In the 1980s, Diane was a relatively successful fashion designer in New York before becoming a fashion journalist and relocating to Paris. A doyenne of fashion, she is best known for her popular fashion blog, A Shaded View on Fashion. She is also the founder A Shaded View on Fashion Film (ASVOFF) which provides a platform for filmmakers and designers to flourish.
Iké Udé: How did A Shaded View on fashion (ASVOF) get started?
Diane Pernet: When I started ASVOF in February 2005, I didn’t know if there were any other fashion blogs. In the beginning it was more a personal diary with me taking images with my mobile phone camera and using live blogging technology to post it immediately onto my site. At that time the technology was so new that if I had a problem my SFR server had no idea of what to do, and we had to call the mobile company in Finland. After using live blogging for a few years I decided the images were not that great and my phone bills were getting much too high. The last time I used that technique was with Eley Kishimoto on the Gumball 3000, when I liveblogged from London to Monte Carlo for the launch of his menswear. My phone bill was 900 EUROS and I decided that it was really much too much. I have always been and am still interested in discovering new talents. Now I take images with my digital camera and make my posts when I am in front of my computer. I have an excellent backstage photographer, Sonny Vandevelde, and many contributors around the planet. The quality of the images is much better, and my readers never have to wait that long.
How did your point of view develop? How much have your strategies changed from your initial ones? Until you make your first millions you will be considered a young designer. It has less to do with age or experience than with financial success.
My point of view has developed with me over the years. I don’t think that I ever had a strategy. I’d been writing for Elle.com, Vogueparis.com, and one day I decided that I’d like to have my own platform. So I started my blog. I did not have any big plans for it in the beginning.
Until you make your first millions you will be considered a young designer. It has less to do with age or experience than with financial success.
Right from the get-go, you decided to work online. Why did you choose the internet instead of the print medium?
I prefer the immediacy of the internet, but I still write for print media. I am the co-editor in chief for ZOO Magazine.
Are you surprised that the internet has usurped the print media?
I’m glad that the advertisers finally understand the power of the internet. Advertising on the net reaches more people and costs less.
Even august print giants like Condé Nast are rapidly closing their various print magazines. The New York Times is on shaky ground. In fact, virtually all print media seem to be in a state of perpetual consternation. What do you make of this paradigm shift from print to the internet?
Blogging, the internet, eCommerce, Youtube.com and Google have changed the landscape of fashion. Almost every magazine or newspaper demands that their writers not only do their day job but to have a blog and to get on Twitter. They know they have troubles, so they are doing their best to catch up.
In the 1980s, you began as a relatively renowned fashion designer in New York. What compelled you to relocate to Paris and become a fashion journalist?
I moved because I could not stand living in New York anymore. It was a rather gruesome time in NYC. Mental patients were let out of the hospitals and forced to live on the streets; AIDS was killing my neighborhood in the West Village; crime was epic; rats were the size of small dogs. It was not inspiring for me to keep on living there. I never had any intention to be a fashion journalist. Things just happened organically. I moved to Paris, worked on a few films as a costume designer, got a job assisting the producer of Fashion Files with Tim Blanks as on-camera personality, and then became a Fashion Editor for Joyce Ma. Composite Magazine in Tokyo asked me to write something for them and that is how the journalism began. Beyond writing and talent scouting for the Festival d’Hyeres, what really interests me is building my fashion film festival.
In retrospect, what experiences as a designer, served you in your present role as journalist?
Designing my own brand for 13 years gives me a different perspective from a journalist who never had that experience. What I look for are creators with a voice, who know how best to present their work.
You have a reputation for championing young and emerging designers. Is this a reaction against the status quo or simply a proactive stance on your part?
It goes back to the fact that I was an independent designer for 13 years, and I know what it is like. I support people I believe in. Because my site is read by many people in the industry, I know that if I write about someone I think is talented it can prove very helpful for their business. I do what comes naturally to me.
Why are most womenswear designers men?
I honestly don’t know.
Can a female designer claim advantages over her male counterpart in the field of womenswear?
Sure. If you are able to wear the clothes, you are a bit more sensitive to how they feel on the body and what works the best for you. The process becomes based more on reality than on fantasy.
There has obviously been a shift from the Paris model of fashion to the American. The former emphasized boundless creativity with due regards to profit, whereas the later is extremely partial to money and has little regard for creativity. Is there any hope that the next generation of educated fashion consumers will experience and enjoy their own equivalent of, say, Yves Laurent or Chanel?
Granted, there is something to be said about American designers who concentrate on how to make their designs sell at a realistic price. However I’m still partial to designers who think as much about the creative process as they do about the price. As for contemporary YSL and Chanel, perhaps we already have it in the collections as Haider Ackermann, Rick Owens, Boudicca and Peter Pilotto.
What are the dangers, for designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Victor & Rolf, or even Comme des Garcon, of working with rich, powerful corporate merchants like H&M?
Actually I think that it is a good thing. It makes fashion accessible to the masses, and it is a kind of education.
Considering the corrupting influence of corporate money, the Faustian bargain between big fashion brand and Hollywood celebrities, the advertising, and sleazy politics endemic to the fashion industry, does unalloyed talent and passion matter any longer in becoming a successful fashion designer?
I am an idealist. I like to believe that talent and passion do matter in the fashion industry. I think that with the internet the fashion hierarchy is being shattered. In reaction, real creativity will be on the rise.
What constitutes a successful fashion designer in this age?
A balance between creativity and the reality of business.
Well said! Returning to ASVOF, what is its base appeal for you and your audience?
Many Shaded Viewers tell me that I am their window on the world. My primary interest is in discovering and supporting talent. That includes designers, musicians, architects, artists and filmmakers. The site is my viewpoint. I post what I think is worth looking at and considering. Once I discover someone, I like to follow his or her career. I do not lose interest once they become a global success.
You’ve been slowly and steadily honing your passion for film by introducing A Shaded View on Fashion Film (ASVOFF). What distinguishes one from the other?
I love film as much as I love fashion. ASVOFF provides a platform for filmmakers and designers to interact, and is about the intersection of the two.
Are you pleased with ASVOFF so far? How far do want to take it?
I’m happy that it keeps growing and that more filmmakers are interested in making and screening fashion films. As to where I’d like to take it, I would like ASVOFF to be present at Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto, and Sundance. Today I’m in Copenhagen with ASVOFF. Last night the Copenhagen Documentary Film Festival said that they had 4,000 applicants this year. We only had 300. So I guess we still have a long way to go.
What distinguishes you from traditional fashion journalists who work in print media or television?
I have been the Co-editor in Chief of ZOO Magazine for the past 2-1/2 years, so I also work in print. I also contribute to Sang Bleu and several other print magazines from time to time. If your question is about blogs versus print, I find that exchanges with your audience are easier with a blog. As for reporting, the Internet will always be first. I’ve worked at Elle.com and Vogueparis.com for about 3 years so I don’t know if there is a big difference between me and other print journalists. If you want to know how I think magazines should react in the face of the internet, I’d propose that they consider writing longer and more reflective pieces that are not so attached to time.
Have your twin ventures been as financially rewarding as they have been creatively?
Of course not.
When, where and how do you relax?
When I’m not traveling I’m happy to spend some quiet times with my friends going to exhibitions, films, openings, having lunch or a tea. I just saw a fantastic Fellini exhibition at the Jeu de Paume, If you are in Paris before mid-January, it is something not to be missed.