The farm boy Oscar Wilde of fashion sends up its follies
Loic Prigent's "I Love Fashion But it's Everything That I Hate" -- a collection of put-downs, witticisms and snippets of overheard conversations he has gleaned as a fashion insider -- has propelled him to the front row alongside the runway queens he has so much fun quoting.
Lines like, "She is so rich she never gets embarrassed", and, "Last night I was so hungry I made myself a Bloody Mary," have struck a chord not just with the public, but with the people he is gently sending up.
Some are so on the button that French actress Catherine Deneuve, a fan and longtime stalwart of the front row herself, cracked up laughing while reading them on French television.
Others offer deliciously indiscreet peeks behind the scenes.
"Kanye [West] rang asking to come to the show with Kim [Kardashian]," one fashion show organiser was quoted as saying last year. "We said Kim wasn't our image, so he left her in the car."
- Love-hate -
Prigent, 43, grew up far from such razzamatazz, picking onions on his parents' farm in rural Brittany. And his book's title sums up his love-hate relationship with a world he plunged into when he arrived in the French capital aged 20.
"Sometimes I almost detest it. At other times I am drunk with it," he told AFP.
Prigent knows fashion, and particularly the Paris top-end world very well. He has been making behind-the-scenes documentaries about its most famous names for two decades, including acclaimed films on haute couture and Chanel.
He said the vast majority of the 2,000 one-liners and quotations he uses in the book came from "the mouths of models, designers, colleagues and friends".
Other epigrams he admitted were his own. "Unfortunately sometimes I quote myself," he laughed.
- $500 T-shirt -
But lines like, "He's a genius. He invented the $500 T-shirt", and "My inspiration was the last 600 years", ring only too true for anyone who has been backstage.
Novelty-weary critics on the other side of the red rope are perfectly caught by such observations as "I can't decide if this collection is awful or if it will change the way we will dress for the next 10 years. Maybe both."
Some of the quotes made their first appearance on Prigent's Twitter account (with some 200,000 followers) before he folded them into his book titled in French: "J'adore la mode mais c'est tout ce que je deteste".
He taps piquant phrases he hears into his cellphone and then reworks them either to fit Twitter's 140-character limit or to keep for himself. "It's not absolutely pure. There is a filter," he told AFP.
While fashion's bitchiness is legend -- "I adored him when he had talent", or "I don't know him but I hate him" -- Prigent loves it for all its failings.
The booze -- "That's not alcohol, that's champagne!" -- the diets -- "I am so hungry I could eat" -- and the hypocrisy -- "Oh shit she is coming our way. Oh hello my darling, how are you?" are some of his favourite themes.
Not to mention the blithe decadence: "I don't have my mobile. I left it in with my driver so he can recharge it driving around the block."
But there are little bittersweet melancholic moments too: "We received a sublime bouquet of roses. Everybody photographed them, but no one smelt them," or "Tonight we are having a dinner without any photographers. It will be great!"
And in these troubled times, Prigent insists fashion's dogged perversity is no bad thing.
"The world is going backwards now. As fashion always goes in the opposite direction to the rest of the world, maybe it is going the right way," he added.
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