Written by Jonathan Mahon-Heap
An INDEX series looking at iconic design moments. This week… the miniature Jacquemus handbag, ‘Le Chiquito’.
Jacquemus’ seductively Mediterranean apparel promises you a summer worthy of Eric Rohmer. Perhaps the designer to have mastered the curatorial effect of Instagram most masterfully, he documents summer life in hometown Marseilles with insouciance; vignettes of multi-coloured linen flapping, old couples canoodling over pastries, the visual equivalent of a whiff of lavender, and the white noise of a nearby rolling ocean.
For successive Paris Fashion Weeks, Simon Porte Jacquemus has taken his cues from the province. For Le Gadjo, L’amour d’un Gitan, Le coup de soleil, he spun the folklore of the region’s characters into a sartorial code. 2020 saw Jacquemus celebrating its tenth anniversary, melding male and female silhouettes into his Provence show last season. Aside from his impressive, independently continued success, one of the bigger splashes made by Jacquemus was with his miniature Le Chiquito sac, on the Spring/Summer 2018 runway.
The Kardashians toted it, Rihanna flaunted it, and Jacquemus gave the fashion community precisely what they wanted; a new talking point. Le Chiquito (meaning ‘tiny’) measured 4in x 2.5in, retailed for £380, and sold out online. Fuelling the flames of fandom and controversy, Jacquemus followed up with Le Chiquiti and Le Petit Chiquito, only two inches wide, available in his canary yellow, pink, rust, and blue. The collective insanity that accompanies New World’s reissue of its miniature produce range swirled around Le Chiquito, and rather than his first folly, its success has been so striking that in January he issued the new Chiquito mini bag for men.
You can imagine Simon plucking a single pebble from the Calanques, clasping it within his Chiquito. Other items it might fit include an AirPod, a mini Purell, a piece of the tiara Lindsay Lohan throws at the end of Mean Girls, the ‘DrinkMe’ potion from Alice in Wonderland, Trump’s braincell, and whatever a ‘Quibi’ is. Shrink a skirt to mini size, toss that bulky handbag, slimline your wallet to a single black American Express card. This is what freedom feels like, Jacquemus seems to say. This is what a summer holiday feels like too; tossing on your Birks, throwing a (Jacquemus) towel over your shoulder, and padding down to the sea.
Functional is the byword for many emerging brands today. A-COLD-WALL* and other streetwear leaders serve us ‘Gotham skate kid’ realness; all cross-body bags and complex layering. Minimalism, however, can be read as liberation. Jacquemus’ odes to the endless summer of the South are a rebuttal to the stern modernity that directs so much of modern fashion. We are so accustomed to seeing the cavernous Logan’s Run aesthetic of the Kardashian-West household (with whom Jacquemus is a close friend), that the slip dresses and mini apparel of Jacquemus feel in-scale by comparison.
Fashion houses are clamouring for entry price point products that allow them to capture teens; since Fendi’s furry monster keyring success in 2013, the Italian label has shunted them to the forefront of their marketing. Lilliputian products followed suit, as every handbag appeared tailor-made for Coco Princess. Then came Prada’s Saffiano Lux Micro Tote, Jimmy Choo’s Lockett, Lizzo pairing her custom Valentino ruffled minidress with an extra-small Valentino Garavani bag. Erdem, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, and Maryam Nassir Zadeh followed suit. The luxury of the product is directly proportionate to the lack of its functionality. It makes sense — designers are control freaks, and miniatures are usually the domain of this type.
Coming to the runways at the same time as Marie Kondo’s decluttering, minimalist mindset crested into superstardom, Jacquemus’ miniatures have not been dwarfed by the media frenzy surrounding them. Somewhere, on the joyfully crowded beaches of Marseilles, Simon Jacquemus is laughing all the way to the banque.