Hyères, France – International Festival of Fashion and Photography – 32nd edition

Tim Walker

Last night was about leaving the South of France after a tremendous closing Sunday at Hyères. The bucolic city is located near Toulon airport (and not far from Saint-Tropez for the jet-setters) and shelters the exquisite Villa Noailles, a specimen of architecture built in the 1920s by Rob Mallet-Stevens and named after his first owners, two of the biggest French sponsors of that half of the century : Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, who welcomed there the artists they actively supported like Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, Alberto Giacometti…

Jean Cocteau – original page and drawing

The current Festival is based on an original idea by Jean-Pierre Blanc, a self-taught kid from the block whose parents held a pizzeria in Hyères. He thought that the city, which used to host a Nouvelle Vague Cinéma Festival, could be the perfect spot for revealing young fashion talents, and so the Festival was born in 1986. What was a DIY project at the beginning has become in more than 30 years of existence an international platform which revealed some of the most talented fashion designers of their generation : Viktor & Rolf (1993), Gaspard Yurkievich (1997), Felipe Oliveira Baptista (2002), Anthony Vaccarello (2006)…

Presided by Pascale Mussard, the Festival annually encourages and supports young artists in the fields of fashion and photography. Thanks to the support of the Festival’s various partners (American Vintage, Chanel, Chloé, Elie Saab, Elsa Schiparelli, Petit Bateau, Swarovski …), each prize is granted with two or more endowments, which allow at least to two artists to emerge and to be supported throughout the upcoming year, thanks to a trip, a collaboration, an exhibition, and of course for all a substantial sum of money to help them pursuing their work.

The 2017 edition was special for it saw the creation of a new Fashion Accessories Prize sponsored by Swarovski. It also allowed a special endowment from the Jury that added the promising Maria Körkeila to the winnwers’list (kind of a millennial female version of Jean Paul Gaultier, with reversed gender codes and pop colors).

Maria Korkeila, Finland, Honourable Mention from the Jury

This 32nd Festival had also the particularity of double pushing a designer and a photographer, who won two prizes each : Vanessa Schindler, Switzerland, for Fashion, and Luis Alberto Rodriguez for Photography.

Vanessa Schindler, Fashion Grand Prix Première Vision, Public and City of Hyères Award

Jean-Pierre Blanc’s southern sense of welcome and organization makes Hyères a very special place in the fashion calendar. Everyone is there, but on a laidback mode, flat shoes and rosé wine in hand instead of the usual high heels- champaign combo.
The labyrinthine architecture of the Villa Noailles gets one lost into the various discoveries it shelters : here an installation by the shoe designer Pierre Hardy (who was also the President of the jury for the Accessories Design prize) and called « Equilibrium », there an intriguing and dark exhibition of Tim Walker’s selected works (he was the president of the Photography Jury), while the multiple corridors and staircases can open to a free-access atelier like the one dispensed by the joyful and extra-talented calligrapher Nicolas Ouchenir.

Atelier Nicolas Ouchenir

These permanent crossroads make everything possible in Hyères ; perhaps they infuse a flow of joy and energy to both the talents and the audience. Very unusual also for fashion, the fact that people from the city are welcome to mix with the professionals : during Paris Fashion Week or Cannes Film Festival, you always have a big security guy between you and whoever from the pack ; at Hyères, never, that is why even the most renowned designers love walking free in this environment : these few days are a breath of fresh air and inspiration for everyone alike.

Pierre Hardy, “Equilibrium”

And that is when the magic happens. Like when you litterally bump into the photographer whose work impressed you the most, with his raw and powerful aesthetics, mixed in his Hyères presentation with words that are just as poetic and colorful as his pictures ; when you start a conversation with him about Dublin and Anton Corbijn’s movie Control. When you believe something is going to happen because his photographs on the wall are actually revolutionary, and that France, like Ireland, is pretty familiar with the term (especially at this moment…) so his talent will surely be acknowledged in Hyères.

Daragh Soden a few hours before receiving the Grand Prix of the Photography Jury

The Irish photgrapher Daragh Soden is definitely this year’s big discovery : facing a well- behaved Fashion laureate an arty Accessories winner, he embodied the perfect balance between creativity ,singularity and reality. His Grand Prix was more than well-deserved, according to Tim Walker : «We believe this young photograher has the potential to produce new work that rewards the viewer’s mind as well as the eye…  We applaude his bravery, his honesty and expect future suprises and thought provoking visual imagery. »

Daragh Soden, Young Dubliners

Hyères, a place to see and to be seen, but for once in fashion, both terms take another, deeper meaning.

Hyères Formers’ lounge

International Festival of Fashion and Photography at Hyères

Exhibitions until May, 24th

https://www.villanoailles-hyeres32.com

 

Lake Como off season

Last night was about enjoying a sunset on the Lario, aka Lake Como. The most famous of the Italian lakes gains to be seen during low season, for the number of tourists around you is rather close to 10 than 300. Although it can be a little bit cold (6°C during the day), the silent and peaceful atmosphere makes you understand why the lake has inspired many artists and love stories.

Sunset on Lake Como, Bellagio
Sunset on Lake Como, Bellagio
Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como, Italy

lakecomomapbeige

The Y-shaped Lake Como is not the biggest, but the deepest (410m) of the 3 Italian lakes. The play between fog and sunlight all day long stretches the imagination to build romantic or tragic stories, set in the majestic villas surrounding the Lario. This specific “light and dark” mood was a perfect match with the European Romantic movement in the 19th century, and some of the masterpieces in literature and music of that era were born on the shores of Lake Como. French writer Stendhal describes the lake in The Charterhouse of Parma (1839) as “the most beautiful place in the world”. The lake is brought like an actual character into the story, its changing light and landscapes matching with the hero’s state of mind.

View on the lake from the Villa Monastero, Varenna
View on the lake from the Villa Monastero, Varenna

As for music, the Hungarian master Franz Liszt chose Bellagio and the Villa Melzi to compose his Sonata quasi fantasia, and to nest his forbidden love with his French mistress Marie d’Agoult. That is why his daughter Cosima (future wife of Wagner) was born in Bellagio on December, 25th 1837.

Franz Liszt's house, Bellagio
Franz Liszt’s house, Bellagio

The nearby Villa Serbelloni has welcomed various celebrities of their time, from French writer Gustave Flaubert in 1845 to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in June, 1963. It is currently hosting the Rockefeller Foundation where artists of all fields are invited to stay for 4 weeks in order to “work in the best conditions possible” (how not to??). Another music master almost died of love and inspiration on the shores of the lake : Vincenzo Bellini composed La Sonnambula and La Norma in 1837 while burning for the lady Giuditta Cantu. La Norma has since become a world-known opera tune through “La Casta Diva”.

All the stories surrounding the lake seem to take at some point to Bellagio. The “pearl of Lake Como”is the perfect place to settle down. From there you can go around easily around by ferry. This center town is strikingly charming and well-preserved, with its old center including 19th century caffés (where you can find newspapers as well as all day long service) and classic “alimentaris” (selling great wine as well as toiletries).
The hotel “Suisse” on the tourist harbour has also kept its charm and a delightful restaurant, fortunately opened during the low season. All in all, life in Bellagio is far from the crazy prices its summer reputation may entail : a nice meal for 2 can be found for 35€, and the classic italian breakfast on the harbour shared for 15€. But these prices seem to apply only to the brave visitors who dare showing during winter time. Another option is to choose any time the Villa d’Este (south of the lake, close to Como) and pay 2000€ per night…

Bellagio
Bellagio

There is one major setback at that time of the year : even if you are sure to experience the most romantic and poetic getway, many villas and hotels are closed until March, and can only be seen from the lake or the road.
One exception is the Villa Monastero in Varenna. The medieval town and the gardens of the villa are worth the tour.

Gardens, Villa Monastero
Gardens, Villa Monastero
Varenna
Varenna

Otherwise you will have to admire from afar the “movie villa”, Villa Balbianello, where Star Wars Episode II : Attack of the Clones and James Bond : Casino Royale were shot. Even from the boat the setting already makes you feel you landed on another planet.

Villa Balbianello
Villa Balbianello

The George Clooney fans will have to wait until Spring to have a chance to get a glimpse of the most famous villa owner (in Laglio)…The others will take their own chances and live a winter tale like no other.

George Clooney buys a house on Lake Como, Vanity Fair, September 2007
George Clooney buys a house on Lake Como, Vanity Fair, September 2007

The Ritz Bar

Last night was about discovering the new bar at the most American of the Paris hotels : the Ritz. Not talking here about the Hemingway, internationally renowned for his barman, Colin Field and his legendary cocktails. Instead, make it left at the rue Cambon entrance to the Ritz Bar : one of the only spots that got through a radical makeover during the 4-year-renovation of the hotel. The dark space which used to be a mixed venue (bar, club, private receptions) is now transformed into a full-time bar, including flattering lightening (even the Ritz knows its Instagram) and a roaring 20’s decoration in reference to the golden age of the hotel. Bigger than its neighbor, and therefore less intimidating, the Ritz Bar hosts a mixed crowd at the cozy tables or on the high bar chairs : hotel guests who are enjoying a night cap before going back up, a couple of fashion-crowded tables discussing late business, and clubbers on the go. All of them seemed pleased by their Cinderella moment (it was 12.30am), and the special ambiance that went with it. No loud conversations or drunk customers here, everything was delicate and hushed.

The Ritz Bar
The Ritz Bar

The good surprise did not end there : the Head Barman is actually a woman, Aurélie Pezet, 26, who was trained by Colin Field himself. She certainly inherited his freedom of creation, for the menu is made of her signature cocktails, and constantly evolves according to the seasons.
Last night was a chance to experience « Le Grand Jardin », inspired by the Ritz’s new winter garden : a composition where gin (I suspect Monkey 47, Aurélie Pezet’s favorite) is enlightened by fresh and green vapors, with an intriguing powdered smell that triggered memories of Coco Chanel’s fragrances (she was a permanent guest at the hotel for years).Delightful and poetic.
Also remarkable : the « Yoi Shiin », a foamy composition around apple and its green flavors. An alchemy of sharp and soft contained in an unusual small glass.

Cocktails in unusual glasses
Cocktails in unusual glasses

And finally, the cherry on the cocktail, the signature of the Hemingway bar, and of the Ritz in general : the human touch. From the constant but discreet caring of the waiters to the informal chat with Aurélie Pezet herself, everything made this night totally « ritzy » : luxurious, fashionable and elegant.
As for the check it was less expansive than expected, according to the fact that you are in a palace at the center of Paris (and that you only had to drink one cocktail to feel great). The Ritz does not like to advertise its prices… Let’s say it is in line with the bars in the neighborhood, but much more worth the price : the venue, the drinks and the people make the moment exquisitely timeless.
For all who want to enjoy a privileged experience in Paris, the Ritz Bar is the place for a night to remember.

The Ritz Bar, from 11am to 2am
15, place Vendôme, 75001 Paris

http://www.ritzparis.com/en