originally we wanted to increase the size of the store in St. Germain," Marant conceded. "Then we found out that most of the customers that come over [to the St. Germain store] were coming from the West of Paris. So we said, 'Why not open straight away in the west?' We started to search, and we found one here that I really loved because it reminds me of my grandparents’ picture studio. They had the same [style of] building, and I quite like that it’s a separate building, that it’s not really a shop, it’s like a little house in Paris." It's true, the "store" does feel home-y, warm and inviting with several different floors and modern touches (like dressing rooms that look kind of like icebergs) to contrast with the typically Parisian facade.
This new store marks another step in Marant's international expansion push. She just opened up shop in Tokyo and plans to open in Seoul and LA shortly. "It was important for us to have the same image all over the world and not be dependent on multi-brand shops," Marant told me of the impetus for international expansion. "Very often I was not very happy with the kind of image I could have abroad so we thought it was important to have key shops in key cities."
But what we really wanted to know about was how, time and time again, she's able to create those "it" items. I mean...those wedge sneakers are everywhere (and have been knocked off by just about everyone).
Fashionista: You have a knack for creating these items that people go crazy for, like the wedge sneakers. Did you even see that coming? The original ones go for over a thousand dollars on eBay now. Isabel Marant: That’s crazy! I knew when I did them that they would be a hit, but to this point, no.
How did you come up with them? It’s something I did since I was a teenager. I would cut up cork and put pieces of cork into my sneakers because I wanted to look taller. And I always thought about this, what I was doing when I was young, and I thought I should really achieve something around this idea. Sneakers are so comfortable but at the same time it’s not very elegant. To have a little heel in it makes a difference, it gives you legs--I mean, I know women, I am a woman, so I know what we are searching for!
Yes! You wanted a little lift! It’s always about bringing self-confidence. I’m like every woman, so I try to work on how to look slimmer or how to look taller but not being overdressed. I think most of the time when you dress in the morning, you go towards something that’s very pretty but at the end you say, 'Ah, no, I’m having a hard day, I need to have something easy that I’m not afraid to break.' It’s a balance of fashion and a way of life.