Meeting with</span></p>Jean-Pierre Blanc

Meeting with</span></p>Jean-Pierre Blanc

Words PAULINE MARIE MALIER

Illustration ALICE MEITEGNIER

An interview with Jean-Pierre Blanc is an always a memorable experience, whether or not you're meeting him for the first time. His aura and atypical background instantly command respect, but it is his unusual honesty and scarce ability to speak frankly that impresses. And honesty is certainly rare in the fashion industry. Fashion, by the way, is the starting point of everything for this native of Hyères, France; an art he speaks of with unabated passion, because, far from appearances, fashion is and will remain a unique space of expression for creative talents. Jean-Pierre Blanc's career has been shaped by many great encounters since he started in the 80’s, including influences from Lagerfeld, Galliano, Margiela.


Since then, fashion has come a long way; as has the Hyères Festival. Since 1992, in the exceptional setting of the Villa Noailles, the Festival has been a place that combats social struggles and values the idea that with Fashion, everything is indeed possible. To meet Jean-Pierre Blanc is to understand and recognize the importance of the fight for a territory, for the love of fashion and of Humanity. For him, the past is not something to hold onto, but rather to understand it as an inspiring force to help us build a better future. Fashion has given everything to Jean-Pierre Blanc, and he has been giving it his all for forty years.

We met Jean-Pierre Blanc in the intimacy of the Hôtel Amour in Paris, his second home as he likes to call it, on the occasion of the centenary of the Villa Noailles.

     PAULINE MARIE MALIER
The “Salon des Jeunes Stylistes” (Young Designers Fair) was the first name of the Festival. Why this interest for the emerging creation?
     JEAN-PIERRE BLANC
For me, the starting point of everything was fashion. Coming from outside of Paris in the 80s, fashion still seemed very exclusive. India Madhavi often makes fun of me by calling me “the Robin Hood of Fashion” and in a way, it's quite accurate. I wanted to make fashion accessible to all those who had a passion for it, but couldn't reach it because they didn't have the contacts or the money. Growing up in Hyères, I was lucky enough to evolve under a Jack Lang-style, progressist municipality. I was surrounded by a crazy creative energy. But when the mayor lost the elections to a conservative party, we felt that things were falling apart around us. That's why I decided to present a new fashion project to the mayor's office, with a first significant action: the organization of a fashion show. Both were huge successes and paved the way for the creation of the Salon des Jeunes Stylistes.
     P.M. M.
How did this first edition go?
     J-P. B.
In 1986, we organized the first edition in an Anglican church, St. Paul's, and we managed to convince Arlette Decock (Chacock), and other personalities like Françoise Chassagnac, the artistic director of Victoire, to attend the event. There are people who say they will help you, but only a few actually do. Thanks to her, the festival rapidly grew. Samy Tilouche, winner that year of the Cadette d'Or, a Belgian prize for emerging designers, organized his fashion show in Hyères, making everyone cry. The following year was a breakthrough as John Galliano came to Hyères, courtesy of his public relations officer, Sylvie Grumbach. Over time, we have seen a succession of the great names in fashion. In 1992, we welcomed Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela. And then, Viktor&Rolf, a thunderclap.

     P.M. M.
How did the Festival move to the Villa Noailles? 
     J-P. B.
When I became director of cultural affairs, we relocated. As if in a dream, we welcomed Azzedine Alaïa for the 20th anniversary, and Chanel for the 30th anniversary. Chanel changed everything: the Festival and my life. I was incredibly lucky. One day, Karl Lagerfeld's team called the House, this was before cell phones existed. I thought it was a joke. Mr. Lagerfeld arrived in Hyères and fell in love with the city. He decided to publish a book and exhibit the photos he had taken of the Villa. All the international journalists who mattered at the time flew to Hyères. To be fair, it was he who changed my life, because he really put the festival on the international map. Then there was this alchemy, this atmosphere that has carried us for almost 40 years without ever weakening.

     P.M. M.
Does the key to success lie in the friendly atmosphere for which the festival is famous?
     J-P. B.
A friendly atmosphere is one thing, but let's be clear, success lies in the way we welcome people. Everything has to be perfect, the right flowers, the right meals, the right DJs.

     P.M. M
Alongside fashion, you created the Design Parade, an event that takes place in both Hyères and Toulon. The Fashion Festival and the Design Parade have a profound impact on the local community, as has had the Villa Noailles for nearly 100 years; this year is the centennial year.
     J-P. B.
I was appointed director of the Villa in 2003 and when the renovation work began, the city's objective was to reopen it to the public. I developed the fashion festival and constructed a year-round program within the Villa. We started by opening 300 days a year, then we created the Design Parade and an artistic residency. In 2010, we opened a museum dedicated to the life of Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles. The couple got married on February 10, 1923 and received this land as a wedding gift. They commissioned architect Robert Mallet Stevens to design this - tiny - 500 square meter vacation home. Today, the Villa Noailles is an incredible 2,000 square meter place where all the avant-garde artists of the early 20th century stayed. Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau... All were friends of the family. To be part of its history is an incredible thing for a guy like me, who grew up in a family that knew nothing about the habits of the artistic and intellectual elite. For a long time I felt like a usurper, like I didn't belong. Today, things have calmed down and it is a great satisfaction to see the Villa thrive.
    P.M. M.
How do you choose a jury?
     J-P. B.
Above all, it's a desire to meet people. I really wanted to meet Charles de Vilmorin (President of the Jury for the 2023 edition) since his appointment at Rochas. For the 100th anniversary, I tried to put myself in the shoes of the Noailles couple with a multifaceted program throughout the year. When I start working on a project, I often ask myself if they would have liked it.
     P.M. M.
“Love and Nostalgia” is the theme of Tide’s new issue. You have, on many occasions, defended the right to love freely. First through the exhibition “Love My Way” at the Villa Romaine, a few years ago, then last year with the nomination of Glenn Martens as President of the Jury. How do you approach love at the Villa Noailles?
     J-P. B.
We live in a world where being gay, lesbian, or transgender is tough to say the least. “Love My Way” was a political statement on the subject of free love and the purpose of the exhibition was to showcase young and talented LGBT+ artists. I myself am gay and I think it’s important to prove to my children that they do not need to live a life in sadness and contemplate suicide if they were not to follow a traditional path. Talking about love and freedom is more important than ever, because love is life.
     P.M. M.
What about Nostalgia?
     J-P. B.
Nostalgia is about remembering the past years or people who have left, and realizing that they will not return. The Noailles couple, whom I would have loved to meet in the beauty of Hyères in the 1960s, are a case in point. I often wonder about the past, it's a form of nostalgia, but I try to understand it to better prepare for the future.
     P.M. M.
What keeps you going, forty years later?
     J-P. B.
A passion that has never waned. Every time I meet young artists and they show me their work, I feel the exact same way I did forty years ago. I still want to move mountains to help them. I have been able to create a life for myself from scratch, so for me, nothing is impossible.
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