Martine Sitbon on Cultural Exchange

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Self-portrait by Martine Sitbon

Speaking in AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2021, the Parisian designer reflects on the rebellious spirit of 1960s London and how the city has influenced her craft

This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine. To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are making the issue free and available digitally for a limited time only to all our readers wherever you are in the world. Sign up here.

“You know, I had never intended to become a fashion designer. It all came from escaping to London as a teenager. I was formed there – my whole base came from that culture. I first went in the late 1960s. There was a lot of freedom, it opened my imagination. Music, fashion, art – culture. They were all thrown together, and it all came to life on the street. London was very different from Paris – when I was in London, I would dress up and no one would look twice – Paris was very conservative in comparison. When I started my first collection, in 1986 or 87, the journalists were saying that I was the most English of the French designers. Because when I started fashion, that cultural patchwork came back to my mind, emerging from 15 years before. What I loved in France was the legacy of couture, fashion’s history. My work was always a mix of that heritage and London’s irreverent creativity.”

Martine Sitbon’s work – whether under her own name, as creative director of Chloé or at Rue du Mail – has always held a cult appeal. Part of a new wave of French fashion rebels in the 1980s, she created collections of skinny tailoring and 1970s-inflected looks that foreshadowed the styles of the 1990s: three decades in one. Perceived as a quintessential Parisian, Sitbon was actually born in Casablanca and spent her childhood in Morocco and Italy before her family moved to the French capital. It was here that she studied to become a designer at the esteemed Studio Berçot – and from where she made her first formative trips across the Channel to London. Which, alas, may not be possible for future generations, thanks to Brexit. “It’s a sad moment. I think if this stops it’s a pity, especially for the young generation,” Sitbon says. “This movement is part of culture – of both cultures.”

This article originally featured in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine which is on sale now. Pre-order a copy here and sign up for free access to the issue here.