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2011 December 15

Alain Mikli Talks Jean Paul Gaultier, Delfina Delettrez, and His Fashion Exit

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Alain Mikli in Berlin Alain Mikli in Berlin
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(NEW YORK) Alain Mikli jet-setted to the Big Apple this week to oversee the opening of his new uptown boutique at 1025 Madison Avenuea hop, skip, and a jump away from his previous, and much smaller, optical den at 986 Madison. The infamous eyewear designer is gearing up for the US launch of three high-profile ventures early next year: a Jean Paul Gaultier collab, an aviator line called Mileage, and the revival of the cult eighties brand Vuarnet, which the company acquired a 75 percent majority stake in, two years ago. The Daily sat down with Mikli to talk eyewear and what he really thinks of the fashion industry. BY MARIA DENARDO  

What's trending in eyewear in New York and Paris?
In New York, people wear a little bit more retro, hailing back to the fifties and sixties. In France, there is some retro, but the shapes are not as intense. It's much more contemporary, and the shapes are bigger, more rectangular. 

What surprised you the most about working with Jean Paul Gaultier?
It's always fun and relaxed. He's so playful; he can't stay serious for five minutes. He's still like a child. We hadn't seen each other for 20 years. One day, he called and asked me to collaborate on a line of eyewear with him. I told him I didn't do those type of things anymore, and I didn't want to do a licensing deal. He said, 'No, no! We have to. I have to work with you. I'm too tired to work with someone else.' My wife and I had a wonderful dinner with him. We discussed the past like two old men. At the end, we talked business for less than five minutes when we asked for the bill. 

How was that collaboration different from when you worked with Delfina Delettrez?
I didn't know Delfina beforehand. She came to me, and we tried to work together. We don't have the same edge, the same couture or the same spirit. It was very nice and I'm very happy with the end result, but that's why it's not the same work as my collaboration with Jean Paul; we don't have to justify things with each other. We get each other's jokes and work quickly. Jean Paul and I designed the whole collection in 20 minutes.

What was fashion week like for you in the eighties?
I worked with a lot of fashion designers on many runway shows. I didn't have time for myself; 1980 to 1995 was the worst time of my life. I worked hard and traveled a lot. One season, I worked on 17 shows at once. It's like when you eat too much and you can't digest your food. The effect was the same on me, so I decided to reduce the shows. In the late nineties, I decided to stop completely with fashion.

What made you want to stop rather than just slow down?
I'm tired of most fashion people and their attitudes. It's too much. Since I worked with Jean Paul Gaultier, I recently stepped a little bit into the industry again. Nothing has changed. People are more and more stupid. They want to discuss your outfit and things that are too far removed from the reality of life. It's not that we can't have fun and play, but it's more important to be concerned with customers, dealers, your business, and how to treat people. Fashion people are stars, always thinking of themselves. There are a few exceptions, but I cannot be in this world. It's terrible.

Which designers are the exception?
 Azzedine Alaïa is a real designer who knows how to work, and he knows how to make people beautiful. Alber Elbaz is great also. He's a nice guy, and he doesn't like to be a superstar; he's accessible and normal. Working with Claude Montana was the best experience for me because he's one of the best fashion designers of our time. When you spend a lot of time with someone and trust them, you have a synchronicity in the work and the passion you share for that work. I did my best fashion design eyewear with him. I don't know if he would say the same about me, but it's true.

What do you think about fashion journalists and the new wave of bloggers?
They talk about superficial things, and nobody does the right job or try to make a statement or bring real news. Not everyone is bad. There are a few writers that do a good job.

Would Cathy Horyn be in that category?
I don't know who that is.  

What makes you happy?
I love what I do. It's medical, practical, and something you need. When you do something medical, you're taking care of handicapped people. It's your job to make them more comfortable and give them the confidence to have a nice life. I always work keeping this in mind. Even with my collection with Jean Paul, it's still comfortable. It's not just an accessory or a gimmick. It goes beyond the superficiality of fashion.

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