In the Ring with Sébastien Jondeau

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It’s hard to imagine that the handsomest, best-dressed bodyguard in the business, Karl Lagerfeld’s shadow Sébastien Jondeau, had no clue who his future boss was when they first met.

Raised in a rough neighborhood just north of Paris, Jondeau first met Lagerfeld as a teenager about 25 years ago. A competitive motocross rider, he earned pocket money through an occasional gig at a family-run art moving business. As he recently recalled: “I was a little surprised by [his] persona,” he said. “We waited for him for hours. He made it worth our while, but I left still not knowing who he was, so I had to ask around. He was known, but not famous like he is today.” Today, Jondeau is as close to the fashion designer’s family as it gets.

In the 20 years since signing onto team Lagerfeld, the 43-year-old personal security guard has had a front row seat to everything in the designer’s orbit, from the moment he leaves his Left Bank home to the moment he returns. It could be an impromptu shopping jaunt in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a fashion shoot, one of the Chanel or Fendi shows in Paris and Milan—both of which Lagerfeld designs, of course—or a high-profile public appearance such as the recent switching on of the lights on the Champs-Elysées alongside the Mayor of Paris Anne Hildago. But those are just the most obvious examples. By his own definition, Jondeau’s life story—particularly given where he comes from is “unimaginable and impossible to describe,” as he tells CR.

“I’ve learned more from Karl than I ever learned in school, particularly about French history,” he says. “If it weren’t for him, I would probably never have learned to love reading. And, of course, everything I know about art, design and style is thanks to him.”

In 2005, at Lagerfeld’s behest, Jondeau ventured into modeling, another unexpected career twist that still perplexes him. “I don’t have a model look,” he says. “I don’t consider myself handsome. My idea of beauty is what age you are in the boxing ring. It’s inside and out.” Now, after six years as the muse for Lagerfeld’s menswear namesake fashion line, Jondeau is getting comfortable in his latest hyphenate, as curator of a crisply edited collection of men’s ready-to-wear, footwear, and accessories designed in his own image.

The baseline for the inaugural 32-piece collection, which launched this fall , was motocross, a lifelong passion Jondeau only recently gave up (at Lagerfeld’s request), after countless smashups, a dozen operations, and one very close call that broke his back. Even now, he notes, he feels the residual damage of that accident, like sand at the back of his throat, whenever he speaks. In homage to the sport, several pieces featured a badge motif extrapolated from a personal candid shot taken with his bike.

By his own account extreme in all things—work, sports, friendship, and love—Jondeau looked to another passion, boxing, for his sophomore outing for next Spring/Summer 2019. “Boxing brings you right back to reality,” he offers, pulling prototypes from a line that runs from track pants to tuxedos, with T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, and sneakers filling in the middle ground. A varsity jacket and a ribbed cashmere turtleneck are his current favorites: the former because he always wanted one as a child; the latter because he wanted the most comfortable, fitted, thick roll neck around. Those and several other pieces had plenty of crossover appeal.

Because he spends a lot more time looking at details lately, Jondeau says that for him there’s no such thing as “one” fashion: personality and life experience are key to the mix. “Chic is being able to bring it all together and wear it well,” he says. He has no time for embellishments, either. “I don’t know how to do that kind of thing,” he says—not even a single tattoo, either. And he’d love it if someone, somewhere, could please explain cropped pants for men. “I am anchored in the real world,” he explains. “I want to make dreams out of things that are real.”

Karl Lagerfeld curated by Sebastien Jondeau’s Spring/Summer 2019 collection will be available in stores and online starting January 2019.


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