Martine Sitbon

Shari Sims

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA088

Martine Sitbon was born in Casablanca and moved to Paris with her family as an adolescent. She studied fashion design in France, graduating from the Studio Berçot in Paris in 1974. After visiting London and New York, she became enamored of the alternative music scene, which she has credited with influencing her design sensibility. She was a freelance designer for the first ten years of her career, establishing her own ready-to-wear collection in 1984.

Sitbon became creative director of the French fashion house Chloé in 1988, which had been in a bit of a decline after Karl Lagerfeld’s departure roughly five years before. Fashion observers describe the evolution of Sitbon’s style at this time from stark and severe to an almost dreamy romanticism, epitomized by paneled velvet and silk dresses, layers of chiffon, and quilted panels. Her designs at Chloé often brought ruffles to a new extreme, literally cascading down the front and back of various outfits. As designer for the House of Chloé for nine seasons, she revivified the collection before returning to design for her own label.

In 2006, Jimmy K. W. Chan appointed Sitbon as the founding designer of Rue du Mail, a combination studio, design atelier, and boutique located at 5 Rue du Mail on Paris’s Right Bank. Her subsequent collections combined a distinctive mix of strong, feminine shapes and rock-and-roll chic; a fitted-waist, sequin-bedecked vest with a body-hugging shape, for example, was a particular favorite in 2009. Suits under the Rue du Mail label, inspired by menswear shapes, feature luxurious but hard-edged fabrics like leather, studs, and sequins; more softly feminine options include soft camisoles, sheath dresses, and cinched dresses with sheer chiffon inserts or artful shoulder cutouts, all in streamlined shapes and luxurious fabrics.

Sitbon’s clothes have special appeal to women who want to be noticed, who appreciate classic Parisian tailoring and edgy modernity. Actresses including Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton, for example, have been reported to be special fans of her designs. And vintage versions of her clothes and accessories, especially her handbags, are regular features of online shopping sites. Along with being sold at the original Paris atelier, her designs are also marketed at upscale boutiques and department stores around the globe.

Martine SitBon, Fall/Winter 1994 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library ““Martine Sitbon”.” Butterboom, n.d. (accessed 19 July 2013).

Find in Library ““Martine Sitbon”.” ShowStudio, n.d. (accessed 19 July 2013).

Rue du Mail. Website. (accessed 19 July 2013).

Find in Library Steele Valerie. Women of Fashion: Twentieth-Century Designers . New York : Rizzoli, 1991.