Hyères 2018: all about female empowerment
Once all roads led to Rome. This weekend, all things fashionable converged on Hyères. Where, in era of growing female empowerment one witnessed a flowering of female talent in all three of the festival’s disciplines – fashion, accessories and photography.
Women scooped practically every award, with ladies getting all the various prizes in both accessories and fashion. It’s true that the topline Grand Prix du Jury in fashion did go to a menswear collection, though this was by a co-ed design team from Holland: Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh. But Botter was the only guy among the 14 eventual winners.
Otherwise, the ladies ruled, and in France where the Republican values of strict egalitarianism remain sacred, this was without any special positive discrimination from the organizers.
“It happened by chance. But we are very happy that it happened like this. It shows the very liberty of our festival and the way its doors are always open to all the world,” argued Jean-Pierre Blanc, the bearded gent who dreamed up the Hyères Festival, founded it and still drives this unique melting pot.
It’s also a festival with deepening roots in the community, where several thousand locals packed out the 10 finalists joint runway shows three nights in a row inside the Salins des Pesquiers, a finely aged salt warehouse on the flatlands of the Giens Peninsula.
“For me the opening ceremony was a real highlight. To see such an enormous number of people – exceptional professionals, brilliant designers and great creatives mixing with hundreds of locals showed how much the festival means to so many people,” opined Blanc.
And it being France there was an impressive intellectual moment. No wonder the former Minister of Culture Audrey Azoulay showed up. And a series of packed out debates organized by the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM). These varied from a discussion on the future of retailing after Colette to the influence of Artificial Intelligence on fashion. It being France, the discussion can be deep, with the Fédération’s president Pascal Morand, arguing that the origins of AI can be traced back to entre-deux-guerres Vienna where Austrian intellectuals sought to look for scientific truth – against the background of growing totalitarianism.
“And the principal of creation remains to escape from of imprisonment of the past,” argued Morand, effectively summing up this year’s Hyères. Which Hyères does, awarding titles to fledgling talents that have gone onto the become fashion stars – like Anthony Vaccarello and Viktor & Rolf.
When speaking of good years for fine wines, the French use the term millésieme, and this was assuredly an unprecedented vintage.
Founded in 1985 the festival has had its highs and lows, as Blanc fought bravely to find the sponsors and convince local politicians of the role the festival and its nerve center, the Villa de Noailles, could play in reviving and energizing culture in this storied peninsula at the most southern point of the Côte d’Azur. When this writer first visited Villa Noailles two decades ago for its 10th anniversary in 1995, the villa was something of ruin. Today, it has been finely restored, with exhibitions doting every room – from a squash court to former swimming pool.
The festival received an enormous shot in the arm for its 30th anniversary when Karl Lagerfeld visited and staged an epic master class and Chanel became a major, and committed, sponsor. Since then Chanel has allowed Hyères winners to tap into its different teams within its Paraffection group, its métiers d’arts companies like Maison Lesage (embroidery), Maison Lemarié (feathers) and Massaro (handmade boots), which constitutes the greatest single grouping of couture skills on the planet.
Another key sponsor and component is Premiere Vision, which effectively guarantees that the 10 finalists have access to the best resources inside the giant Paris fabric fair.
“We do not want to just write a sponsorship check, but instead to really bring together the remarkable textiles of Premiere Vision with the really great talent that Hyères keeps discovering. And I think when you look at the results on the runway we have succeeded,” said PV’s CEO Philippe Pasquet.
Above all, Hyères is a mix of the two parallel families - fashion and photography.
“I think we keep on attracting a special collection of people because the direction artistic of the festival is generally very strong and at a very high level. Plus, it’s on a unique coast, Cote and four days and half in the South of France is a long and agreeable time; and a note a bad way meet and really discuss things,” smiled Blanc.
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