Sunday, September 22, 2013

Isabel and H&M – A Marriage Made in Heaven?

I LOVE Isabel Marant’s clothes.  I can’t afford them and I’m probably too old to wear them, but I adore their youthful vibe of insouciant chic.  The 46-year-old designer’s brand is an international mega-hit.  Her clothes hang in the closets of fashion models, movie stars and the well-heeled all over the world. 

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“The Cult of Isabel Marant” by William Van Meter), she talked about the fall-out from an off-hand remark about being “anti-consumerist.”  Apparently, this comment had caused quite a little tempest in a théière.  “How can she say such a thing?”  Quelle hypocrisie!”  “If she feels that way, why doesn’t she just give her clothes away?” 

Actually, I would be willing to bet that what Ms. Marant meant to say was that she was “anti-conspicuous consumption.”   It’s an educated guess on my part, but one based on a lifetime of experience with and observation of the French. 

Drawing by Elizabeth Graeber

Ms. Marant is French and she is an artiste whose creative gifts have made her extremely successful.  The French attitude towards success is ambivalent, to say the least.  They are, quite frankly, suspicious of it, particularly if it makes you rich, not that anyone will actually admit to being rich.   There’s something slightly unpleasant about the odor of money to the French.  It’s the one subject that is never discussed at dinner parties.  Remember Napoleon’s famous put down of the British?  He called them a nation of shopkeepers.  

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to have expensive things, but they should look as if they’ve always been there – handed down from generation to generation, not purchased by you with that stinky money.  “Oh, the Mondrian over the mantel?  Oh, that’s been in the family for simply ages and ages.  I think it was a gift.” 

Ms. Marant grew up in one of the wealthiest suburbs of Paris, Neuilly-sur-Seine, surrounded by beautiful, sophisticated people, in what Americans would call a blended family (mother, step-mothers, siblings, half-siblings, etc.) -- all very upscale Bobo (Bohemian Bourgeois) chic.   

wc au fond du jardin

The French have always had a romantic attachment to the starving artist; and while Marant can hardly lay claim to such roots, she does spend weekends in a little cabin in the woods of Fontainebleau (outside of Paris), which has neither electricity nor running water.  Frankly, having spent summers with my tante Colette in her farm house with no electricity or running water, I prefer the odor of money to the stench of the wc au fond du jardin (outhouse at the end of the vegetable garden) in August.   But, Marant loves it, and it allows her to get in touch with her inner paysanne (peasant). 

The French also have a romantic attachment to la France profonde, populated by noble, beret-wearing farmers who eat off the land and live by their own sueur (sweat).   In the France of today, while that image is more myth than reality, it still occupies a special place in every Frenchman’s heart – no doubt as a result of his having been forced to read Le Contrat Social by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) in school. 

Photo by Angelo Pennetta

In November, Isabel Marant will unveil her collection for the moderately priced, international clothing chain H&M. 

This is a huge risk for a designer of Marant’s international stature and reputation, but the payoff could also be huge (sniff, sniff….do I smell the odor of money?).   The French do not have a reputation for being risk takers, but 90% of her sales are outside France, with 25% in the US, so a clothing line with mass appeal may be a risk worth taking.   

And…………this could be my chance to pop down to the local H&M and add an Isabel Marant piece to my wardrobe.  Here’s a sneak peak of what we can expect. 

Hmmm.  Yeah, well, I think I’ll have to pass on this one.  

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the collaboration between Isabel Marant and H&M will be a marriage made in heaven or one headed for the rocks.  Either way, I applaud her audace.   


  1. It is interesting what you said about the French and not talking about money. On reflection and from my experience I think you are correct. I find it very refreshing as here in London people seem to talk about nothing else especially the rising price of their houses. Very boring!

    1. Naturally, I'm just a wee bit tongue-in-cheek here, but that has indeed been my experience with my family and friends in France. My male cousins will sometimes ask my American husband how his business is going, and he knows to say "pas mal" and that's it.

      Real estate prices have definitely gone through the roof in London. Great if you're selling; not so great if you're buying.

  2. Bonjour Madame! I have just become a follower of you blog. love your outlook on style & glamour. You have the balance just right. Tres chic, bon!

    1. Delighted to add you to my family of Readers. We are clearly on the same style and glamour page, Lavinia. I will be checking out your Blog. I love paper products. The handwritten note is a beautiful thing, sadly lost to a world of e-mails.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated.

      Cheers, M-T


My dear Readers, I do so love reading your comments and appreciate the time you take to make them. To make it easier to leave your comments, I have disabled that annoying "Word Verification" setting, which Blogger (in its infinite wisdom) enabled without my consent.

If you have a problem posting your comment, just send it to me at

I will be happy to post it for you and link back to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

You Might Also Like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...