Podcast: Etienne Russo of Villa Eugénie on how to produce shows for top luxury labels
In this new episode of the LuxurynsightXFashionNetwork podcast series, Etienne Russo, founder and creative director of international event agency Villa Eugénie, talks to Godfrey Deeny, global editor-in-chief of FashionNetwork.com, about his professional journey as developer, producer and set designer for the runway shows of some of the top names in luxury fashion, from Dries Van Noten to Chanel, Hermès, Lanvin and Moncler, among others.
The open-air Givenchy runway show at the Jardin des Plantes garden in Paris in October 2022; the Dior Homme show in the shadow of the Giza pyramids last December; the collision between a glam aesthetic and a post-industrial setting for Alexandre Vauthier at the end of January: with his Villa Eugénie event agency, based in Brussels, Paris and New York, Etienne Russo has taken part in and produced over 1,000 shows in the last 30 years, and is very much part of the trend for spectacular runway shows.
Career linked to the 'Antwerp Six'
After studies in the hospitality sector, Russo started his career as a model in the early 1980s, at a time when “fashion was booming in Belgium.” He said that he “started working with Dries Van Noten, first as a model and later selling the collection. At the time, it was a small company.”
After stays in Milan and London, and many trips to Tokyo and Hong Kong with the ‘Antwerp Six’ - a group of designers that went on to garner worldwide fame, among them Ann Demeulemeester and Walter Van Beirendonck - he became the creative director of the Mirano nightclub in Brussels. “We were very close to fashion, we held young designers’ festivals, we worked with photographers to do exhibitions,” he said.
In 1991, Russo produced his first show for Belgian designer Dries Van Noten, for the menswear fashion week. “It was a game of ping pong between us. Where the idea came from wasn’t important, but it had to be a good idea,” remembers Russo, who now lectures at the French Fashion Institute, where he passes on his expertise in his field.
Planning shows from A to Z
“I teach to 15 or so students from all over the world. I give them the name of a label and designer we are working with. They can choose any type of event they want, and I ask them to produce invites, pick a venue, plan a unique runway show and promote it on social media channels like Instagram. I ask them to have a global 360º vision of the brand,” said Russo.
How to stage a successful haute-couture show? From the label's briefing to the event’s management, from how to breathe life into a designer’s vision and their label’s heritage to the evolution of the fashion press and the contribution of new technologies, Russo takes an in-depth look at his hybrid profession, blending show production and set design.
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