Karl Lagerfeld has referred to Martine Sitbon as “The only living French Designer.” It’s a lofty statement, but when Karl talks, people listen, and there’s a lot to back up his oppinion of Martine. The woman behind her own eponymous label, the look of Chloé in the mid 80s through early 90s, Byblos, and now Rue du Mail
, Martine Sitbon’s feminine-meets-rocker aesthetic has transferred through decades without losing an ounce of relevance. To those that follow the anointed fashion goddesses Phoebe Philo and Isabel Marant, know that Martine is their patron saint, having once mentored them both.
Clearly her mark as a wonderful designer has been made, but what is it that makes her definingly French? Her Paris upbringing and current home base for one, though her incredible Rue du Mail headquarters is a part of it too. Her designs go from concept to creation all under one particularly amazing roof. Check out a peek into her incredible second arrondissement hotel particulier, and an interview with the designer!
Daria Radlinski: You have been at the helm of Rue du Mail as the brand’s creative director since 2007. How is what you do now different from designing under the Martine Sitbon label?
There is no difference between Rue du Mail and Martine Sitbon. I wanted to explore and realize a true independent Parisian fashion house. What is important to me is the soul of creativity within and that soul has its roots in Paris.
DR: Could you tell us about your earliest influences, meaning how and why you got into fashion? What is it about designing that has kept you going for more than 20 years?
Music has and always will be a source of my inspiration. I was completely emerged in the music scene of the 60’s and 70’s. I loved browsing Les Puces de Paris, mixing vintage clothing from the 20’s and 30’s; it eventually became my outlet of expression. My meeting with Marie Rucki at Studio Berçot was the jump-start that led me to fashion. The need to create is now in me, it is part of who I am.
DR: What did you dress like as a teenager?
Mixing everything I could find at the flea market while maintaining their authenticity, like Fassbinder dresses with army surplus parkas.
DR: Music plays a hugely influential role in the creation of your collections. What was the first album that stole your heart?
The Velvet Underground. The era of Andy Warhol and The Factory, Edie Sedgwick is a recurring inspiration in my work.
DR: What’s the first concert you’ve ever been to?
The Beatles, when I was 12 at the Olympia in Paris, with my sisters and parents.
DR: Could you tell us how your collaboration with the sound illustrator Frédéric Sanchez came about?
First of all he is a friend, we started working together at the early stage of his career with music from My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth. We have a privileged connection that allows us to have simple fusion.
DR: Your known as a designer’s designer, and the people you’ve mentored, like Phoebe Philo and Isabel Marant are thought of as the same. What do you think it is that you do differently to get such a title?
I always follow my heart. It is a matter of focusing on the purpose of why you want to be a fashion designer. If the focus is not pure at heart, talent will not be able to compensate.
DR: Your Rue du Mail headquarters is amazing. What is it about Paris that keeps you working in this city?
I am pleased to hear that, I have put a lot of myself in this space. It is a hotel particulier located in the second arrondissement where we curate special events, it is alive and always thriving. I walk to work there every morning and I let myself be inspired by my surroundings. Paris keeps having a timeless atmosphere that keeps on being inspiring.
DR: What advice would you give to young designers in Paris?
My personal motto : "Keep your feet on the ground and your head in the sky."