Born: circa 1952 in Casablanca; raised in Casablanca and Paris. Education: Graduated in fashion design from the Studio Bercot, Paris, 1974. Career: Fashion consultant, then freelance designer, 1974-84; signature ready-to-wear collection debuted in Paris, 1984; also ready-to-wear designer, Chloé in Paris, 1987-91; opened Paris store, 1995; licensing deal with Gibo and launched Martine Sitbon Tricot, 1998; introduced menswear collection, 1999; debuted punk collection, March 2000; named creative director for women, Byblos, 2001. Address: 6 rue de Braque, 75003 Paris, France.
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Although her early collections bore fairytale titles like Cinderella, it is rock music, especially of the 1970s, that has often been Sitbon's strongest inspiration. Her sculptural suiting, often based on masculine lines, underpins each season's looks but leathers, studs, and swirling sequins were present, emphasizing both her affinity with the music scene and her skilled use of luxury fabrics.
Sitbon's manipulation of delicate textiles, mixing soft pastel and metallic shades as artistically as fruitier colors, is seen in both her own name line and the work she produced to breathe life back into the Chloé label from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. Her use of fine organzas, left to flow and ruffle in petal-like folds at the cuff and collars of blouses, was a recurring element in her work. Such ruffling reached its apex in the cascading frills that flowed down the back of blouses dotted with overblown silk flowers in her spring/summer 1992 collection. The delicate femininity was tempered by the cool shine of slim satin trousers, abbreviated skirts, and elongated jackets.
The freedom to use these sensuous fabrics comes from her strong Italian financial backing, enabling her to experiment with expensive 1970s decorative favorites like sequins and embroidery. In 1989 she punctuated cropped leather waistcoats with gold studs, manipulating Hell's Angel motifs to achieve more luxurious results. The idea was developed further in olive suede waistcoats with looped chains that hung down to the bright gold velvet skirts with which they were teamed, demonstrating the subtle use of color and shade pervading her work.
In the middle 1990s, Sitbon's rock preoccupations came into their own, in tune with retrospective trends that gave an edge to her signature use of flares and bell bottoms. She has shown them in everything from intricate pink and charcoal cut velvet to dazzling gold sequins. In her spring/summer 1993 collection, her look became more attenuated. Slate grey hipster flares were worn with thigh-skimming jackets, severely cut away and held together by black thongs bound across the body, a look which was very influential. This
Sitbon's work has always been carefully accessorized, with perspex-heeled platform sandals with black straps criss-crossing up the leg or with stringy leather or satin chokers. Her attention to detail inspires the trimmings she uses; a futuristic bent is also a recurring undercurrent with stretch fit leggings, tops and jackets in soft leather, stitched in circles and stripes, which emphasize the wearer's physique and give a starkly postmodern feel. A sculptural form continues in her suits, tailored to accentuate the shape of the body, like the soft Prince of Wales trouser suits in 1987 that exploited the cut of men's suits and, more severely, in fitted black jackets and miniskirts defined by white borders and flap pocket edges in 1990. Along with the simple raw silk trousers and supple blouses, they provided a classic foil to her more dandyish designs for Chloé and the more fantastic elements of her main line.
This ability to design strong daywear items as well as more luxurious garments has provided Sitbon with a wide customer base in Europe. She has skillfully manipulated fabrics and the mixing of very contemporary themes, masculine and feminine, or what Women's Wear Daily (10 March 1994) termed "roughness…combined with richness." Sitbon's duality has made her an important force in fashion, with a successful record of collections, including a new menswear line in 1999. Fashioned after Brit rockers, the suits and separates had hints of feminity, just as her womenswear usually had underlying masculinity.
Sitbon next dove into men's sportswear, telling the Daily News Record (19 January 2000), "I've been highly influenced by sportswear in the measure that comfortable clothes are part and parcel with today's zeitgeist. But at the same time, Paris is not about pure sportswear, it's about elegance. I like to mix diverse elements to give my man the freedom to dress in a personal way." Another mix came in early 2000 when Sitbon surprised everyone at the Paris showings with a fall punk collection.
A new collaboration arrived in the 21st century when Sitbon signed with Byblos to become its womenswear director in 2001. The appointment came at a time when Sitbon's own collections were increasingly well received. Her spring 2002 womenswear showing in Paris was another stunner with delicate shirts and camisoles, cinched dresses, and wide trousers for day, and eveningwear in darker shades of gold, coral, and black with elaborate beading and embroidery. Karin Nelson, writing for the Fashion Windows website, reported, "It was a collection so simply poetic, so acutely appropriate that the crowd did something they rarely ever do—stood up and applauded the designer."
updated by Sydonie Benét