As a journalist, have you always aimed for fashion?
“I've been obsessed with fashion since the age of 10. I grew up in Paris and the late 1980s were an amazing period for French designers. You had Gaultier, Mugler, Montana, Castelbajac, Alaïa and many others influencing the industry. I studied Foreign Languages in Scotland and never thought of a career in fashion, even though I clearly loved it. I guess I fell into it.”
What challenges did you face when you started covering this field professionally?
“When you start as a writer, it takes a while for people to trust you and open up. You have to build your portfolio and it takes time. Depending on the publications you work for, certain doors open, while others are closed. The hardest thing is to convey your feelings and passion through the writing. I admire many designers and am interested in the person first and foremost. It's great if they give you access to something more intimate. I try to be personal in my writing. If someone touches you, then you can express it with your own words and readers tend to respond to that.”
Does one assignment stand out as particularly memorable?
“The first time I interviewed Dries Van Noten was a big deal for me. It was a few hours before his men's show and I was waiting for him with Patrick Scallon, his Communication Director. He was exactly how I pictured him in my head: talented, humble and inspiring. It was an exciting moment for me.”
What has been the most complicated piece to accomplish?
“To be honest, I find writing easy and have rarely had problems finishing a piece. I once interviewed Tsumori Chisato and that was fairly challenging, due to the language barrier. There were 4 people in the room: Tsumori and her husband, her PR -who is American- and a French-Japanese guy working within the agency. I still have the tape transcript, with 4 people talking at the same time. That was not a bed of roses.”
How do you research a subject?
“I spend some time looking at their biography and researching their work. I don't really read their interviews as I don't want to have any preconceived ideas. I stay open most of the time. An interview is an encounter after all.”
What’s your point of view on the fashion industry right now?
“Fashion has become incredibly commercial and commodified. The big brands are taking even more space and it's difficult for young designers to launch a business, even though the Internet allows them to get their voices heard. With designers coming and going, product and marketing seem to prevail. Actually, most people buying the clothes don't really care who the designer is now. This is a significant shift and I wonder how it's going to affect the industry as a whole.”
On a personal level, what designers do you prefer at the moment?
“I think Rick Owens keeps pushing himself every season, coming up with an amazing silhouette and desirable clothes. I love Damir Doma's softer touch and luxurious approach. I admire Iris van Herpen's dedication and forward-thinking use of 3D printing and handicraft. And I always go back to Dries Van Noten's work, because he makes great clothes real people can actually wear, you know, like you and me.”
Do any aspects of the business make you feel frustrated?
“Fashion amnesia. People tend to forget how they got there when their ego gets out of control. I'm disappointed by magazines letting advertisers take too much control. There's a lack of opinion in fashion now, which I find worrying.”
What other writers do you enjoy reading?
“I like Cathy Horyn's style, which is incisive and direct. I love the way Diane Pernet writes, too, she has a wicked sense of humor and personality. I like people who are themselves and write in a straightforward way.”
You are in the process of publishing your first book. Do you have any heroes in fiction?
“Anyone who has been in a David Lynch film. I'd love to swap lives with them. And I have a weakness for Suzy Banner, Suspiria's main protagonist, which was beautifully shot by Dario Argento in 1977. She kills the nasty witch in the end. Anyone who does that is a hero for me.”
What other exciting projects are on your horizon?
“More texts! I'm finishing the writing of my first book, which focuses on fashion and design. It'll be published in September. I also wrote my first feature for Encens magazine in Paris, which I'm very excited about. I have a lot on my plate and like it that way.”
Interview by Antonia Nessen. Portrait of Philippe Pourhashemi shot by Filip Van Roe together with interviews of Dries Van Noten, Chris Van Asshe, Iris Van Herpen Diane Pernet, Robert Knoke and Hannah Marshall published in Contributor Magazine.