Simon Porte Jacquemus’s shows in Hawaii, Provence, and Paris have included sport-centric pieces like scuba gear, hiking boots, and swimwear, but when his models walk the Paris runways in late June, they will be playing a whole new game, so to speak: Nearly three years in the making, Jacquemus’s debut collaboration with Nike marries the designer’s love of the outdoors and his body-conscious aesthetic with Nike’s expertise in making some of the most technically advanced activewear in the world.
“Sport was always super important in the Jacquemus DNA,” says Jacquemus from his Paris office, noting that his 2014 and 2015 collections were grounded by sneakers. “But as Jacquemus grew, the Jacquemus girl changed – she got heels!” he continues, with a laugh. Still, something lingered in his mind. “I always said to myself, If one day I do a collaboration, it will be with Nike.”
The American sportswear behemoth first connected with the designer in 2018 for a French campaign that featured an image of Jacquemus jumping for a header amid a throng that included the French national soccer team star Kylian Mbappé, and by the start of 2020, the ink was dry on a co-branded collaboration. Jacquemus took his first meeting at Nike’s Beaverton headquarters in Oregon in February of that year.
“Mind-blowing,” he says of days there that consisted of “buying vintage in a cool shop in the mornings, then going hiking, then having a meeting after passing by the swimming pool of the Nike campus” – a lifestyle that blended work with working out, mirroring Jacquemus’s own routine in Paris. (“I haven’t been to the pool today, and I haven’t been on a hike,” he admits when we speak on Zoom, “but I do a lot of sport every morning before coming to the studio.”)
Even two years of remote work – along with getting a puppy, Toutou, and becoming engaged to his longtime partner, French communications executive Marco Maestri (the two are planning an August wedding) – couldn’t slow Jacquemus’s roll, as ideas began to spring forth immediately. Jacquemus, an avid collector of Nike’s ACG (All Conditions Gear) line, wanted to bring that functionality to his own womenswear obsessions, like “late ’90s lace miniskirts, Lady Di’s sport looks, and the DNA of tennis.”
“I wanted to do something super light,” he says. Et voilà: The neutral-toned womenswear pieces of this new collection marry Jacquemus’s effortlessness and ease with Nike’s technical prowess. Take a pair of pearl-white bike shorts – seemingly as prêt-à-porter as possible, until you realize that they are made without seams, from Nike’s specially engineered knit. That backless dress? It promises to work just as hard at the gym as it would at the club. “Super light, but super sensual,” says Jacquemus of the crux of his collection. “That was my first idea.”
For Nike, bringing that kind of French allure to sport was essential. “We always seek to work with collaborators that offer up something we don’t have as a brand,” says Jarrett Reynolds, Nike’s vice president of Catalyst Apparel Design, which fosters the brand’s more innovative partnerships. “Simon’s superpower is the sensuality of his design and his emotion… he can take the mundane and make it really special.”
Among the special things in the 15-piece collection are Humara sneakers with a tiny swoosh; a pleated skirt that calls to mind the on-court uniforms of Jacquemus’s favorite players, Emma Raducanu and Naomi Osaka; and a bucket hat for hikers and bikers of all genders. “I wanted to use this collection to speak to a larger audience,” Jacquemus says. “It was super important to me also for this to not be an elitist collaboration – to have something that everyone can wear.”
The partnership, which is ongoing, will only help Jacquemus expand his impact. Without divulging too much, he alludes to what’s next: “The collection will grow – maybe something more Nike is coming, and then something more in between.” Menswear seems like a must. But in the immediate future, look for Nike X Jacquemus in the backyards of Beaverton, on the hiking trails of Marseille – Simon’s favorites – and everywhere in between.
Maybe even the courts of the French Open, I ask? Jacquemus brightly smiles at the suggestion. “That would be cute!”
Creative Direction by Simon Porte Jacquemus.
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Originally published on Vogue.co.uk