2011 March 24
A Moment With…Hervé Léger
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(PARIS) Hervé Léger, the man behind the famous bandage dress, has seen it all: Paris through the glorious excesses of the 1980s, building his company only to be forced out by financial backers, and the revival of his designs at the company he rebuilt, Hervé L. Leroux (a name suggested by close friend Karl Lagerfeld). The Daily caught up with Monsieur Léger at this week’s Luxury Summit held by the Centre du Luxe et de la Création in Paris, to discuss Karl, designer pressure and more! D'ARCY FLUECK
Tell us about the Hervé L. Leroux woman.
It’s very simple. I dress women who want to be beautiful and who want to please others. I have the image of a very classic woman. I love women, I love curves, and I’m obsessed with the female body so I love women with a bust, with hips, and a real size. I only work with this image in mind, so I don’t like clothes that hide a women’s form. Of course it’s a sort of obsession, but that’s what women come to me for -- I dress women from 16 to 75 years old. They come because it’s an attitude and the clothes are often seductive, but not in an obvious way. And unfortunately we see a lot of dresses today that are like potato bags. That drives me crazy--it’s not at all my thing!
What’s inspiring you at the moment?
Since last year, people have been coming back to me. They come to Hervé Leroux to have a dress by Hervé Léger, and that really inspires me. I’m not someone that goes on trips just to travel and get inspiration. I don’t go to flea markets to find old dresses to make them more modern. It’s my clients that inspire me the most, the women who come to me. We’re a very small company; we have one boutique in Paris, in St-Germain-des-Prés, a wonderful neighborhood. So it’s really about my clients. I don’t have a muse. There are people that fantasize about a model or an actress, but I don’t at all, I work for all women. Prêt-à-Porter is a bit mysterious for me as each woman has her own identity, her own body type. I can’t work just for one female ideal--need many.
You worked for many years with Karl Lagerfeld, what did you learn from him?
Everything. He is a genius! He is someone very wonderful. I started my career as a hair stylist, then hat maker, and then I met Karl and it was a shock. There is nobody like him. I had the chance to work very closely with him at Fendi and Chanel, and he gives everything. You just have to look at him work. We learn a lot with him. It’s not like in a school, it’s a touch, he is good at everything, it’s a spirit and a vision of things, and he is very, very modern. He is always in the future: when the collection is finished, we start over the next day -- and he refuses all doubt and just goes forward. He’s everything that I’m not! That’s why I am so fascinated by Karl. I’ve always said the day that I feel better, that’s the day things are over! But we have to follow our own road, our own destiny, and go forward because he’s just one-of-a-kind.
Since the John Galliano scandal, quite a few people have been commenting about the pressures fashion designers face, what are your thoughts?
I think that exists, but I made a different choice from the rest. I have my own house. I don’t have a backer--it’s difficult, but there’s nobody to tell me what to do and any pressure that exists only comes from myself. However, I think Karl was right when he said that if one can’t play the game, one shouldn’t try. It’s true at a certain time in my life I experienced pressures from fashion groups too, and it can make you a bit crazy. It’s the rhythm that makes you crazy, the rhythm of this industry, and I do think that is starting to have an impact on creative people. I don’t like the word creator. It’s the pursuit of profitability at all costs, meaning in today’s world the parameters for a designer or couturier are so heavy that they become unhinged. Because before the creation, before creativity, they have to think of money and that can really make you crazy.
Is it possible to be the design head of large company and stay sane?
I don’t know, because it depends on what we’re after, what we’re looking for: I think if we run after glory and notoriety we’re already in danger. I think it’s dangerous to choose this profession to be famous. On the other hand there is a luxury, the luxury of doing what one wants to do, and that is paramount to me. I have that luxury, but I finance it myself so I know exactly what it means. But I have worked at different houses and I don’t think creative people are respected anymore, it’s bizarre. I think people are always asking what they can bring to the table in terms of financial results, and I don’t think that is respectful of the creative process.
Today designers almost have to answer for their choices in annual reports…
It’s horrible. Of course that exists, we’re in the profession and we have to earn money but if that’s the only thing…And you know today it’s become groups of people, the only people left who are really autonomous are Lagerfeld, who can do what he wants, it’s Giorgio Armani, and it’s Ralph Lauren because they are the people who constructed their own businesses. No one would dare to say to them, “Oh, Monsieur Armani, that didn’t sell well. You can’t do that.” They’ve created a kind of power, but it’s a power that they earned. And when we see the waltz of designers that goes on today it’s obvious that there are few people that are really respected. They change designers every three or four seasons. They don’t even leave people the time to settle in and do their job.
Do you think you could ever go back to a house or work with backers?
I thought about at a certain time, and then I really calmed down and thought, “If it comes, it’s comes.” You know I was associated with people at the beginning of my career, when I created Hervé Léger, and that turned out badly. I see people all around me who take up associations that turn out badly so I don’t know. There was a moment when things were a bit difficult for me, but I’ve stopped looking so we’ll see what happens.
Do you miss doing runway presentations?
Not at all! (Laughs) I feel a bit different from other people; I don’t think that the défilé is really a driving force because I think people do so many things just to please the press. I have nothing against the press, but I feel like designers betray themselves a bit. They show things so people will talk about them, and I think there’s a lack of sincerity and it gives a fashion that is very uniform. There are the famous tendances and finally everyone ends up showing the same thing. I think today that people who have a real instinct are very rare. And it’s true that if I had to go back to catwalk presentations I would be in a panic because today people are so out of touch with the reality of everyday life. Already the models I find are too skinny, too sad. And I knew the age of the super top models, Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford, who were always lively and smiling. Today you go between several défilés and you will see the exact same type of girl--it just doesn’t inspire me. Of course I do presentations, I do three presentations a year: spring, fall and cruise, that I show at my showroom and what I like is to have the buyers come to me. They buy, things sell well, and that really gives me the feeling of existing for something because I know that somewhere out there in the world I have clients that adore what I’m doing and that’s really reward enough.
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