Saturday

Interview With Diane Pernet: Not Your Ordinary Veiled Blogger

Fashion designer, journalist turned blogger, parfumista, style icon, and most importantly the founder of the very first and one-of-a kind fashion film festival, she is the extraordinary unordinary, Ms. Diane Pernet.

It was a few days after we celebrated the 10th anniversary of her festival ASVOFF at the Jean-Paul Gaultier headquarters in Paris, and with a bunch of A-class personalities (think of Roger Avary from Pulp Fiction and a crowd of César and Golden Globes winning artists), that we got to sip some fine tea with a side of scones at her favorite salon in the 7th arrondissement.

And while she claims to be distant, what was supposed to be a quick interview, turned into a friendly afternoon conversation about funny anecdotes, constructive life lessons, and most importantly, the unveiling of the woman behind the infamous black shield and dark sunnies. 

AM: In your own words, how would you introduce Diane Pernet and your diverse career?

Well that’s going to be hard to say. My degree is in filmmaking, I became a reportage photographer then I established my own fashion brand for 13 years in New York called Diane Pernet.

By the end of 1990, and after 4 years of contemplation, I decided to move to Pairs. New York was very rough at the time with the aids epidemic, and more than 80% of my West Village neighborhood was either dead or ill. As a designer this was not inspiring and very tragic.

When I first came to Paris I didn’t want to work for another designer, so I started doing all kinds of things, like costume designing, working for CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) as an assistant producer of Fashion File show with Tim Blanks, and many other small jobs here and there. I then worked as a fashion editor until I started working for Elle.com in Paris. I ended up having my own column, Dr. Diane, where I would give styling advice and cover shows. My next mission was when I got recruited for the online site of French Vogue.

But as you may know, when you work for big publications you only get to cover the advertisers. Which is why I felt like I needed a free space, and so I decided to start my blog A Shaded View On Fashion in 2005. It was a time when fashion blogs didn’t exist, and I would do fashion videos about the whole industry; the shows, the parties and the artists. One season Galeries Lafayette commissioned us to do videos for their window displays. I then did road movies for fashion brands like Eley Kishimoto, it was somehow how my fashion film festival route started.

AM: In Paris, Diane Pernet is synonyms with ASVOFF (A Shaded View On Fashion Film). What is the festival all about?
In 2006 I decided to start the festival in California, on Hollywood Boulevard to be precise. I didn’t want to only screen my films, I wanted to organize an entire festival. It took me a few weeks to set it up because when you don’t know anything, you can do absolutely anything. Now it takes me a year to organize one edition (she laughs). I even ended up having films directed by designer Jeremy Scott there.

After two slow years, my festival (called You Wear It Well at the time), went to San Francisco and it was disastrous, so I decided to end it. In 2008, I brought it back to Paris and under a new name ASVOFF and officially launched it at Jeu de Paume and then at Centre Pompidou. Over the years it started blooming and touring around the globe.

The festival has never been about me, I hate being on stage, it’s all about the art.

AM: You are also a parfumista, how did that start off?

I create the Diane Pernet Paris perfumes since five years now, it’s sold through the distributer Intertrade and is available at Printemps in Paris, at Plethora in Dubai, and Limited Gallery in Abu Dhabi as well. A lot of people in the Middle East like it, and many Arab princesses have approached me about the collection, probably because two of my perfumes are very woody and oriental-smelling. For me it’s great because I get to do my favorite hobby, creating.

AM: You have a very unique style, is this the real and genuine you?
This is definitely the real me. Funny enough, I would go to Spain and people would start yelling Martirio who is a Spanish singer from the 80s. And one day I was introduced to her, and I thought to myself, I don’t really look like her because she only dresses like that on stage. Me, I am like this all the time, while doing my groceries and running errands in Paris.

I am into modest clothing, I don’t like to show skin, I think less is more sensual than parading yourself like a piece of meat.

I like long skirts and my love for black started back when I was a designer. I would design colored and patterned collections and I didn’t want to compete with my own creations. It’s kind of like how Givenchy and Martin Margiela prefer to wear simple lab coats.

I believe in being comfortable and that when you put something on you shouldn’t have to think about. It surely needs to be elegant though. I think my style could be described as austere, I find my look quite simple, and yes people are astonished when I say that.

When I was in Dubai everyone looked similar to me with their black Abayas, and I have never been used to fitting in so it was an awkward experience, almost disturbing (she laughs).

AM: Tell us more about each piece of your very unique ensemble
Well my current ensemble came haphazardly; I don’t even remember how the veil came in. The big hair, I guess because I like to feel taller and I wear it with platform shoes. I don’t care what the trend is I will keep wearing these platform shoes.

The black sunglasses are a must because I don’t want people to see my eyes, it does get problematic in dark spaces, but we are all prisoners to our own vanity after all. The spiders and snails are also not my idea and were given to me by a jewelry designer friend. I also have scorpions, bees and dragonflies. But the snail I always wear, it’s my good luck charm.

Most of my clothes are custom made and are inspired by my persona. I am trying to incorporate other colors to my wardrobe, dark green and burgundy, but that’s a big step for me.

I know that my outfit doesn’t invite you to come up and talk to me, I like to keep my distance. I am not a hugger, even though I am American!

AM: Back to your career, what is your proudest moment so far?
It’s difficult to come up with just one, but maybe having Alejandro Jodorowsky at an ASVOFF panel a few editions ago. It was great because I wanted him to come for so many years. But also having Jean-Paul Gaultier as the honorary president of the jury and whom I adore.

Rossy de Palma, I love her more than anything. I first met her during Madrid Fashion Week, and while I never go up to people, I had to go and talk to her. We met again later and she eventually joined the ASVOFF family and hosted many of our ceremonies.

AM: Being an esteemed fashion critic what is your take on fashion nowadays?

First of all, I am really not into trends. I also think it’s a difficult time to be a designer because the industry is ruled by huge companies and big monopolies on one hand, and then you have all the fast fashion brands on the other. So if you are a young designer you are competing against them all. It’s really tough and you need to be different and have something to say. But I don’t want to put a black cloud over it; I think there is always room for original voices. You need to do real luxury that is beautifully crafted with good material. Fashion is disposable and has a sellout date, so I am an advocate of things that are timeless.

I have designers that I really like, Dries Van Noten, Rick Owens, Rouge Margaux and the late Azzedine Alaïa. But I am happy not to be designing anymore.

What bothers me now is that re-appropriation is considered okay and copying designs is becoming the norm. Designers are playing musical chairs and are easily interchangeable among the fashion houses. That being said, I like to think that originality will shine out.

About ASVOFF:
Diane Pernet with Jordan Blady the Grand Prize Winner of ASVOFF 2018

Since 2008, ASVOFF is a competition of short fashion, style and beauty films and a travelling international event showcasing feature films, documentaries, conferences, performances and installations. It has gained critical acclaim for encouraging both emerging and established artists to reconsider the way that fashion is presented and for challenging the conventional parameters of film.

The festival has been associated with prestigious institutions and events like the Barbican, the Guggenheim and Cannes Film Festival and hosted at creative capitals such as New York, London, Tokyo, Milan, Rome, Moscow, Kiev, Vienna, Mexico City, Barcelona and more. The festival featured professional artists and public figures like Chris Cunningham, Róisín Murphy, Nick Knight, Erwin Olaf, Nobuyoshi Araki, Tilda Swinton, Steven Klein, Mike Figgis, Chloë Sevigny, Dita Von Teese, Max Vadukul, Bruce Weber and Ryan McGinley as well as Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Gareth Pugh, Sergio Rossi, Givenchy, Yohji Yamamoto and Thom Browne.

Visit ashadedviewonfashionfilm.com to participate in the upcoming edition, and follow up with Diane Pernet’s adventures and fashions stories here.
Share:
© ARABIAN MODA MAGAZINE | All rights reserved.