Jacques LaGrange celebrates 22 years of haute couture excellence
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Known as South Africa’s “King of Couture”, designer Jacques LaGrange this month celebrates 22 years of haute couture excellence.
Born and raised in Paarl, Lagrange’s love for fashion was inspired by his mother’s love of beautiful clothes.
“I loved shopping with her. Organza, lace and ribbons. I loved the feeling of satin against my skin.
“I made miniature hats and decorated them with flowers. Made earrings and doll dresses that became dresses for my sisters. I loved anything and everything creative,” adds LaGrange.
He was the first boy who broke all the rules by opting to take needle work and home economics during high school at Paarl Gimnasium.
Even though he’s enjoyed a successful career for over two decades already, the couture designer says that the years have gone in a blink of an eye.
“In my head I'm still the young designer who moved to Paris, France at the age of 23. When I walk in Cape Town it still feels like I’m in Europe. Some days I can't believe that as a farm boy from Paarl, I’ve done, seen and experienced what I have.”
On the secret to success, he says it’s different for everyone. However, he believes his immaculate workmanship, his personality and not taking life too seriously to be contributing factors to his success.
“I under-promise and over-deliver. My word is my honour. I always strive for perfection and understand what my clients want and needs.”
Reflecting on his career, he recalls meeting people like designer John Galliano and Archbishop Desmond Tutu as just a few of the highlights of his career.
“I remember when it was my 10th anniversary, the media wrote that in a short period I did more than most designers do in a lifetime. I don't think I’ve done so much, as I do forget. I just think it’s because I grab every opportunity with both hands.”
In 2019 he received the Cultural Affairs award from the South African government for his contribution to fashion and creative spaces.
LaGrange adds that it’s raising funds to make a difference in people's lives that stands out for him. He has worked with many organisations to raise money for various causes.
“I was raised in a home where we did good and gave back. Every person should give back in his or her way. Charity begins at home, helping people you know, a friend, a neighbour, gardener or cleaning lady. Making an extra sandwich to give to someone begging. Buying an extra coffee for the car guide. Need is all around us and every kind act will be rewarded.”
The internationally renowned designer says it’s his zest for life that keeps him motivated.
“I wake up happy every morning. I live every day to the fullest. After my busy day, I will still make time to connect with family or friends. Whether it’s for drinks, dinner or a movie.
“I don't have an off button. I don't have regrets, just good memories of how great yesterday was. It’s a reset button of positive vibes. I have too much to be grateful for and the feeling of greater purpose keeps me motivated.”
So what does luxury mean to a man whose work revolves around it?
“In my world, it’s is not about buying the most expensive dress or handbag, but creating memories and having fun experiences with like-minded family and friends who appreciate the beauty and that moment in life. Like sharing a bottle of French champagne. Travelling to amazing destinations like New York and Rome. Shopping in Venice and Prague. Skiing in Austria or the Swiss Alps. Dinner in Paris and drinks in Dubai.”
To the young ones who dream of being in the fashion industry and wish to succeed, LaGrange offers these words of encouragement: “Have fun, enjoy, jump in and swim! If you can't swim, learn to swim but never compare your situation with others. Stay in your lane but break the rules – only when you know the rules. Don't think you know it all, because even I’m still learning.
“Educate yourself and give back to your community. Travel and explore. Don't stress too much about money. Money you can make, but time runs out. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, because people can only say yes or no.
“Keep your eyes and ears open. When experts talk, listen. Collaborate with the right people to take your brand to the next level. So buy the ticket and the ride!”
This article first appeared in Saturday Insider, Aug 28