Isabel Marant for H&M: Our interview with the hit maker behind this season’s most coveted collab

Isabel Marant for H&M Interview

There’s a certain mystery involved in the making of a hit, a kind of magic that’s as unpredictable and inexplicable as it is intangible. In music, it’s known as the sweet spot. Nile Rodgers (the legendary music producer behind such earworms as David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”) summed it up thusly: “It just has to be cool. I can’t explain it but I know it when I arrive there.” If the same can be said of a fashion It item, then the Nile Rodgers of designers would be Isabel Marant. The reigning queen of effortless chic, the French fashion designer has je-ne-sais-quoi’d her way to the top of the fashion charts with such stylish hits as her slouchy football tee, Navajo print jeans and ubiquitous wedge sneaker, which has spawned more knockoffs than Madonna has copycats. One might be tempted to chalk Marant’s runaway success up to her inspired formula of boho meets rock ’n’ roll meets Parisian insouciance, but there’s something else x-factor-y at play here. “I have an innate feel for what people like,” Marant says. “I cannot put it into words and am constantly surprised by it, but the pieces I really like are usually those that sell best.” Whether you call it a sweet spot, instinct or just plain genius, Marant is bringing her magic touch to the masses in a new collaboration with H&M, launching Nov. 14, that brims with flirty boho frocks, zippered leather pants and a fresh take on her famous fringe-y pirate boots. Consider it a wallet-friendly compilation of her greatest hits.

Isabel Marant for H&M Daria

What is Parisian style today?
“Paris has a style that is unmistakable—it’s about a certain chic with not too much effort. I was surrounded by very bourgeois women growing up. It gave me a great appreciation for quality, which I think is very Parisian too. Today, Paris chic is all about perfect imperfection: women who look great without looking like they paid too much attention.”

Why are you so inspired by American culture and style?
“It’s that idea of freedom, I guess. America to me is a land of adventure, and adventure is a way to free yourself. It can be anything, from the open-air roughness of cowboys to the boho lifestyle and bright prints of surfers to the optimism of the American campus to the energy of Elvis.”

Isabel Marant for H&M

People are used to seeing prints and colour from you. Why did you avoid them in your fall collection?
“For a designer, change is important, as long as it’s coherent with your style. I simply wanted a collection that felt like a palate cleanser. The elements of my style—embellishment, sexiness—are still there, just made subtler. Everything is dark and sombre, but the skirts are short and the tops are transparent and layered, so there is a subtle hint of seduction going on. Embellishment is there too: studs running along hems or swarming on skinny scarves, little rhinestones. I simply avoided the distraction of prints and colour. But this is a seasonal statement, not a permanent change.”

Tell me about Isabel Marant pour H&M.
“I’ve created a free-mix ward-robe of some of my most iconic pieces. I actually used my own closet as inspiration. The reason was, in a way, quite selfish: I needed to restock key items. When creating the collection, I went through my wardrobe and selected the coats, tops, trousers and accessories I wear the most. They’re not exact replicas, but new interpretations.”

Will you be able to mix and match pieces from Isabel Marant pour H&M with your runway collection?
“The mix is the essence of my style, and I work hard [to make sure] new pieces fit with old pieces. That’s how people dress anyway. I find it a bit depressing when people duplicate runway looks. I am more taken by personal initiative, maybe mixing a dark top from Isabel Marant with the embellished trousers from Isabel Marant pour H&M. I’m always testing new designs on myself, so I am almost always in my own designs, usually mixing something from the upcoming collection with something very old. I enjoy that.”

You said that the clothes you design say more about you than anything else. What do you hope your designs express about who you are?
“Honesty and straightforwardness. I am energetic but discreet—I don’t like to be in the spotlight, and I prefer my work to speak for itself. Fashion is a natural extension of my personality. I fell into it because I wanted to dress myself. My aim is to dress real women in their everyday lives with clothes that have a function but also give an attitude. As a woman of today, I know what they look for in a dress, but I also know [what they see] in the mirror, their insecurities. I constantly try to solve these problems while creating pieces that express the energy of the moment. I work instinctively, but I am also a perfectionist. I think that the most simple pieces need to be perfect.”