In a joint interview with Caroline Daily, we talk with Yelle collaborator and 2008 Hyères winner Jean-Paul Lespagnard about his first Paris Fashion Week presentation…
I Could Be Yours - Fall/Winter 2011/12 presentation, filmed by Antoine Asseraf & René Habermacher.
Antoine Asseraf: Did your presentation go well this week?
Jean-Paul Lespagnard: It went really well. The feedback is really good. It was very difficult to organize, obviously, but as I always say “we learn from our mistakes”. ha ha. In the beginning I wanted to do something simple and small and in the end, I found myself doing 7 shows in one day! My assistants tell me all the time that when I tell them something, I think that it is really simple, when in fact it isn’t. So when I tell them that we are going to do something difficult, but that we will succeed, they know that it is going to be a mountain of work! But really really happy with how everything went. The people from the press are really enthusiastic. The people that came by the showroom are very enthusiastic too. I had some buyers–one from a boutique in NY, one from a boutique in Hong Kong, among others.
Was it complicated to plan?
It was a personal choice to put myself in the “off” on presentations by appointment. And i think that I will continue to do that. Because, this idea of doing 6 shows in one day was difficult and I launched myself into a crazy adventure, but I really want to do it again. I think its great because people can come whenever they want to. There is something that I like about not having chairs, it was standing only. I think that the next time, what I could do is have little portable stools for people that want to sit down. I just really like the idea of something spontaneous like what we did. So something that I am going to work on and try to perfect for next time. This defilé was meant as a way for me to come back after the festival and to present my work to buyers. When the buyers came to my showroom, they said “its great, its fresh, we have never seen this before, but we are not sure where to place your work for the moment” This is good actually because now, they have 6 months to digest what they say and to think about ideas for where to place my collection and about where my stuff fits in with other designers. I really very very happy with my fashion week in Paris!
You think that they will put your collection with the collection of….?
I don’t know. I honestly don’t know because there are pieces that are very constructed, such as the things with the pieces with the pillow cases. There are people that made a comparison between my work and Lanvin. Also with Moschino, which I can understand. Some even found similarities between some of my pieces and Margiela. So, it is a wide range.
Tell me a bit about the collection.
The theme of the collection was based on a story that I wrote about a woman who was walking on a road, crossing through the forest at dawn–all of these details are very important–and who meets a very fancy japanese truck. The truck is a normal truck that they transformed with structural elements and lights etc. The interior of the truck is baroque, with baroque tapestries and fabrics and crystal chandeliers. I think it is interesting to imagine the technological exterior of the truck and the classical interior. So the idea of the collection was to fuse together this woman, who is a bourgeoise of the countryside, and this truck. Not the truck driver! The truck. haha.
So we saw this fusion in the structured shoulders on some of the pieces for example. Some of the pieces were transformable, such as a sweatshirt which could be transformed into a dress depending on it is zipped up.
There were a lot of things influencing the collection. What was great was the baroque theme, which in itself is an accumulation of many things. So, in the work, I researched this idea of accumulating a lot of things which didn’t necessarily relate to one another….however, they did relate. For example, in the collection there is a “brocard de soiree…” with gold lurex in it–very soft and chic. I also had a vinyl, sequined skirt–it is a fabric that is used to cover the seats in discotheques, which for me, referenced the …..of the truck. But when you put those two pieces together, it is two different worlds, but two worlds that can communicate. It is pretty bizarre and interesting.
Jean-Paul Lespagnard's 2008 Hyères collection starring Jacqueline. Video by Antoine Asseraf.
You seem to always have a story like this one…
That’s right, I try to as much as possible. I had Jacqueline, my French fry girl. This time, the woman in my story didn’t have a name. There was not a name that seemed to fit, so I didn’t want to choose a name just for the sake of choosing one.
You didn’t have a name for her but you gave all the girls the same look.
That is something that I always like. I like to have a sort of army of beautiful girls… I think that my next collection is going to speak about a group of people, who are sharing an experience. It’s not yet september and I am already starting to do research.
"25 Hyères" by Antoine Asseraf - excerpt. "Digging for Victory" installation by Ethan Hayes-Chute and Jean-Paul Lespagnard.
Caroline Daily : Would you maybe like to make films?
I think that I could make films with my collections. If you want, when I conceive of a collection, it is often a starting point for other things. I use the collection to inspire other artistic projects. For example, in Hyères last year, I started the nature-themed collection–I didn’t really have enough money at that time to develop an entire collection–so I developed a variety of silhouettes and as I was creating the collection, I was developing a story. The story is that during the night, in Brussels, I was coming out of a discotheque and I met a sorcerer who gave me magic seeds and who asked me what I dreamt of doing. I told her that my dream was to become a fashion designer. So she gave me the seeds and told me to spread them in the dirt so that they grow. So, I planted the seeds and then, they became trees. And when I cut the trees down, they became live beings. And these live beings became my assistants who would help me make the collection. So, in the collection, there were at least two silhouettes that looked like war camouflage, which reflected this idea of fighting a battle to get the collection finished and combined the idea of combat and the idea of nature.
I continued the nature theme through out the collection and also in the cabana that I created at the festival. The cabana was an installation at the festival and was in fact my studio, which I had moved from Brussels to Hyeres. And in the cabana, my “tree assistant” was helping me sew garments for the collection. I could have put anyone in the tree outfit, but it was very important that it be one of my assistants or one of my interns. We always put the designer on display and we forget to show the team behind the designer. So, it was important to put my assistant, who helped me with the collection, in the tree/camouflage battle outfit.
So, for this current collection with the truck, I am not sure what other projects it will generate, but I know that I would like to make some installations and to do a project with a photographer.
"Ce Jeu" by Yelle. Video by Yoann Lemoine. Styling by Jean-Paul Lespagnard.
So, Yelle came to you with some ideas…
I met Julie just after the festival, right when she was about to make a new video for their song “Ce Jeu”. A friend of mine, Yoann Lemoine, was directing the video and he introduced Julie to my work and she really like it. So she contacted me to do the styling on the video. After that, she had a tour the US and she asked me to collaborate on the costumes for it. After that, we stayed in contact and most recently, they asked me to create the costumes for their album “Safari Disco Club”. They told me what they wanted. It was a really interesting collaboration because there was a real exchange and sharing of ideas. They showed me images and explained why they liked certain things and I told them that I liked certain things too and showed them plenty of references, some Belgian. We constructed something together for the album art. And I think that we will continue to collaborate. We have already started to talk about other projects… merchandising….
When I spoke to them the other day, I asked what the visual concept was for the album Safari Disco Club. They said that it was a mix of fun and elegance….
That also describes my universe: making a link between fun and elegance. With Julie, we talked a lot about how I wanted her to show her elegant side now. For example, the other day she went to the Castelbajac show and beforehand, she came by the showroom to try on different outfits. We had a lot of outfits that were funny, like the pieces that we used for the video “Ce Jeu”. But we decided on something different, something more elegant. Something that is “the new Julie”. There is always humor in the outfits, like the clogs and the pendant with my portrait on it, but there is something more refined about the look.
They have grown so much (Yelle) and I am so proud of them. I admire the fact that after putting out their first album with a huge record label, they have decided to leave that label to do something on their own, with their own vision. Its really great. Visually it’s better and we can see how much they are growing as artists. I identify with this–I am still a young designer, but I feel that we have a similar path.
"Don't Worry Bee Happy" Making-Of.
Are you engaged in other collaborations at the moment?
Yes, there are other artistic collaborations that I am working on. I am leaving on the 16th of March to go to San Francisco to make the costumes for a dance performance, choreographed by of an American choreographer with whom I work often. Her name is Meg Stuart. When she shows her work in Paris, it is usually at the Theatre de la Ville. She is based in Berlin. I also have project with another American choreographer named Jeremy Wade. He is also based in Berlin.
We would like to hitchhike for two weeks in the United States dressed up like bees! I recently did a photo exposition where I photographed dressed like a bee, Maya the Bee, on top of the Mayan Temples. I wanted to comment on tourism in Mexico. Also I thought, “when you go to Disneyland, you dress in Mickey Mouse ears. Well, when you go to the Mayan Temples, you dress like Maya the Bee”. I was also exploring how people present themselves as tourists in another country. Whenever I am working on an artistic project, I think often about the questions around identity and how I present myself as an artist.
For the moment, I have all of those projects and I have the new collection which I have already started working on. And while I am in San Francisco, I am going to take a tour of the Hearst Castle, which was the inspiration for the Xanadu Mansion in Citizen Kane. Apparently it is the “Vatican” of the United States and I really want to see it.
Meg Stuart project, costumes by Jean-Paul Lespagnard.
You have a lot of costume projects? Do you want to stay in pret-a-porter fashion or could you see yourself solely doing costume work?
I don’t think that I could see myself only doing costume work. I like to be involved in a lot of projects at once–it is the constant creativity and the creative mix that interests me. If I am not being creative, my life has no meaning.
Caroline Daily: What was the first article or review you had in the press?
The first article on me was in the newspaper of my hometown. I had done an expo in the stairwell of the town hall and it received a lot of different reactions. My piece was part of an expo for the artists of the village. They invited me to put a piece in the show and my piece was an installation that was three meters high of a woman who transformed into a tree.
Can you talk about the clogs on which you collaborated with Nathalie Elharrar of LaRare ?
We wanted to have a “countryside” element to the styling of my collection and that is why I wanted to have a futurist-looking clog. So I collaborated with Nathalie Elharrar, who has a brand of shoes called Larare. I really wanted to have something traditional that had a futuristic side and something that had a hand-made spirit. In the collection, I wanted to find a balance between something robotic and something artisanal. I wanted to highlight the artisanal side with a pair of wooden clogs.
What is the last thing that stimulated you?
Honestly, I see things that stimulate me every day. Often it is something that I have never seen and I think “wow”. Something that is stimulating me at the moment is something that I saw about a year ago in Brussels–it was show of Romeo Castellucci “Inferno, Paradiso and Purgatorio” I would like to use that for my next collection.
Thanks to Lynsey Peisinger for her precious help transcribing and translating this interview.