Inside Paris Fashion—Phoebe Philo – artistic director Chloe – Brief Article – Interview
INGRID SISCHY: Well, Phoebe, congratulations on taking over at Chloe. Are you excited?
PHOEBE PHILO: I’m really thrilled. Some days it’s really exciting, and some days it’s like, “Oh God!” It’s quite liberating giving it a go on my own. I’ve just got to really buckle down and get on with it, though. It’s amazing how different the pressures are when it’s on your own shoulders. You can’t even imagine until you have it.
IS: You started working with Stella McCartney when she took over at Chloe, right? Did you have an official title then?
PP: No. I just worked closely with Stella; it was never defined by a title. I just mucked in when I had to, and that was that.
IS: Well, now that you’re there, do you think we are crazy to think that Paris has become alive again in the last few years?
PP: It’s definitely become more alive–it was so quiet and so dead before–but it’s still nothing compared to London or New York or even Bombay. I’ve just come back from Bombay and I could not believe the energy. It actually made New York seem a bit quiet. Not to make an overall comparison, because they’re totally different, but coming back to Paris yesterday, after literally running to catch the plane from Bombay, it was unbelievable, the two extremes. But, yeah, Paris is definitely up again. When I first arrived, it was very very down, and they were still not quite over the recession. Europe had suffered-well, the whole world had suffered–10 years earlier, and Paris had still not kicked itself out of it. It finally seems to have picked itself up, just as we’re heading into another recession. [both laugh) Just in time to get knocked down again.
IS: Fashion is such a national pastime for the French. Do you think the morale has been helped by the fact that all these venerable fashion houses are getting revived by new blood?
PP: Absolutely. They’re so passionate about fashion in Paris. It’s their baby. They’re very, very proud of it. It’s a real culture in itself. It’s survived the good times and the bad times. And it’s way beyond that The French are very proud of the fact that they’ve got houses that have been through all kinds of economic dramas, but they’re never going to be taken away from them. Chloe is having it’s 50th birthday next year and it was one of the first pret-a-porter houses. Fifty years is a long time to stay in business.
I have a story. I was in a taxi, just a couple of weeks ago, trying to get to the other side of Paris, and the Chanel show was on, and there was a roadblock just from all the people trying to get there. And the taxi driver knew that. He was saying, “This is going to be the quickest route. We’re going to go this way and then that way.” I said, “That’s not logical, why don’t we just go down the rue de Rivoli,” and he answered, “Because there’s the Chanel show– idiot!” He was looking at me like, “Duh! Where have you come from? I just picked you up from a fashion house. Do you not have a clue?”
IS: [laughs] You came from London, which reminds me that at first it was this pool of English talent that fed the revival of Paris. Was it necessary for the survival of British fashion that the talent go to Paris?
PP: Yes. Absolutely. Unfortunately, the industry just isn’t there in London. It’s so frustrating, because there is obviously so much talent coming out of the U.K.–and there’s nowhere for it to go. There is no industry.
IS: What in Paris inspires you?
PP: When you first come to Paris, the thing that hits you first is the architecture, the beauty of it. It’s a little bit like Venice–you walk around and everything’s beautiful. London got so bombed [in World War II] that so many of our beautiful buildings got taken away. And the street culture here is different from New York and London. I’ll walk home from work and there will be a bunch of boys, literally with a piece of plastic flooring and a ghetto blaster, break dancing in the street. I know that sounds a bit cliche–it went on in London and New York in the ’80s–but the fact is that it’s still going on here, and it’s for real. It’s not a fashion moment, they’re not doing it because they think it’s cool, they’re doing it because they’re really passionate about it. Their older brothers probably showed them how to do it, and they’re still doing it. There’re all kinds of crazy little things going on like that that you just don’t see in London anymore. They’re dead. They’re over. They became very commercial and they were killed. But they’re still going on here. I find that really quite sexy.
IS: You’ve brought up something interesting, because my sense of London right now is that things become so trendy so fast that it’s murdering things really quickly.
IS: And money and power seem too important there at the moment. For an artistic culture, that’s really deathly, when money and power take over.
PP: It’s true. I definitely feel London’s becoming incredibly money-orientated.
IS: If I said, “Phoebe, I’m coming to Paris,” where would you take me?
PP: I think it would be a mixture of taking you somewhere incredibly beautiful, like the Louvre–somewhere where there is a real history–and then getting in a cab and going to a little seedy club in the Pigalle, where all kinds of different people and different things are going on. It’s the mixture of the two. In the Pigalle, which is where I live, you just don’t know who you’re going to see. You don’t know what they’re going to be wearing. You don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s very unpredictable, and a little seedy, but personally that inspires me.
Phoebe Philo is the Artistic Director of chloe.
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