You’re chairman of the jury for the Mercedes fashion competition, aimed at young designers. Why did you accept this position?
Mercedes attends every fashion week all over the world, but they’ve remained fairly discrete in France despite being partners of the French Fashion Federation. The company decided to create the Etoiles Mercedes-Benz 2016 award. Together we wanted to help designers who don’t have the chance to showcase their work in France, even though there are other awards and competitions out there. For the first edition we decided to not take in applications, and instead selected people who had different styles, working methods and material such as fabric, fur and hair. We asked them to draw their inspiration from the Mercedes spirit, and at the end we selected a winner.
Can anyone take part?
The participants aren’t necessarily students, but people who have already started out. They usually have their own lines, whether just a collection of ideas or a more developed product. We all need some form of support to progress, be it financing, connections or publicity. The jury is of course linked to the fashion world, but that doesn’t mean it’s an indissociable part of it.
We have seen the appearance of more and more awards. What do you think young designers are lacking today?
There’s no magic recipe for success. Each person has their own way of doing things, and it’s meeting people, taking part in competitions and attending events that makes you move forward. Unfortunately there are loads of talented people who can’t get their break, and other people who are better at communication who have done very well. It’s not that easy. You also need a fair amount of luck. The competition means we can discover people who wouldn’t normally have been in our crosshairs, and who wouldn’t have had the chance to connect with other people.
"The competition means we can discover people who wouldn’t normally have been in our crosshairs, and who wouldn’t have had the chance to connect with other people."
Can you tell us about the last collection that was shown in March?
The collection was called “Life is a Catwalk”. We wanted to have a play on words and a reference to a “cat’s walk” combined with sensual, feminine movement. The idea was to present the mischievous French woman who is always chic and elegant, but also nonchalant and seductive. The name also sums up life in fashion, with its shows, pre-shows and countless miles walked. Do you know how many miles the models walk each season?! I wanted to play with the fun yet neurotic side of our profession.
Can you keep up with the rhythm of the fashion world? Or is it just too crazy?
We wouldn’t do it otherwise! Each person works to their own rhythm, and enjoys what they do. Or not. Every era has had its own polemics. Today’s system has created the current situation, and the result is that the clientele wants certain things. Department stores and leading brands now have a rhythm that has given their customers the wrong expectations. But that’s the way it is, and we just have to follow the trend. You can’t have the same products all the time. You need an assortment of different pieces that appear gradually over time.
Are you for or against changing the fashion calendar and its shows six months before the collections are released?
There are no changes to the calendar. It’s been around for 30 years! All the current changes are part of a very utopian vision. A handful of major brands have real power because they have their own networks, but the others can’t keep up. If brands want magazine coverage, their collections have to come out beforehand. The designers need time to create the clothes, and the artisans need time to perfect the lace and embroidery. You can’t just conjure up a piece out of thin air. The current system also teases the clientele, which is good. In this profession you get the impression that everyone sees your collections.
Do you think there’s a real change happening in Paris?
From the moment people want different things, there has to be some sort of change. Then again, it’s not because two or three brands want to shake up the fashion world that it’s necessarily going to happen overnight! We have a working business with companies, employees, turnover and buyers who travel all over the world, and who can’t all be in the same place. Everything is highly organised, and even moving a show two days forward in the calendar is very complicated.