The new issue of Mode Depesche has just been released. The cover of the fashion magazine features model and actress Marisa Berenson (granddaughter of famous fashion designer Elisa Schiaparelli). You may remember Marisa from her roles in Barry Lydon or Visconti’s Death in Venice. Of course there are many photos of her. I only want to point you to the cover of Vogue (July 1970), together with Helmut Berger.
Also, there is an interview with Peter Berlin done by Claus.
Anyway, at the beginning of July I did a short trip to Brussels to meet up with designer Jean-Paul Lespagnard to talk about his latest collections, French fries, obsessions and Madonna’s death.
Pictures of his work and the interview after the jump.
produzentin: You won the public and the 1,2,3 prize of this years Hyeres festival with your collection “Ich will ‘nen Cowboy als Mann”. Can you tell me a little bit about the collection and how it came together?
Jean-Paul Lespagnard: First, I found this fabric one year ago, and when you touch it you get the same feeling as when you are buying French fries wrapped in paper here in Belgium. When the wrapping comes in touch with Mayonnaise it becomes a bit transparent. And the colour of the fabric is a bit dirty at the same time. So I thought a collection about French fries could be nice.
Then I worked in Berlin for another project and during that time I saw a documentary about Gitte, who has this song “Ich will ‘nen Cowboy als Mann”. This is when I came up with the idea to combine French fries and cowboy stuff in the collection.
Finally, I found pictures of rodeo clowns on the Internet and as they were never used in fashion, I added them to the mix.
P: And had you heard about Gitte before?
JP: No, I just recently discovered her in Berlin.
P: I remember that she was on German TV a lot in the 80ties.
JP: It is so amazing what she did. She is still very popular right?
P: I’m not sure. Is she still singing?
JP: She is still doing the same stuff.
P: Can you tell me a little bit about Jacqueline? I read that you imagined her as a fictional character for the collection.
JP: Jacqueline owns and works at a French fries place and is dreaming about going to Texas to meet the man of her life. She is listening to “œIch will “˜nen Cowboy als Mann” at work. In her free time, she is creating this outfit to become a rodeo clown, to jump into the arena and protect the man from falling down the bull. This woman wants to protect her future lover. Jacqueline is very strong.
It didn’t end up in the collection, but I was planning on having t-shirts with the phrase “Save a bull – ride a cowboy”.
P: Can you tell me a little bit about the process of the festival?
JP: You had to apply with your portfolio and one completed silhouette at the end of November. There where around 400 people who sent in their portfolio. In January, a jury selected 70 designers to sent their portfolio to Paris where the final selection took place.
P: After the 10 designers where selected for Hyeres, everyone had to produce a collection. How many silhouettes did you have to produce?
JP: Seven silhouettes had to be completed between January and May.
P: How many collections have you done before Hyeres?
JP: The Hyeres collection is the first one I’m showing. I finished school in 2002 and did a couple of small collections just for myself to get training with patterns and such things. In fact, I was dreaming about being part of the Hyeres festival since I came out of school but I never sent in my portfolio because I thought I was not ready yet.
P: One of your dresses is made out of a child’s tipi. Another one features needlepoint stitching that was done by patients of a mental hospital. How did you get in touch with the people from the hospital and how did you get them involved?
JP: One year ago I visited a friend of mine at the hospital and I saw a small bag that the patients had done with this kind of cross-stitching. I thought it was fantastic. So, I talked to the people from the hospital and they were really enthusiastic to participate in a fashion project because usually they just do this work to occupy the patients.
When I got selected I called them immediately but it took them a long time to complete the stitching. I really wanted to work with the patients from the mental hospital, because Jacqueline”™s story and the collection are about obsession and to go where you want. I wanted to show that Jacqueline is crazy in love. It’s about obsession and craziness at the same time. This is also why clowns fit the theme.
P: Will some of the collection be produced?
JP: After Hyeres, I found a commercial agent and someone who wants to put money in my collection, so we’re talking about it.
P: Will the clothes that have the stitching be produced too?
JP: I still don’t know because it would cost a lot. And the people from the hospital are not a factory. I would have to see if they are ready to do it or if I will have to go to India to make it. Of course, I would love to do it with them.
P: And you just gave them a drawing of what you wanted to have?
JP: I worked with a friend of mine who did the drawings, his name is Patrick Croes and then we transferred his drawings to the stitching pattern.
P: I’ve read that you studied economics, art and fashion. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to study all three of them? Or with what did you start?
JP: Since a child I wanted to be a designer. I studied economics because it was the only way to have two hours of drawing classes. It was very interesting for me to study a bit of economics. But it focused more on the basic needs of people, like eating and drinking and if you see something that your neighbours have then you want it, etc. It was just the basics. After that, I switched to art for 5 years and then to fashion.
P: Why didn’t you switch to fashion directly?
JP: If you just study something like sewing you get stuck pretty easily. You don’t get a sense of how far an idea can go. For me, it is better to be really creative. For example, sometimes I’m drawing and meet my pattern maker afterwards to see if it is possible or not.
P: So you wanted to study art to get a broader perspective?
JP: Yes and imagination. Preparing a collection is just like an art process for me, because with a collection I want to create a complete world, like the story of Jacqueline. It is like coming up with a movie, which includes the costumes, the story, the surroundings, the music. To me, the music and the make up are very important aspects of the fashion show and I like to think about them from the beginning.
P: What was the music for the show in Hyeres?
JP: It was the music from Emmanuelle; the soft-core erotic movie from the Seventies and Skatesteak by Mr. Oizo and Sebastien Tellier, which is from the soundtrack of the French movie Steak.
I was at a disco when I heard the song first and said to myself, wow, this is the music for my show. I asked the DJ what it was and when he said it was from a movie called Steak, I thought, this just fits so good into my collection. I’m taking every little bit as I find it.
P: This seems to be the case with a lot of things for the Hyeres collection, like the fabric you found, the cross stitching, the Gitte and the Steak song.
JP: It all depends, sometimes I’m finding fabric, sometimes I’m hearing stories, sometimes I meet someone and I get inspired, sometimes it is a movie.
JP: My next collection is about Sylvester Stallone. When I was in Hyeres, I had this idea about doing another collection with Jacqueline. She is fed up with Texas and she is watching the movie Cliffhanger. That inspires her to go to Austria to become a climber. At the end, when Jacqueline is completely obsessed with Sylvester Stallone, she is watching the Rocky movies. Hence, my next collection is about climbers and boxers.
P: Jacqueline is moving on.
JP: Yes, she’s moving on.
P: Is the Sylvester Stallone collection going to be produced by 1,2,3?
P: 1,2,3 is a fashion company, a chain store with shops in France and Belgium?
JP: Yes, it’s fast food fashion.
P: How big is the collection going to be?
JP: 1,2,3 are asking for 6 or 7 silhouettes. It is kind of the same small collection as for Hyeres, where I will present it next year.
The collection is mostly for women but it looks like there will be t-shirts, so it will be accessible for men, too. I’m working on it right now and I’m trying to push for some accessories and shoes. I think that accessories are really important.
P: The Stallone collection will be the first in the shops from you?
JP: Yes, it will be in the shops for spring / summer 2009. But also, I’m in talks about this years Hyeres collection and bringing it to the stores.
Additionally, I have found a new job as the artistic director of a new multi brand fashion store for men and women in Paris with my collection in it. I have been asked to do the whole process, from the initial idea, working with the architect on the concept, etc.
P: When will it open?
JP: We’re planning to open in January 2009.
P: Are you going to move to Paris?
JP: No, definitely not.
P: So you’re going to stay in Brussels?
JP: Yeah, it is only one hour by train and the train station is really close from my Brussels’ studio.
P: You just got back from Paris, right? Did you see a lot of shows for spring/summer 2009?
JP: I saw only three menswear shows, Roman Kremer, Bernhard Willhelm and Dior. I was mainly there to meet with my investor and other people.
P: What did you think about those 3 shows?
JP: I have no opinion. I enjoyed Romain Kremer, the colours were really nice. Bernhard is still Bernhard and I like it a lot. Dior was just for the show and seeing the stars and everything, it is just really different.
To me, fashion is more like a business. I’m trying not to watch too many shows because I don’t want to be too much inspired by fashion. For me it is important to be inspired by other things, for example by the work of Paul McCarthy.
However, I like to have a look on all the collections to see what is missing, from my point of view and then I’m able to put it in my collection.
P: Do you have any fashion icons?
JP: I don’t have fashion icons. I can say that I really like Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, because he is very colorful and funny, Bernhard Willhelm, Walter van Beirendonck and Lanvin. I appreciate it when there are good patterns and great idea. I’m not working in fashion to do black pants and white shirts just to be commercial.
P: Just before I came to Europe for the summer I was in Montreal and they had opened a Yves Saint Laurent retrospective exhibition at the musÃ©e des beaux-arts one week before he died.
JP: This must be good publicity for them?
P: Sad to say, but it must be. They had a lot of his old collections and couture. From early on he had done collaborations with or homages to artists. For example, there were Mondrian, Westerberg and Picasso dresses that were inspired by individual paintings. Could you see yourself doing something similar?
JP: If one day Paul McCarthy sees my collections and he wants to do a video installation with it, no problem, I can give it to him. It would be such an honor. It would be my pleasure to collaborate with him or with Jeff Koons.
Also, it is nice when I’m working on theatre costumes with Meg Stuart. We’re talking a lot about the costumes and this not so much from the fashion direction. With the theatre work, I don’t have to think about being commercial too much, so I can go further.
When I’m working on my own collection, I’m thinking about the accompanying picture or the photographs, which are inspired by artists I like. For instance, the photos of my final school collection show a woman putting dildos in a mixer.
P: For every issue, Mode Depesche magazine has a theme and this time it is “œbeauty pageant”. I looked up a couple of questions that the final 5 contestants of the Miss Universe pageant have been asked over the years.
If you had to recommend a book to someone what book would it be and why?
JP: I’m not a big reader but in French we say “œbeaux livre”, which basically means book with pictures, which I like. I would recommend a book about traditions in different countries. In Belgium, we have a lot of traditions, like carnival for example. To me it is really nice to know about traditions; they are about history and things that go to the heart.
P: What one failure in your life did you most learn from?
JP: Wow. I can never be Miss Universe. A failure?! (thinking) I never failed (laughing).
P: What is the biggest challenge in your life?
JP: To fulfill my dreams.
P: What is one of the difficult situations your country is going through and what would you do to help solve it?
JP: I think it is the language. The Dutch and the French, they always fight about it. It is about different cultures. And I’m trying my best to mix them in my collection to show that Flemish and French people can be friends and hold hands.
P: If you could interview any female leader in history who would you interview and why?
JP: It sounds really clichÃ© when I’m saying this, but a person that comes to my mind is Madonna. She changed a lot of things and did a lot of things for a lot of people. We were in the car driving to Hamburg for 5 hours and we couldn’t stop talking and laughing about what will happen when Madonna dies. It will be crazy.
P: Will it be as crazy as when Judy Garland died? Do you think there will be a Stonewall II?
JP: It will be worse (laughing). People will get really crazy. People will kill themselves.
P: Because Madonna died?
JP: Yeah, I mean, I will not. I have the feeling that for some people she is that important.
P: For some people that are really obsessed with her?
JP: Yes. We were talking about obsession and for me obsession is a good way to think but at the same time it can be dangerous.
P: Are you a Madonna fan? Do you listen to her music?
JP: I’m not a fan. I listen to her music sometimes, though.
P: What is your favourite song or album?
JP: I really like Secret from Bedtime Stories. I like Holiday. I’m not a fan. It is just as with designers. Sometimes, there is a collection I really like, sometimes there are pieces I really like but I’m not saying: Oh, I’m into everything that this person has done.
One can do really good things but then have really bad periods.
P: I have one last Miss Universe question. Give us three words that would describe you and why.
JP: I think that I’m a positive person, I’m trying to forget bad things that happened to me and I’m trying to translate them into good things. In a way, I’m obsessed with that I really want to reach my dream. And being personal.
And why? Because I think I can show the world that it is a good example for everybody. I think it is a nice mirror.