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Design in motion

Design trend-spotter and fashion prophet, Floriane de Saint Pierre tells us what she sees on the horizon for the business of design.

Do think young designers today are obliged to be able to do it all – photography, directing, design?

I think you have to be true to yourself. You have to really know yourself, and then look at how you want to express your talent. Some people don’t want high media exposure. Or maybe they don’t want to venture into one domain or another. It’s just a matter of talent being in the right place at the right time.

There is no obligation or blueprint

 

What newcomers to the Paris calendar have caught your attention?

Iris van Herpen, for example, the Paris-based rising Dutch couture star is innovating in interesting ways. But beyond names, when you look at the 400 shows each season, the question for me is: how are these young designers – beyond an aesthetic proposition – going to become breakthroughs in their time?  That is really what interests me. And it’s much, much harder to read. Much harder.

Iris van Herpen

What do you think of the recent flourishing of new fashion schools, particularly by media groups, for example Condé Nast?

Two things: I think it’s absolutely a logical extension. Second, there is an immense need to create schools because the need for talent is there. We need pure ‘creatives’ who can be involved quickly.

It goes right back to the product as a means of expression

 

Until the end of the 20th century, designers had products and media had paper and everyone knew their domain.

Now, we have the good fortune to have means of expression that are constantly renewed: brands are media, media are brands. Each is an empathetic partner for its audience. When that happens, you have to have things to say and creative talents to produce them and put the message out there. There were few schools that could address all these new kinds of roles. In speaking to media groups, I think they had an enormous need for talent and adaptability, and a hard time finding it quickly. That does not mean that all those students will wind up in media groups. It means that the many issues of visual identity, creation and design -- what brands need today can be addressed. So much the better!

Let’s talk about the new rule breakers…

When I think of sociological innovation, Stella McCartney is right up there. She invented a modern wardrobe for women. It’s easy-to-wear Stella, it corresponds to a woman’s life today, it’s clear, it’s linear and it reflects her values with integrity.

Stella McCartney Spring/Summer 2013

Bouchra Jarrar has a real vision of how women live now. And Phoebe Philo has hit that sociological dimension. She has defined the 21st century woman, ascended to extreme quality and style, and developed a global artistic vision without getting into appearances for appearance’s sake.

Hedi Simane is completely inventing fashion for today and tomorrow, because he is reinventing an attitude that reflects the attitude we live with today, with a point of view, a quality, an aesthetic, but which is extraordinarily functional. Alexander Wang is doing interesting work with Balenciaga, with a level of creativity that is a hallmark of Balenciaga, but in keeping with the here and now. He is re-approaching the brand in synchrony with his time.

Fashion and luxury have been heritage-focused for several years now. How do you see that evolving?

If I had a crystal ball, I’d say we’re on the brink of a huge wake-up call. In recent months, Apple recruited the president of Saint Laurent and the CEO of Burberry. That’s breakthrough material. I’d say the wake-up call maybe should have been the other way around: I think that in a world where almost every luxury consumer has an Apple something-or-other, the level of fashion consumer is one and the same. If you are a fashion brand today that defines itself as the strongest in its category, you don’t need to be comparing yourself to other fashion houses. You need to compare yourself to Apple, or other brands that are extraordinarily strong in their field.

They have the attention of the exact same consumer.

 

How do you see design evolving?

One thing seems extremely important to me, and that is the globalisation of design. Through the end of the last century, we saw that, with the exception of the emergence of Japanese fashion and architecture, luxury and fashion brands were western, created by westerners. Almost all the talent came from western schools.

Xiao Li knitwear collection 2013

Now that’s completely changed. There is a paradigm shift happening, in every field, in favour of Asia. The Louvre Lens is by SANAA, who did a magnificent job. London’s Serpentine Gallery chose Sou Fujimoto for its summer cafe project this year. At International Talent Support the three winners were South Korean, Chinese (Xiao Li won the Diesel Award for remarkable work with textiles that is right in phase with today) and Japanese. And they were not all trained in the west.

So the new globalisation is coming from Asia and…?

It’s coming from South America – the Campanas come to mind – as well as Asia. Whether in photography or design, we are seeing other continents open up. I spend a lot of time looking at the art world, and I really think that artists are ahead, and luxury brands should be ahead, so they have a lot in common. A magnificent African artist, Wangechi Mutu, shown by Barbara Gladstone at Fiac comes to mind, and we’re seeing an uptick in artists from emerging countries in South America and Asia who were present both there and at Paris Photo and Frieze in London.

Wangeshi Mutu

The globalization of design is touching every field. It’s a fabulous opportunity. Paris has always been a platform for designers and artists of all nationalities. We’re seeing this on the fashion week calendar too, of course, with Chinese-born Yiqing Yin. We’re seeing a lot of new collaborations take shape with talents from far horizons.

I’m eager to see what kind of new brands come out of these encounters.

 

I’d say we’re coming out of a world where we knew all the parameters: western brands with western investors. Then there was a wave of Asian and Middle Eastern investment. Now, the third step is: what will happen with brands and couture houses founded in emerging countries? The same thing is happening in cinema, photography and architecture – there’s just so much going on. And it’s all so very, very, very good.