Jean-Pierre Blanc: "We urgently needed to improve access to our fashion collections"

33 years after he founded the International Festival of Fashion and Photography in his hometown of Hyères, Jean-Pierre Blanc took stock of the event's 33rd edition – particularly dynamic, in his opinion – with FashionNetwork.com. The Festival director also revealed the acquisition of the historic Villa Romaine, which served as a holiday retreat for Christian Dior, among others, and will now be transformed into a research centre for fashion students. 


Jean-Pierre Blanc - FashionNetwork.com ph DM

FashionNetwork.com : With the acquisition of Villa Romaine, the festival is set to expand. How was this project conceived and how will it work?

Jean-Pierre Blanc :
 The idea was born in 2016 following the fire at Château Saint-Pierre, which housed the prototyping workshops for the Festival's young designers. Audrey Azoulay, who was minister of culture at the time, suggested that we organise our workshops at Villa Romaine. The project didn't come to fruition at that particular moment but since then, we've been able to make progress. The métropole de Toulon bought the villa with the help of a number of supporters, including the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, the Var department, the ministry of culture, private partners such as Chanel and Hermès, the Fondation Carmignac and private sponsor Silvia Fiorucci.

We urgently needed to improve access to our fashion collections. So we decided to dedicate this space to our heritage, giving access to our archives for the first time. Each of the finalists in our fashion competition since the 1990s will be represented by one outfit, which will make for some 300 looks in total. In addition, there are 2,000 pieces by the sculptor and jewellery designer Christian Astuguevieille, who gave us an exceptional donation, as well as Marie-Laure de Noailles' scrapbooks. This heritage will be open to students, and there will also be possibilities for residencies. 

FNW : So the Hyères Festival and art centre will be coordinated around Villa Noailles and Villa Romaine? 

JPB :
 Not only around the two villas, no. As well as these two locations, Villa Noailles, which is our presentation centre, and Villa Romaine, which will become our discovery centre, there's also the Château Saint-Pierre, which will reopen in July and will again house the prototype and production workshops of all the artists who come through here, because Villa Noailles is active all year, supporting contemporary fashion, photography, design and architecture. 

FNW : This is the second year of the Festival's fashion accessories competition? How do you see its development? 

JPB :
  It's only in its second year. I've see a positive development since last year. We're also lucky to have an exceptionally engaged jury. That's what you need at the beginning of a competition. 
 
FM : In terms of design and the collections that were presented, what did you think of the Festival's 33rd edition? 
 
JPB : There was a particular energy to this edition, which I haven't always necessarily felt. Aside from the Festival's attendance, which continues to grow, and the creative work of the candidates, the desire, among some of them, to be poetic, or among others to protect the planet... what's really hit me this year is their positive disposition, at a time when we're going through one of the darkest periods in contemporary history. 

These young designers have an overwhelming energy, which gives me hope. Their decision to speak up is rather comforting. I think they're remarkable. It's a great discovery and a pleasure, the absolute beauty of youth, which is our guide for the future. 

Translated by Robin Driver

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