To discover the intimate world of Inès-Olympe Mercadal is to be swallowed up by an absolute aesthetic. And this, right from the doorstep. We cannot say what surprises us the most, the blue monochrome that extends to all the rooms of this seventies apartment to the point of licking the walls, or the silhouette of our host, who would be recognisable among thousands. A high chignon bun which she has worn- almost unchanged – since she was fourteen years old, and a pair of glasses with a huge black frame, her essential coquettish touch, which fits the bone structure of her face. This 30-year-old descendant of the famous Mercadal shoe manufacturers has been capitalising on this ultimate elegance since 2016. The year in which her own brand, a complete and glamorous wardrobe, was created, an ode to the 1980s and to this woman, who embraced the codes of her teeming artistic world. Because in addition to having a particularly strong taste for fashion – a family atavism – Inès-Olympe Mercadal is also a fan of literature and music. As we will see from the many vinyls, cassettes and other hefty works that will punctuate our visit and that she will be delighted to dig out for the occasion. The entrepreneur would like to try out this flamboyant culture of life with a new form of expression: decoration. A territory that she is already beginning to explore with a few private commissions where the love of “vintage design, designer signatures, colourful walls and thick carpets” is fully expressed.
Inès-Olympe, who are you?
I am the creator of the brand that bears my name, Inès-Olympe Mercadal, which offers leather goods, furs and leather clothing handmade in Paris. After studying literature at the Sorbonne, I took time out to travel for two years. I also worked in painting and writing as a freelancer, writing being one of my favourite fields. So, in a way, I was living an artist’s life, when my passion for leather and beautiful leather wear was reawakened in me. In 2009, I created my first collections, working in our family firm. Then I started digging down into my grandfather’s archives, and I enjoyed revamping what I found by playing with the colours. My designs were popular and found a following each season. So I carried on developing all this, keeping my designs quite playful. I had grown up surrounded by the noise of factories and the smell of leather. So to rediscover all this in adulthood seemed natural to me.
Tell us the history of Mercadal shoes in your family… and about the birth of your brand, Inès-Olympe Mercadal.
The love of leather runs in the Mercadal family’s veins. I learned the trade from my father and grandfather. Together, they had established Maison Laurent Mercadal at the end of the 1970s Leather shoes with a reputation based not only on style but on quality and comfort. My grandfather, who was originally from the island of Menorca, had fled Francoism and gone to France to try his luck. Through his hard work and determination, he succeeded in making this brand a well-known label. I often find our vintage advertisements when I’m leafing through old fashion magazines in bookshops!
How do you design your collections?
In the year I launched, I followed the traditional calendar for presenting collections by attending the Première Classe show during Fashion Week. Then I decided that, for the foreseeable future, I would offer a permanent collection augmented by new designs and variations, and I wouldn’t necessarily follow the usual restrictive programme for showing collections.
Of the 70's/80's I love the music, the decoration, the joie de vivre and the sheer effervescence. But I don't just hanker after the past. The times we live in today are incredible on so many levels!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Inspiration can come from many things, an advertisement, a song, a film, a book perhaps, and I’ve been able to diversify through partnerships. It’s very stimulating to be able to expand your sphere of activities! This is how I was able to collaborate with Eram on a co-signed capsule collection. It felt like real recognition for me, since I clearly remembered the brand’s extraordinary advertising films in the 1980s! I also designed tights for Le Bourget and clothing for La Redoute as well as an Inès-Olympe Mercadal capsule for Emmanuelle Khanh.
Is there an Ines-Olympe Mercadal identity?
Ever since I was a teenager, literature and music have played a large part in my life. I feel an intimate connection with both disciplines. Indeed, whenever I design a new creation, I can clearly associate a piece of music, a song or a text with it. That’s part of the reason why I released my first album, “Amor Y Pesetas“, a mini-album of five tracks, a few years ago. The title song was a clear reference to my occasional extravagance when I’m rocking the “postcard” style look of a scandalous woman hell-raising in Spain! I loved this venture, because here again, it was a way of expressing what is close to my heart, but differently: values meeting at the crossroads of an ideal of elegance, vintage references and a joie de vivre that I strive to always preserve, whatever the circumstances. It’s what drives me! I sang instinctively, encouraged to cultivate my spoken language and keep my tone of voice as it is in everyday life. I had in mind those actresses from the 70s who tried their hand at singing and released a couple of 45s. And then there was Jean-Paul Gautier, whose song “How To Do That” with its absolutely brilliant visual approach I discovered too late… I think there’s a global guiding principle you can see in all this. My taste for the 70s and 80s, high-quality materials and the ideal of a strong feminine look, not too serious.
What are your brand’s most successful models?
The key pieces in the collection are the furs, handmade fox fur capes with sleeves and details in sheepskin, as well as embossed leather biker jackets that we manufacture in Paris in the 10th arrondissement.
Who is the archetypal Inès-Olympe Mercadal client? Who would you most like to dress?
My clients are mainly women seeking to punctuate a classic look with one strong piece. The ideal Inès Olympe Mercadal woman would be a mixture of Dora Mar, Francoise Sagan and Pedro Almodovar’s extraordinary characters.
Is the style of your brand similar to your own?
Certainly! The Inès-Olympe Mercadal brand is a bit like my ideal dressing room. The wardrobe I can’t find in the shops. I realise I’ve arrived at the way I dress In a very intuitive way by referring back to the image of a working-girl-woman with quite an 80’s style. A defined waist, shoulder pads and prominent lipstick. That inspiration was already there when I started designing the first pieces for the Inès-Olympe Mercadal range. I’m advocating a fashion style with a slightly faded elegance, an aesthetic that is perhaps outdated, but which has a certain something.
Which materials and colours appeal to you, and which ones find a place in your home?
I have a genuine passion for leather. It’s not always politically correct to talk about real leather today, but I’m convinced that its use can be managed in a way that respects the welfare of the animal, if it is properly controlled. I even see it as a kind of “extension of life”, noble even.
What would you like us to wish for you in 2019?
After ten years in the fashion world, and the arrival of my first child, I felt the desire to try a new form of expression through interior design. It’s a new challenge, certainly, because it is new territory for me. But ultimately, I dare say, that’s no surprise, because it involves vintage design, designer pieces, colourful walls and thick rugs. It’s a visual extension of the references I cultivate and express through all my projects. So you could wish me lots of wonderful new encounters with clients so I can continue to develop myself through the world of decoration!
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay – Translation: TextMaster @thesocialitefamily