The discreet life of Jaime de Marichalar, the duke who predicted the success of fashion without gender, scooters and wireless headphones | People

A month after the Louis Vuitton show at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, fashion experts are still talking about the incident involving stylist Law Roach. In a video that went viral, the image consultant, considered one of the most powerful in Hollywood, is seen arriving at the presentation of Nicolas Ghesquière’s latest collection with actress Zendaya, one of his most famous clients. the star of Euphoria he sits in the front row next to Delphine Arnault, heiress to the luxury giant LVMH, and actresses Emma Stone and Ana de Armas, while Roach is left without a seat, standing and puzzled. After the mishap, the stylist announced that he was stopping working for celebrities. Jaime de Marichalar Saénz de Tejada (Pamplona, ​​59 years old), director of the LVMH group and regular guest at the Vuitton, Dior, Loewe and Fendi fashion shows, was sitting right behind Zendaya and saw how the scene was taking place. The image summarizes the life of Elena de Borbón’s ex-husband: always in a discreet second row, keeping a safe distance, but without losing his status as a privileged witness (and sometimes protagonist) of the news.

Next Friday, April 7, Marichalar will turn 60 and, although she hates the spotlight, she will also turn 30 as a public figure. The announcement of his engagement with the Infanta Elena, eldest daughter of the kings Juan Carlos and Sofía, in 1994, launched him into unwanted fame and one that has always made him uncomfortable. The Dukes of Lugo staged the first royal wedding in Spain in almost a century. For a couple of years, the infanta and the economist lived in Paris, enjoying a certain tranquility. But in 1998 they returned to Madrid and the aristocrat became one of the most photographed and persecuted men in the country. As if he was the character of Henry Higgins in my fair lady, began to shape his wife’s stylistic tastes, introducing her to the French luxury of Lacroix, Chanel and Dior. But her style, which her environment defines as “tremendously refined and very French”, also influenced a part of society.

From left to right, Jaime de Marichalar in 2006, in February and October 2012, and in 2019.
From left to right, Jaime de Marichalar in 2006, in February and October 2012, and in 2019.cordon press / Europa Press via Getty Images / Francois Durand (Getty Images) / cordon press

“I have known Jaime since we were children. Then we met in Paris, when he worked in a bank and still hadn’t dated the princess. So he had a classic style ”, recalls the aristocrat Pilar González de Gregorio in conversation with EL PAÍS. “Then, after his wedding, he began to innovate more,” adds the daughter of the Duchess of Medina Sidonia. During the first government of José María Aznar, a sector of the Spanish right began to imitate the Duke of Lugo. Men of a certain class, or who wanted to appear to be of a certain class, appropriated the key pieces of the “Marichalar style”: colored pants. shocking (salmon, green or brick red), the bracelets on the wrist, the pashminas and scarves with paisley prints, pinstripe suits paired with horizontal striped shirts, puffer vests, Tod’s loafers and Hermès leather belts. Marichalar recovered some forgotten traditional pieces, such as the Spanish cape and the pocket square, and was a few decades ahead of genderless fashion. Long before the boom of the trend genderlesshe began to wear clothing and accessories that until then had been associated with women: fans, coats with fur details by Nelsy Chelala, stoles and unisex luxury bags from luxury firms such as Vuitton.

Jaime de Marichalar, in May 2004 in Paris.
Jaime de Marichalar, in May 2004 in Paris.Pascal LE FLOCH (Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Suddenly, the stylistic choices of King Juan Carlos’s son-in-law became the topic of conversation and debate. In August 1999, Marichalar posed on the Isle of Capri wearing Tommy Hilfiger paisley-print skintight pants. A few days later, on August 20, Alfonso Ussía published in abcthe main newspaper of the monarchists, a lapidary column titled The pants. “Summer opens doors to clothing fantasies, but does not grant amnesties. It amazes me that a measured, timid person and in his place embraces boldness with such atrocious results, ”wrote the journalist. And he concluded: “Everyone knows that belonging to the Royal Family is not comfortable. Ethics and aesthetics do not admit separate paths (…) The Republic of Spain is summed up in García Trevijano, Pablo Sebastián, Judge Navarro, Joaquín Sabina and now, Jaime de Marichalar’s pants”. The column caused a stir in the traditional neighborhoods of Madrid such as Salamanca or Chamberí and did not go unnoticed in the palace. The attack on a member of the Royal Family came from “one of their own”: Ussía is the son of the Counts of Los Gaitanes and a benchmark among many monarchists.

Elena de Borbón and Jaime de Marichalar, in November 2004.
Elena de Borbón and Jaime de Marichalar, in November 2004.Lalo Yasky (Wire Image)

Darío Valcárcel, one of the founders of the newspaper EL PAÍS and then a columnist for abc, also published that summer a devastating column against Marichalar. He titled it The agent is exposed. “A strange asteroid appears within the State that it is necessary to take —how can we think otherwise?— for an agent at the service of the Republic. The torpedo is fired —from which submarine?— in the form of an obscene, equivocal, provocative challenge to the seriousness of the first public institution: pants fitted to the loose hips, of a soft fabric, like leather. starlette sexageneria, stamped with white tentacles on a cobalt blue background,” the journalist wrote, describing the styling of the infanta’s husband as “an attack all along the line, directed against an ancient entity.” The criticism of Valcárcel, Marquis of O’Reilly, was also read with great attention in the noble areas of the capital and in La Zarzuela.

“The Spanish, who are tremendously austere, did not know how to understand Jaime,” laments Beatriz de Orleans in conversation with this newspaper. “In the end, what struck him in Spain is precisely what he likes abroad: the way he mixes colors and genres, his creativity and his attitude,” continues the aristocrat, former public relations for Christian Dior and a friend of Marichalar for three decades. “Spanish men’s fashion has no fantasy or creativity and Jaime has plenty of ingenuity. The Spaniard dresses the same as his father, his grandfather and his great-grandfather. I live in the heart of the Salamanca neighborhood and many times I laugh alone. On weekends, all the gentlemen are dressed the same: green jacket, trousers beige, moccasins with a pompom, an open shirt but without a scarf… they are all the same. They even wear the same color sock. Jaime doesn’t look like any of them,” says Orleans, who defines his friend’s style as “a Tutti Frutti, but very much yours”: it is not English, it is not French, it is not Spanish, but it is all of that at the same time. The princess lives near the ex-duke’s apartment and often has lunch with him. “You can’t imagine the sophistication of her house. For me it is the best in Spain. The table, the crockery, the books… every detail, every centimeter betrays her refinement and education”, she reveals.

Jaime de Marichalar and Beatriz de Orleans attend a dinner in tribute to Ira von Furstenberg in Madrid, in February 2016.
Jaime de Marichalar and Beatriz de Orleans attend a dinner in tribute to Ira von Furstenberg in Madrid, in February 2016.Ivan Del Monte (Europa Press via Getty Images)

Marisa de Borbón coincides with Beatriz de Orleans. “Jaime has exquisite taste. He knows how to mix colors, genres, and patterns. It is not for nothing that he has been a director of Dior, the flagship of LVMH, for 25 years, ”says the aristocrat, who, like Marichalar, is a director of Loewe. “I’ve known him for more than 15 years and it’s a pleasure to talk to him about fashion because he knows what he’s talking about.”

But The former Duke of Lugo has been a visionary beyond fashion. In 2003, a year after suffering a cerebral ischemia while practicing sports with an exercise bike, he began to move through the streets of Madrid on a red electric scooter. At that time, the press and television programs branded him as an eccentric. Twenty years later, electric scooters invade all the big capitals. He also predicted the boom of wireless headphones. In 2006, a decade before the iPhone launched AirPods, he could already be seen on Madrid’s Golden Mile talking on the phone with primitive wireless headphones.

Jaime de Marichalar, on Avenue Montaigne in Paris, in January 2004.
Jaime de Marichalar, on Avenue Montaigne in Paris, in January 2004.Pascal LE FLOCH (Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Three decades have passed since the day the Spanish met Marichalar, but in reality they still don’t know him. He lives his way: discreetly, sitting in a permanent second row, and not wanting that to change. After his separation from the Infanta Elena, in 2007, a decision that the Spanish Royal House described as a “temporary cessation of cohabitation”, he left the bank to dedicate himself to the fashion business full-time, but always behind the scenes. He is a director of several firms of the giant LVHM, the luxury group owned by Bernard Arnault, the richest man in the world, and combines those positions with the direction of his own tailoring brand, B Corner. He created it in 2016 after the death of his trusted tailor, Antonio Díaz.

B Corner suits are made from classic fabrics and reflect the “Marichalar style”. “Jaime’s style is unique, but with all the definition words and commas that appear in the dictionary,” says Federico Zanolla, one of his partners at B Corner. “It is very personal, his and no one else’s. Jaime brings a different vision. I don’t think there is another person who knows and understands this sector more. He knows perfectly all the types of garments that have been used for decades and their details. So his contribution is infinite ”, continues the financier. Zanolla met him in 2014 at Just One, Goyo Fernández’s multi-brand men’s fashion store where men from the Salamanca neighborhood dress up. A year after that first meeting, the three began to meet to shape B Corner.

Jaime de Marichalar and his daughter, Victoria Federica de Marichalar y Borbón, at a Christian Dior haute couture show in Paris on July 5, 2021.
Jaime de Marichalar and his daughter, Victoria Federica de Marichalar y Borbón, at a Christian Dior haute couture show in Paris on July 5, 2021.Stephane Cardinale – Corbis (Corbis via Getty Images)

Now, Jaime de Marichalar travels all over the world serving his clients. This winter he opened a pop-up store in Unützer, one of the boutiques most important in Munich. He is also working on the elaboration of a “manifesto” of his brand, which will serve as an institutional campaign. According to Federico Zanolla, the goal is to create thematic capsule collections with “unique pieces focused on certain moments in the life of man.” And, at what point is Marichalar? According to his environment, he is withdrawn from public life, away from the Royal Family and the spotlight, and focused on his work in fashion and his children: Victoria Federica, who is influencers (his Instagram has 234,000 followers), and Felipe Juan Froilán, who is living in Abu Dhabi, near his grandfather, King Juan Carlos. “The poor thing has disappeared a bit from the planet,” concludes one of her friends.

“Elegance has nothing to do with the garment you wear, it is an attitude. Following fashion is not having personality”, Marichalar told the magazine Vanity Fair in 2018, in the only interview he has given in decades. The ex-duke does not speak to the media. He prefers to explain himself through his costumes.

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