Meeting Bertrand Guyon
“A dress is not just fabric: a dress is a thought”
Meeting Bertrand Guyon, Design Director for the Elsa Schiaparelli Maison
The event is scheduled to occur in Place Vendôme, the iconic site of Parisian luxury. With a dedicated Comité – and the mission to preserve the “supplément d’âme de la place” – it is already a story to tell. In a single glance, you take in the entire space, with its emblematic octagonal shape. An atmosphere that changes with the seasons. Austere in winter, with greenish hues, bright in summer. Two steps in, and you feel even smaller. A few cars glide by in an elegant silence. Overlooking it, the shop windows of historical jewelers. They themselves can tell a thousand intriguing tales. Only one hotel: The Ritz – recently renovated and made even more seductive – continues its legend. Other rooms, other stories, such as those experienced in the impenetrable apartments with a view, each time occupied by those who knew the world under unexpected facets. At n.26 of Place Vendôme, lived the Countess of Castiglione. At n.12, Chopin. Both aesthetes.
Today, at n.21, is the Pret À Couture Salon Boutique. Inaugurated in the 1930s by Elsa Schiaparelli, it reopened in 2016 with its new owner: Della Valle, who purchased the fashion house in 2006. A glass and gilded elevator leads to the upper floors, yet, the stairs are preferred, covered with a soft carpet in that unmistakable shocking pink for which the Maison is known. More stories to tell. In the atelier – always off-limits – seamstresses orchestrated by the première – proudly and severely observant – and the creative director, Bertrand Guyon – at the helm of the brand since 2015 – give the finishing touches to the new Haute Couture collection.
Boasting a perfect resume, Bertrand Guyon is an expert in haute couture. A fine connoisseur of fabrics and embroidery, he graduated from the École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, worked with Hubert de Givenchy, Christian Lacroix, and then with Valentino for seven years, where he collaborated with the designing duo, Chiuri and Piccioli. Heading towards Bertrand’s atelier, cozy and bursting with Elsa’s presence. An intimate atmosphere.
2017, Haute Couture means…
“I’ve been asked this question for many years. As if Haute Couture belonged to the past, while it is more alive than ever. It represents an important segment, also from a business point-of-view. It is the expression of exceptional craftsmanship, from those who create high-quality fabrics, to those who paint on silk, to those who sew and form tailor-made garments, which tend towards absolute perfection, where detail really makes a difference. A world apart, which belongs to the patrimony of French savoir-faire, but this is not all. It is an actual treasure chest where all those virtues are kept that, without Haute Couture, would be lost. The atelier is a tried and true creative gymnasium.”
The Orient as a source of inspiration for this collection…
Elsa’s world fascinates me and entirely captivates me. It is like an iceberg. You only see the top, and below, as if hidden, many more aspects to decrypt and bring to the surface. I never cease to discover the personality of this woman who was so ahead (Bertrand’s atelier is reminiscent of Elsa everywhere, from her portrait to advertising posters, drawings, and so on Ed.) So cosmopolitan, so creative but, at the same time, attentive to the needs of her clients. During my research, I found some pictures of her apartment, where several objects belonged to the oriental culture and then, photos of her, extremely elegant, dressed in wide silk tunics. I took these ideas and revised them, attempting to maintain a balance between the past and the present. In the Lesage archives, I then found an original embroidery, which I replicated on a belt. It was an exciting moment.”
Among the great classics of the Maison, you could not omit that legendary shocking pink, for both a bomber jacket, as well as for an airy dress, with also several traces of it in your accessories
“Of course. It’s Schiaparelli’s iconic color. We have it made specifically for us. It is a special, very fresh shade of pink, which Elsa defined as “impossibly, brilliant, bold, pleasant, full of energy.” Shocking. Particularly sensitive to all that was related to art, Elsa was in touch with the most important artists of the time, and this influenced her entire creative process. Among her friends, with whom she collaborated actively, there were names such as Francis Picabia, Salvador Dalì, Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, and Leonor Fini who designed the perfume bottle in the shape of Mae West. The choice of such a special color, and the birth of the homonymous scent, marked an important step for Schiaparelli’s work.”
What is your idea of beauty?
“It is a very broad concept. There are different expressions of beauty: from an inner one, all to be discovered, to an outer one, which immediately wins you over. It is an emotion. Strong. Certainly, I could not live without it.”
What is one of the most memorable walks you’ve taken in your lifetime?
“A long walk, letting time pass in all its sweetness, on the cliffs of Normandy. So wild. Hearing the sound of the waves crash against the rocks, watching the immensity of the sea, enveloped by the gothic atmosphere of that place. I am a native of these magical lands.”
Bertrand is very surprised by the last question. I almost feel as if I were being tactless. I close my notebook, and we continue to speak of Mont Saint Michel, of certain legends, good food, traditions, this land we both love. Here, in the atelier that overlooks Place Vendôme on a cold winter day.
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