Balkan Fashion Week 2017 is going to be the first fashion week to be held in a film studio, and namely Nu Boyana Film Studios in Sofia between the 5th and 10th of June. The film centre in Boyana is also to host the ninth edition of the fashion film festival ASVOFF. The creator of the festival Diane Pernet is one of the most enigmatic figures in the fashion world. The author of the first fashion blog, a designer and a style icon without a counterpart. Her creativity knows no limits and it was an immense pleasure for us to make this interview with her happen.
• How did you become so passionate about fashion and cinema?
It is a long journey. Did you ever see the 1972 Luis Bunuel film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie? There is a scene when a soldier sits down with these people he doesn’t know at all and starts to tell them his life history. He begins, “It is a long story and I’m going to tell you.” Not sure where to start, as a little girl I was obsessed with films, I used to buy all the movie magazines I could get my hands on. My parents used to take me to foreign films at an early age and they made a huge impression on me. I loved directors like Bunuel, Pasolini, Polanski, Visconti, Fellini…
As a teenager, I dreamed of being a fashion designer but I was never a great illustrator and after taking some classes, decided that if I could not draw well I could not be a fashion designer, which of course is nonsense. I abandoned that idea for a while and studied film instead. I was not ready to be a team player at that point in my life. Everyone in film school wanted to be a Director, no one wanted to do anything else. After a short stint with filmmaking, I decided to become a reportage photographer. I did that for a bit, then I moved to New York and was living with my boyfriend photographer and I had to use his darkroom, and at a certain point I decided that both of us doing photography was not a great idea but I did not know exactly what else to do and one day he looked at me and said, “Why don’t you do something obvious, like design.” So, the light bulb went off and I attended Parsons and FIT for 9 months till I thought, “If I stayed any longer, I would lose all desire to design”. I quit and opened my own business and basically grew up in public. I had my own brand in New York for 13 years with a license in Tokyo for five of those years. I moved to Paris the end of 1990 and my first job here was as a costume designer for film. I did many things and then in 2006 I launched my first fashion film festival with a collaborator called You Wear it Well. We took the name from a Rod Stewart song. In 2008 I decided that I was the one doing all the work so took the decision to end the collaboration and launched ASVOFF in 2008 with the first edition at the museum in Paris, Jeu de Paume.
• Tell us a little bit more about ASVOFF festival. For the last 9 years, you organised all the events, taking part in it in Paris and New York, but this year you chose Nu Boyana Film Studios to host ASVOFF. How did you come up with this surprising idea?
I have always been attracted to the place where fashion and technology merge. From my beginning as a fashion designer, an editor at Joyce, Elle.com and Vogue.fr to the creation of my fashion blog, A Shaded View on Fashion, I have helped to shape the digital dialogue, surrounding fashion. In the early days, my blog was well known throughout the industry for innovation and the willingness to feature fresh talents alongside work of established designers and filmmakers. My blog was the first fashion blog in February 2005 and one year later I launched the first annual international fashion film festival. The first one was called You Wear it Well and on August 3rd, 2006 it screened at Cinespace in Los Angeles and then travelled around the globe. A Shaded View on Fashion Film aka ASVOFF, was launched in Paris in September 2008 at Jeu de Paume. At this point fashion film was a rather unknown genre. The big change in the industry is when I started my first fashion film festival nobody knew what a fashion film was. I spent all of my time explaining it and explaining criteria was the same for a fashion film as you would apply to any other kind of film. Things like: does it grab your attention, how is it directed, how is it acted, how is the art direction? And fashion has to be a protagonist but it’s really judged by all the same criteria as any other film. The big difference now is that there is not a single brand around, small or huge, that doesn’t use fashion film as part of their communication tools.
More than a festival, ASVOFF offers artists a platform to create, innovate and disseminate their work in venues around the world from the initial installation at Jeu de Paume and then seven years at Centre Pompidou, to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Cinema Rise X in Tokyo, in other cities like Mexico City, Rome, Milan, Moscow, etc. I think it is really important to show the diversity of ways that you can express fashion in film. The whole DNA of the festival is diversity and the international aspect and that brings me to your question as to why I chose Nu Boyana Film Studios. After seven years at Centre Pompidou I felt it was time to try something different and when I was talking to Myra Postolache, the international PR for Balkan Fashion Week, she asked me if I would consider bringing the festival to Sofia. One night it came to me like an epiphany…why not launch the 9th edition in the Hollywood of the Balkans. The essence of film making is the film studio so here we are and I could not be happier in fact we are like kids in a candy shop with everything at our finger tips.
• What is the process of choosing which movies will take part in ASVOFF?
Like everything else in my life, I do it by instinct. We receive hundreds of films; I look at all of them. Then screen the first cut to the ASVOFF team and after several screening sessions we make the final cut and that is what we give to our esteemed jury members to judge. I do not vote as I feel that all films that have been short-listed are winners of a sort.
• What should the audience expect this year? What will the participants in ASVOFF show?
The program is very exciting and I cannot wait to show it all to you. We have 66 films in the official competition, then we have 2 out of competition films, basically they are out of competition due to their length, then we have great documentaries, student films and this edition we are launching the first Wearable Technology Fashion Film Festival, and if that is not enough, we have conferences and master classes from Eric Daman, this year’s ASVOFF President, on a design journey through the eye and mind of the costume designer. He will take you through his fashion-forward approach to tailoring looks for American television shows such as Billions, The Carrie Diaries, Gossip Girl and Sex and the City. He is an Emmy Award winning costume designer, celebrity stylist, fashion designer, author and a television personality and I am very proud to have him as my President.
Marc Happel is the Director of Costumes at the New York City Ballet and he will discuss the influence of some of the world’s great fashion designers in respect to costuming. In particular costumes of the New York City Ballet where over the last five years Sarah Jessica Parker has been working with Marc Happel and has championed the collaborations between choreographers and fashion designers.
Alex Murray Leslie will present a master class with a curated selection of films expressing fashion tech strategies to communicate new narratives in film, these include: reactive lighting, mechatronics, bio-composite textiles and the circular economy, additive and subtractive fabrication processes, sonification and visualisation techniques. She also explores how body-centric future technologies affect choreography and dramaturgy in live art and film.
I will be in conversation with Tim Yip the award-winning multi-disciplinary artist in costume design, art direction for films and theatrical performances, and contemporary art. For Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, he won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction and the British Academy Film Award for Best Costume Designer in 2001.
And we have a few more surprises up our sleeves that you also will not want to miss.
• Do you like Bulgaria? What are your first impressions of our country?
I have been to Bulgaria twice, once to see Nu Boyana and once to shoot a fun teaser to show our international audience why we chose to launch ASVOFF 9 in Sofia and not in Paris. My experience with the people has been one of warmth and very welcoming. Naturally, it is the people that make the city and maybe I’ve been very lucky but I’ve met only wonderful people and am so happy to be in Bulgaria and in love with Nu Boyana Film Studios.
• You are well known for your signature styling always in black. Who is the designer making the best black clothing nowadays?
My favourite designer is not known for black, but it is Dries Van Note. He is the designer that I wear mostly. I also love KTZ who does a lot of black, of course Yohji is known for black and Rick Owens. I also love the Polish brand UEG, he does a lot with black and white.
• Is there a fashion name from the past that you would like to honour with a dedicated documentary?
He is kind of the past and the present but I would like to honour Marc Audibet. We have a short documentary about him in the festival but mostly you see the collections. A documentary that is more in depth would be fantastic. He is an icon and someone that I admire greatly. He is the designer that was behind the fashion at Prada for years when they first moved from accessories to clothes.
• Who is your favourite contemporary director and why?
So many…Todd Haynes, Steve McQueen and Sofia Coppola, it is not new but I love Lost in Translation.
Not new but valid are David Lynch, Pedro Almodovar, Jerry Schatzberg, Mike Figgis, Quentin Tarantino, the list could go on…
• Which director in your opinion has the strongest attitude about fashion?
Peter Greenaway, he had the great sense to enlist Jean Paul Gaultier as did Pedro Almodovar. I think Todd Haynes also has a great eye for it and of course has the good sense to work with a talent like Sandy Powell.
• Fashion, cinema, art, perfumes. What is your next adventure in the world of arts?
My lips are sealed but it could be something pioneering and extraordinary and right here in Sofia.
Photo : Jerry Lee