Simon Porte Jacquemus Honored in Paris

A KNIGHT’S TALE: Simon Porte Jacquemus was named a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters for his contribution to the fashion industry in an emotional ceremony on Saturday at his brand-new headquarters in Paris.

Guests including Laetitia Casta, Carine Roitfeld, Amanda Lear, Amina Muaddi and Tina Kunakey joined members of the French designer’s family, including his grandmother Liline and his husband Marco Maestri, for the event held during Paris Fashion Week.

Delphine Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of Christian Dior Couture and the force behind the LVMH Prize for Young Designers, also came to support Jacquemus, who won the runner-up Special Prize at the 2015 edition of the award.

He was decorated by Anna Wintour, global editorial director of Vogue and chief content officer of Condé Nast, acting on behalf of former French culture minister Roselyne Bachelot.

Anna Wintour decorates Simon Porte Jacquemus with the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award.

Simon Porte Jacquemus and Anna Wintour.

Lodovico Colli di Felizzano/WWD

“Simon’s story is of a young man who started his label by defying convention, by listening to his friends and to his heart. Instead of breaking into the business the old way, getting a degree, working with a major designer, he burst onto the scene using everything he could to stir up attention,” she said.

Recalling how he staged a street happening in front of the Dior boutique on Avenue Montaigne, Wintour looked at Arnault and added jokingly: “I know he wouldn’t dare do that now that you’re there.”

She described how over 15 years, Jacquemus has built a strong following thanks to his sensual Mediterranean aesthetic drenched in vibrant color, and ignited a global craze for micro bags with his bestselling Chiquito handbag, including a miniature version that fits into the palm of one hand.

“And if any of us wondered why he designed such a tiny, tiny accessory, we now have our answer: it’s in order to put his medal,” Wintour said, eliciting another round of laughs.

“He is a new kind of French designer, creative and entrepreneurial in equal measure and always, always focused on a sense of community,” added the Vogue editor in chief.

“He’s a most, most worthy recipient of the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, not just for his great and inclusive vision of fashion, but for the joy and the optimism he brings with it,” she concluded before pinning the medal on his suit jacket.

Laetitia Casta at the Simon Porte Jacquemus Award Ceremony

Laetitia Casta.

Lodovico Colli di Felizzano/WWD

The 34-year-old designer briefly spoke in English to thank Wintour for her support, and paid a moving tribute to his mother Valérie, who died when he was 18.

“Years ago when I lost my mother, I left with her only one thing,” he said. “I left with her a [copy of] Vogue, and I promised her to be in Vogue. That’s tonight a full-circle situation, so thank you Anna.”

After a speech by journalist and writer Sophie Fontanel exalting his knightly qualities, he resumed speaking in French, recalling how his mother had encouraged him without fail even when he was bullied at school for being different.

“I’ve never stopped dreaming. If I could meet the 18-year-old Simon, I would hug him and tell him that the best is yet to come,” he said.

(Jacquemus is set to receive the 2024 Neiman Marcus Award for Innovation in the Field of Fashion in a separate ceremony in Paris on Sunday.)

He made clear that it had been an uphill battle, noting that he struggled to gain industry acceptance despite early support from the fashion press, and urging guests to encourage and nurture other young talents.

“I never left anything to chance. I never let up, I never gave myself a break for a single second. I’ve always refused to entertain doubt. I didn’t have the time or the means. I had to go for it,” Jacquemus recalled.

To those who ask him how it feels to be a fashion designer coming from a family of farmers, he had a simple answer: “At home, nobody told me it was impossible.”

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