Tell us about your last SS16 collection ?
It was based around being British. I did a lot of research, garment and picture research. So i was starting to look at youth tribes of England: rockers, punk, all different English, sort of eccentric. We have the horse guard helmet, once again which is very British, bit touristy, but why not. Eccentric mix. There is also a lot of men’s clothes like girls wearing men’s clothes. But not androgynous. I don’t like androgynous.
Why that ? It’s gender-blurring time…!
I don’t mind girls wearing boys or boys wearing girls. But androgynous is kind of boring.
You graduated in architecture. How did you end up in fashion?
I have a degree in architecture. But I wasn’t very good. I want very interested so I didn’t work very hard. Then I went back to continue but in that year, I just realized it was not going to happen. In the meantime I was hanging out with some girls that was at Central Saint Martins and I thought “oh fashion is a lot more fun” and we were going to more parties and nightclubs. I’m being silly, I was just more interested in clothes. I would sound very interested in architecture now but that’s because I’ve grown up but I was too young and pop music was lot more fun.
Have you ever thought about launching your own brand ?
I thought of it very briefly. I did a collection and I tried tried to sell it but I realized I was hopeless. I didn’t have a clue. I don’t have the dri. You have to be so determined to do your own thing. It’s so difficult and it becomes even more difficult.
There is more and more prizes today and sponsorship than before…
But there is also more competition. When I started, there wasn’t that much but I hooked up with John (Galliano) very early and that was great. I always had the opportunity to do the creative work I wanted. I didn’t really want to get bumped trying to get financing and the administration and all of that. I just don’t do any of that. I’m just a creative.
What is more stimulating?
I like the whole process, being in the studio, the research, colors, fabrics, embroideries, etc. I love fittings, that’s what I’m good at if I says that myself. All the creative in the studio. I’m not so much the show busy dinners parties and all of that.
Are you not competitive ?
No I’m not competitive at all. I crumbled when people get competitive with me. I work with one or two people that became competitive with me and I can just not handle it. I don’t nurture that kind of environment. I don’t treat people like that. Team works better.
How did you feel then when you became creative director in the full media spotlight ?
The whole thing was a shock. I didn’t think it could be happening. I just thought « carry on ! You’re still at Dior, do your usual thing ». I just didn’t see it coming soit was a bit nerve-racking for me because i’ve always been litteraly in the studio so suddenly I have my name written in the paper. But that was traumatic at first but I get used to it. And I love it now ! (rires) It was a bit scary because it was at a certain age. When you’re young, those things happen, like to John when he was 24, but to me when I was 50. It’s quite a difference. You’ve got a whole lifetime not having that. I can still do what I want. I’ve always been directing a team anyway and the work is the same.
Do you think image is more important than clothes today ?
I don’t think ine is more important than the other. We cannot have clothes without an image. But I take your point. Because everyone is so media savvy and social media. It’s just so much outthere, so much pop music, so much fashion magazines. When I grew up in England, there were only three : Vogue, Harper’s bazaar and Tatler. And then i-D and the Face.
England is fashion magazines paradise.
You have to concentrate on image and have the image right because this is your main tool of communication. People see the image more than they se the clothes, they see the show, etc.
John Galliano : new logo, new image, why ?
This is the process of redefining the brand, cleaning up the logo specifically. Everyone was tired of the gothic script. We’ve thought it runs upstream and it was time to change. And it’s also linked with the fact that we are doing a contemporary line now which is part of the sense of the show collection. The main difference is priced points. It’s more accessible which is good. A new page…
"There is changes at the moment. But it’s just a coincidence that everyone changes at the same time. I might sound cynical but to me, luxury is not changing. It’s just this year thing. Fashion feeds on something new. I’m old enough to have seen things come and go and come back again."
Why a good time…?
The more obvious reason, John have left ! And those things takes time to settle; you need time to find the right person to work with. We find Franck Durand, that took a while.
We wanted to go back to the root with the last collection.
Yes, a little bit romantic. I’m not a romantic person but I’m interested in the romantic era. You have to be to work with John for so long! I don’t like when it becomes overly sentimental, sexist, weak, etc. Weak and frail women looking for strong men to rescue them! That’s bollock! I like strong women. But it claims going back to the root, it is eccentric and eclectic and it always was Galliano. Something having the last few years to clean up a little bit and bring the DNA back.
What were the difficulties when John left?
It was an unstable period for everyone involved in Galliano and Dior. It was so unexpected and sudden. For a year or two, everyone was wondering what’s going to happen and then things settled down and went back to normal. There was a change at Dior and a change here with me but I’ve been here for so long…since 1984.
Are you in contact with John?
I’m not in contact with John and I regret it. Maybe a breath out might be good.
Raf Simons left Dior because it was crazy. Was it?
I don’t know what was going on there. I was surprised it was a short staying but it’s quite high pressure doing Dior if you are not used to it. It’s a lot of work doing a day job for a big house like Dior doing all those collections and another label, which I did for a long time but I did it with John and Steven Robinson. When we started Steven did a lot of organisation to make it work.
Do you think there is too much pressure in fashion?
That is fashion ! We are not saving the world, it’s not a war zone. There is too much pressure.
But it’s like suddenly people realized there is pressure ?
It depends what you are doing. I was doing 14 collections a year. That does not include the things that I wasn’t really involved in like accessories. That is a lot of work. I thrive on it. People can thrive on pressure. Life is a little bit to easy I think, until you achieve that much. It’s a classic I know. Kinda rich kids ! You have to fight your way out.
So you think it doesn’t have to change then. There is not too much collection.
I wouldn’t say that: there is not too much collections full stop in the world! There is so much of it. Fashion becomes so popular. Fashion is lifestyle. A while ago, everyone was a popstar, now everyone is a fashion designer. That is a problem with young designers: because there is too much competition, it is difficult for them to succeed. I think the clientele are not loyal anymore, as they used to be. They don’t care where they buy their clothes, they just want what they want and that is difficult for young designers, to establish your place. The competition there is, the more fatale it becomes.
Have you thought about doing shows in menswear again?
I’d love too. It stopped because we had to negotiate with our partner in Italy and do a contemporary line. And they definitely wanted to do womens and mens, and certainly not going to stop the womens because it is so iconic for the brand.
Contemporary is the big thing now?
Yes. Contemporary is price points. It is part of the fashion thing to become a big business. It is a bigger business than when I started. Bu it means diversification in terms of prices and products.
Lanvin, Dior, Balenciaga. Everyone is leaving their house. Do you think luxury is changing at the moment? Is this a fashion revolution?
There is changes at the moment. But it’s just a coincidence that everyone changes at the same time. I might sound cynical but to me, luxury is not changing. It’s just this year thing. Fashion feeds on something new. I’m old enough to have seen things come and go and come back again.