- © Copyright – Paolo Roversi
He might pass unnoticed on the street but his presence in the front row at all the fashion shows is guaranteed. His advice is precious and well respected. His vision and flair for fashion are recognised by all the major fashion houses throughout the world: Jean-Jacques Picart, the legendary fashion stylist.
Jean-Jacques Picart began his career in 1970 when he opened and managed his own press office where he was responsible for the image of numerous brands and designers such as Thierry Mugler, Cacharel, Shiseido, Emanuel Ungaro, Hermès, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Kenzo, Chloé, Daniel Hechter, La Redoute, Newman, Levi’s, Helmut Lang, Ferragamo, Jil Sander and even Jean Patou. In 1981, he launched Christian Lacroix and in 1987, alongside Bernaud Arnault, he founded the founded the fashion house Christian Lacroix where he remained a partner until 1999.
High Fashion Consultant
In 1999, he made a few changes in order to gain more freedom. At 217, Rue Saint Honoré he set up his fashion and luxury goods consultancy office, JJP Conseil, the most important office in France.
- What does your position as a fashion consultant in the luxury goods industry involve?
Jean Jacques Picart – I don’t make any predictions, I only observe all the skills and roles there are in fashion and I am very aware of any changes happening. There is no absolute truth is fashion. All areas are influenced by other areas, there is a constant overlap. Whatever is happening in politics or in the arts can be used in fashion. What is happening on the east coast of the USA can be relevant for a Chinese brand’s decision making. Something which is popular in Tokyo can influence merchandising in a store in London. It is these intersections between politics, ecology, culture and social phenomena that I observe. After, I share my thoughts and my feelings on the matter.
- What is the “expected” future of fashion?
We are set to enter a marvelous and exciting period. The end of this period will see space made for a new era in fashion and in consumption. The year 2007 marked the beginning of a shift away from heavy goods. The disappearance of an almost imperialist limit, where success was based on strong creativity, supported by mass marketing and the increasing number of branded stores being opened around the world. Today we are between two eras, but in fashion it’s a long process. So I am constantly waiting for the future.
Young people have the opportunity to get involved at a wonderful time in fashion history. The big names in fashion are becoming more open to others and some are retiring. These new designers are taking the place of a fashion generation who are already established. They will find new ways to deal with the market, which is brilliant. The brands will inevitably reinvent themselves and find a new recipe for success. Certainly, they will have to adapt, either a little or a lot, to this new reality. Brands will legitimise their attraction to customers more than ever by their creativity, exclusivity and by respecting the increasingly demanding consumer. If the 90s were the years of fashion materialism and the 00s were a turn towards increased consciousness then from 2010 the focus is performance and rarity.
- How do you define luxury?
Today’s view of luxury is not the same as it used to be… Tomorrow’s luxury is a bit like Hermès’ fashion, which is the opposite of Dior. Tomorrow’s luxury is based on goods being exceptional and is not based on their creation. It is the strategy of personalisation which is gaining prestige in the luxury goods sector. To be able to choose the colour of your bag, the leather, the details and have it ‘made to measure’. The true elite are no longer interested in bags with logos; they don’t want a purse that anyone can have. It’s the same case for jewellery, furniture and clothes. Louis Vuitton has 350 boutiques worldwide. Today, almost anyone can buy a Louis Vuitton bag, so the very rich don’t buy them and instead look for personalised shopping. It’s another world.
- How are the top brands going to evolve?
There is excess everywhere. Luxury brands are becoming more dramatic and industrial brands more glamorous. This excess is killing demand. The luxury industry is a very specific area of research into demand which ventures close to perfection. However careful consideration needs to be taken when dealing with perfection as it can sometimes be boring. Perfection can be a negative. Sometimes we need something sharp to enhance the brand; to create a certain amount of irregularity in order to be balanced… The purchasing of brands will continue (Chanel, Vuitton, etc.), but this will happen for different reasons, not as the result of economic decisions but because of expression, the search for a product which offers differentiation, the search for originality through personalisation. Knowledge and experience are essential in the luxury industry, because it needs to be at the centre of real life and of what is certain. From now on no suitcase can weigh four tonnes… Nobody would ever use it… Now, luggage needs to be practical and to have wheels because that’s the reality.
Each brand has its own sense of luxury. If you are 35 years old you won’t want these heavy, dated items. Maybe we can imagine the luxury goods of Hermès redesigned by Starck; beautiful, light, practical and adapted to real living.
- How do you see the fashion catwalks?
Sometimes I am appalled by the designers, who dress up a virtual woman, who will spend 12 to 15 minutes on the catwalk, inside a phantasmagorical and unreal scene. In an hour this will be seen all over the world. But underneath there is nothing real or stable. I picture a woman who comes into a store and says: “It’s amazing, isn’t it wonderful, how beautiful!… but it’s not for me…”. Products come from this immense creativity but they are not going anywhere, they aren’t right. It’s like a lovely dish with very spicy food. After the first bite you burnt your tongue and then you lost your appetite.
- But doesn’t fashion have to dream in order to be creative?
Yes, but with the condition that the dream doesn’t leave reality. The dream must be something that takes you out of your routine, but it can’t be something unreal, which isn’t part of real life. There is also the need to be commercial because whether I am buying shoes or a suit, even if I go to a fashion house, which has a specific means of communication and is inspirational, afterwards all I really want is a suit or a pair of shoes.
- In your opinion, is the internet a competitor of the luxury industry?
I know that it is an enormous marketplace but it is not a direct competitor of the luxury market which is looking for something more. Buying a bag on the internet doesn’t have the same value. It doesn’t have the same service, surroundings, presence or experience. Internet shopping is for a purchase without the experience. When I talk about fashion, I am talking about something more than that, which has an additional responsibility, the purchase is linked to enjoyment. I am not talking about products which can be bought without emotional involvement.
- In fashion, it feels like everything has been done before, do you think it is possible to free oneself from the tendency of being inspired by old trends?
I greatly look forward to that. It’s a new challenge. The truth is we have a tendency to idolise moments in youth with certain nostalgia that times past were better. That has always been the way, at the turn of the century we spoke about this ‘return to antiquity’. It’s a way of slowing down the future. Fashion needs a break sometimes; it is always suggesting and is there in each generation with ideas which correspond to the current inspiration. It’s a question of reinterpretation. However inspiration doesn’t have to mean copying because that is the place of vintage.