I fell in love with Isabel Marant’s clothes about four years ago at a time when she was still relatively unknown as a designer, and it’s not difficult to see why. Her style speaks to an entire generation of young women who, like me, dream of spending long and lazy days followed by endless nights on a beach somewhere in Southern California. Her collections become more and more like this as the seasons go by – no one will forget the Chanel-esque jackets of 2009 which were more Champs-Élysées than Sunset Boulevard, but gorgeous all the same. Everybody wants to be an Isabel Marant girl.
And Spring/Summer 2011 was no exception. I’d venture to say that the pastel pink cut-offs teamed with the Aran sweater, or the floral strapless dress cinched in at the waist with a classic brown leather belt, would not have looked out of place at Coachella last month. It was, however, somewhat comforting to see a nod to her Parisian roots with belted jackets and skyscraper heels. I particularly loved the way that she sometimes managed to combine the two cultures in a single outfit – the red and white striped mini coupled with a blue jacket, reminiscent of the American flag, but completely French in overall style and structure, was nothing short of genius.
I do, however, have two issues with the Isabel Marant of 2011. Although the clothes certainly look accessible, the prices are most definitely not. A few years ago you could swing an Isabel Marant skirt for under £200 whereas today it’s becoming less and less common to hear her name uttered in the same sentence as the likes of Maje and Sandro, who were once her mid-range peers. I applaud any designer who strives to reach the dizzy heights of the high-end world, but this seems completely at odds with the nature of Marant’s clothes, and she risks losing the interest of her target audience. Why spend thousands on something that you can replicate with a little help from the high street? I know this argument can be made with regards to any designer in the world, but Marant leaves herself particularly open to this kind of criticism due to the relaxed style of her clothing – if she’s not careful, her charm will become her achilles heel.
This leads me on to my second, slightly more hesitant criticism, and I know that I am not alone when it comes to this. Fashion journalists across the globe question whether Marant really has what it takes to hold her own against the likes of Lanvin and Dior who are expected to come up with something innovative and striking every single time. The question here is whether we really need to see this on a catwalk? Whilst I agree with this to an extent, I think that fashion could do with being a bit more accessible, and as long as we don’t lose the spectacles, there is absolutely nothing wrong with bringing a touch of easiness to the runway.