Thursday, November 30, 2006

Azzedine Alaia (April 2001)


I first met Azzedine Alaia in 1984, when I was hired by him as a model. Best-known for his skin-tight sculptural silhouettes, he is among the most influential designers of the last twenty years. He earned this reputation by being one of the last of the purists. He's also earned a reputation for being his own worst enemy, which stems at least in part from his reluctance to adhere to any show schedule or shipping obligation. He delivers a collection when he is ready, not when a schedule says he has to. This is a man who would rather destroy his own business than compromise his standards. And he has come dangerously close to letting it all go more than once, since he insists on personally constructing each prototype himself--from paper pattern to finished garment, including sewing--rather than relying on the help of design assistants. But because of this legendary insistence on perfection (and despite his refusal to follow traditional fashion schedules), he's remained a darling of retailers, editors, pop stars, and models.

Alaia's staying power is something that's become especially evident in the last few months--this fall he treated his fans to a new and much-anticipated collection (sales are reportedly brisk), as well as an exhibition of his work, presented by the Brant Foundation in New York's SoHo. A variety of things have contributed to this renaissance. For one, the current revival of '80s fashion means that Alaia, who helped define the sexy, aggressive-yet-feminine look of the decade, is a central reference point. Another factor is the recent announcement that Alaia and the Prada Group have reached a partnership agreement which seems to perfectly reflect what these two companies are all about: "to realize a program of common work" and to continue "the tradition of prestige and quality in the house of Alaia." The Prada Group, which owns Prada, Miu Miu, and Church's Shoes and has partnerships with Helmut Lang, Jil Sander, and Fendi, also plans to establish a Paris-based archive of Alaia's past and future works.

VW: I've been trying to get you on the phone for hours--where have you been?

AZZEDINE ALAIA: [laughs] I've been running all day.

VW: What's going on?

AA: Discussions, things, that's all. I couldn't even work on the clothes.

VW: Big business, eh?

AA: Exactly.

VW: It's one in the morning for you [in Paris], which I know is typically when you really get down to creating. I'm sure you must be working on something.

AA: Always.

VW: What are you doing for your next collection?

AA: Not much so far.

VW: So it's only a dream at this point?

AA: You're funny tonight--like a cop with a ton of questions... Are you taking notes or what?

VW: I'm recording you and I'm taking notes.

AA: OK, because I didn't hear you for a moment there. I was like, Where did she go? Is she making a lemon tart?

VW: No. not tonight. It's made already--I'm all yours. So tell me about your partnership with the Prada Group. I don't normally think of you as the kind of designer who would be anything other than totally independent.

AA: That's true, but it's different with Patrizio Bertelli [CEO of the Prada Group]. He's interesting for me because he understands how I need to work. And having his muscle behind us will make working easier.

VW: But sometimes even though a cash infusion can make things easier, it can also bring pressure.

AA: We all need pressure, though. If you don't have it, you don't move, you don't go the extra mile. Do you know what I mean?

VW: Yes, true. But the only real progress I've ever known you to care about was in terms of your technique as a designer.

AA: Yes, yes, yes.

VW:... Are you taking notes?

AA: No. Why would I take notes? I'm not the one writing. What, I'm going to write the article? This girl is out of her mind.

VW: [laughs] OK, but back to my question. Do you think designers need to have partners these days?

AA: Yes, it's necessary because now more than ever you need the muscle. It's good to have a partner. It's true for both [Jean Paul] Gaultier and me--we both came to a point where we had done all we could on our own. What the Prada Group offered me was totally interesting, you know. They haven't asked me to change how I work or to meet specific quotas or anything. They were interested in the way I work and think about things. Situations like that are rare.

VW: As a model I had the opportunity to see a lot of different designers at work, including you, and you work in a very special way. I never saw someone spend as much time on the actual creation of the clothes as you.

AA: That's the point, you know. I'm alone. We're one of the big names, and yet, we are a small house, as far as the number of employees go. But in terms of the work, it all has to get done.

VW: Yes. But you're strict with your vision.

AA: I ask a lot from myself. When I love, I do everything I can.

VW: In your case, it's almost obsessive.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rodarte CDFA interview (2006)

The label is just three seasons old, but people who love well-made clothes love Rodarte. Sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy talk about their own passions—among them, Brancusi, Patti Smith, and Opium perfume.

How would you describe your clothes?
Refined, thoughtful, light—and intelligently designed.

What was your big breakthrough?
Sarah Lerfel asking us to do the windows at Colette during the couture shows.

What was your first fashion moment?
Our mother sprinkled the bedsheets with Opium perfume.

What is the best trend of all time?
Schiaparelli's skeleton sweaters. It's been our lifelong mission to find one.

What is the best trend of spring 2007?
Kate: A charming wit in some of the collections.
Laura: And lightness.

What's the worst fashion faux pas?
Caring too much about one's style.

What was yours?

Who would you like to dress that you haven't yet?
Joan Didion and Maggie Cheung.

What is your greatest inspiration?

Chanel or elsa schiaparelli? and why?
Both. One doesn't have the same impact without the other.

Ultimate muse?
Patti Smith.

In what specific areas of business would you invest the $200,000 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award?
Equipment for production, studio, employees.

If you didn't need the money for business, what would you do with it?
Travel everywhere.

Phillip Lim CDFA interview (2006)

The former designer for Development, this 33-year-old from the O.C. has quickly built a following on the strength of his pretty yet cool, beyond-basic clothes.

How would you describe your clothes?
Classic with a sense of madness.

What was your big breakthrough?
Pulling off the spring show. It was my first, and it was amazing. To see these real, beautiful, professional girls walking out like fluttering butterflies into this sea of people, I thought, "Is this us? Is this for real?"

Who is your favorite designer, living or dead?
It's definitely Dries Van Noten. I just love that he's such a die-hard romantic. From the invitation to the refreshments at the show, the whole thing is such a dream.

What is the best trend of spring 2007?
For me, it's white. White, white, white. It's all about that freshness, the innocence, the naiveté.

What's the worst fashion faux pas?
Leggings worn as pants without covering the middle portion. Only a girl like Kate Moss can get away with that. One girl in the world, and that's it.

What was your worst look?
Polka-dot socks. With shorts. It was back when Wham was big. You know: shorts, vest, polka-dot socks.

What is your greatest inspiration?
My mother.

Chanel or Elsa Schiaparelli? and why?
I love both, but I'd have to say Chanel. She was always modern, always stylish, but with a wicked sense. She had such a rebellious attitude, and I love that.

What would you be if you weren't a designer?
I'd love to work in a flower shop. I feel like I have a good hand for that. I'm always arranging things.

In what specific areas of business would you invest the $200,000 cfda/vogue fashion fund award?
Additional staff. And I'd put more into a marketing budget. Grassroots marketing. We can't advertise, but we could propose trunk shows, things like that.

If you didn't need the money for business, what would you do with it?
I'd be sitting in it. Not literally. I'd be sitting in a Porsche. I never dreamed of being a designer, but I've always wanted a Porsche 911. I've been fixated on that car since age seven. I'm crazy about it.

Credit: (

Friday, November 03, 2006

Bernhard Willhelm (Jan, 2006)

Boiler: You have graduated at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. How relevant this experience has been to your perception of style and design?

Bernhard Willhelm: They told me we do not make clothes here we make fashion. This is still a mystery to me.

B: You adopt the little Antwerp's mythological hand as your label? Do you feel a certain belonging to the Belgian fashion scene although you were born in Germany?

BW: The shape of the label is the shape of my favourite (Sheriff) monkeytoy. The hand is also symbol of Antwerp, where I live and work. It’s a good link.

B: Your graduation collection was an ode to Little Red Riding Hood. Do you often refer to fairy tales and folk stories of your native Bavaria?

BW: Sometimes, I guess I like them.

B: What type of experience was to work with Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen?

BW: Everyone of them has a completely different way of working. Both of them were very passionate about their work. The funny thing is that they can’t stand each other…

B: The latest soundtrack of your catwalk in Paris was the daily news from a German TV Station. How important for your work is the media noise and feedback?

BW: The idea of the show was “reality is touching the image”. The soundtrack was the 8 o’clock news of that day. It created a surrealistic atmosphere, it was like an Eisenstein’s movie. Slaughterhouse together with a love scene.

B: You tend to use many icons which are normally found in a child or adolescent realm: Dinosaurs, AC/DC, Dog-skeletons, Monkeys, Angels and cartoonish missiles! Is there any specific reason why you like to play with the meaning and the aesthetics of such icons?

BW: I attend to connect an image already made in your head to connect with my own ideal of an image. It would be a shame if nothing nice would come out of that.

B: You often use embroidery with keys, belts and chains. Why?

BW: They are symbols of connecting things like a friendship/marriage. The key to my heart…

B: In March 2001 you have had a show at Paris’ Legendary Moulin Rouge. Your show included tribes of nomads that wore long, striped overcoats, monastic dresses, twisted tops and kimono-style jackets. Is the tribal element still crucial to your design?

BW: I find tribes and folklore very interesting. It’s the idea of a group of people connecting each other with a typical costume. That can be so touching, my favourite at the moment is Tirol and Hungary…

B: You have recently curated Nr B magazine for Gerdi Esch. You have interviewed artists and contributed to a very eclectic layout. Is this experience something which you will repeat on some level in the foreseeable future?

BW: At the moment we are busy organising things for different exhibitions. No editorial work in sight and the holiday is near!

B: And finally we wish to ask you something we also asked to François Berthoud. The symbiosis between art and fashion seems to be a natural process in your work. Do you think that the time is ripe to reconsider the relationship between fashion and art?

BW: I hate arty questions and you are not getting an answer on that!