French designer Pascal Millet, who dresses modern day icons like Rihanna, brought his SS2016 Ready-to-Wear show from Paris to Vancouver as part of the Grand Opening celebration of the city's newest luxury boutique, Cicino. I had an exclusive opportunity to sit down 1-on-1 with Millet prior to the start of his show at The Vancouver Club on November 6 and he was extremely gracious, candid and downright funny. I was present at Millet's FW2015 Ready-to-Wear show in Paris back in March as part of my coverage of Fashion Week and his collection was one of the most memorable and inspired. So I jumped at the opportunity when he decided to visit Vancouver to get to know the man behind the label, what inspires him, what he does for fun and his favourite dish to cook. Scroll to the end for pictures from the show and the grand opening of Cicino Boutique.
V: Pascal, welcome to Vancouver.
PM: Thank you very much, it's my first time in Canada.
V: So what are your first impressions of Vancouver?
PM: I love it. Vancouver is a beautiful city. We have to work during the Grand Opening but it would be nice to come back to Vancouver in the spring and do some touristy things.
V: Let’s talk a little about the beginning. So why a career in fashion as opposed to other careers?
PM: I’ve always liked it. When I was a child, I was asthmatic and always had to stay at home. My mother had magazines, especially Modes & Travaux (a popular French lifestyle magazine) so I would love to look through it. My maternal grandmother, she used to make clothes for herself and for the rest of the family. She taught me how to cut fabric. My paternal grandmother loved to sometimes buy couture pieces. I used to love going with her to Paris; sometimes to Dior, sometimes to Saint Laurent and I was very impressed. As I was not clever enough to do mathematics, my father was supportive of me doing fashion and not aiming to be a doctor. At that time, everybody wanted their son to be doctor. I’m very lucky that my parents were supportive of me.
V: So where do you get your inspiration from? From your travels? From art?
PM: Yeah, when I travel, when I read magazines, and watch TV. I have a bunch of little carnet (notebooks) and I draw. I love that and do it very, very often.
V: Do your inspirations generally come from nature, architecture or art?
PM: Both. Architecture, I love. Art, I love. Being on the street and watching people, I love. Sometimes it’s embarrassing because often I look at people and they look back and it can, at times, be weird. Now with my camera it’s easier; but because I’m not that proficient with my phone, sometimes it’s not on silent and people will literally hear the ‘click’ and it can also be embarrassing!
V: So your journey has been an interesting one, as you went through years with Carven, Balenciaga, Givenchy. When did you know you were ready to come out on your own?
PM: I'd never set out to do that. When I was at school doing fashion, I had just wanted to work for somebody. The collections just got bigger and bigger over time and now here we are. It’s just a dream and frankly speaking, sometimes when I go in the morning and I’m first at the office, I can’t believe that’s my name above the door. I still feel childlike in many ways. It’s like Christmas when you open the door to my office – it’s become very nice and very impressive.
V: Up to this point, who has influenced you the most?
PM: Mr. Givenchy, Mr. Alexander McQueen, obviously. Perhaps the freedom that John Galliano inspires too. I love moodboards – I have it and complete it with my assistant, Clement, who is very young and very talented. We start to talk through the stories for the moodboard. In fact, I’m very happy that he came here with me to Canada. After this visit in Vancouver, we’ll be doing Fall/Winter collection so there may be a touch of Canadian influence, perhaps.
V: Talk about your partnership with Cicino.
PM: It was a year ago when they came to us – these very chic ladies. Very, very nice, very friendly. They liked the collection and purchased it. For us, we discovered it was for the Vancouver market, which from our perspective represents the west coast of America. We were selling well on the east coast but nowhere on the westcoast, so Cicino now has exclusivity of our brand in Vancouver and I hope the partnership will continue. We’re very honoured to be here for the opening of their store. This is very, very important for them. This discussion took place last summer over dinner in Paris and we’re very honoured they chose us among all of their very famous brands for the Grand Opening.
V: So your Spring/Summer collection you’re showcasing tonight - what’s the inspiration there?
PM: Ibiza! I love Ibiza. I had never been there until last April. Gorgeous weather and it was very interesting to see the kind of hippie chic people; a very cool kind of atmosphere – very chic and confident. I love this kind of atmosphere. I love it when the people are not too serious, too stiff, but chic and casual - naturally and effortlessly chic.
V: What do you do for fun? What do you do to relax?
PM: I go to restaurants, go to see friends, and I love gardening. I love gardening! My parents have a home with a large garden in Burgundy and I take care of it. When I get back to France after this trip, I need to plant the bulbs in the country garden for spring so I will be out of the office for 4 to 5 days. I also cook – I love cooking!
V: Do you? What’s your favourite dish?
PM: Soufflé au fromage (cheese soufflé) – I do it quite well. I’m very proud of that (laughs).
V: Ah! Mine is coq au vin (chicken in wine).
PM: Ah, coq au vin is nice too!
V: And that’s a Burgundy dish!
PM: Absolutely! That’s just what I wanted to say! And you have to cook it with the same wine that you will drink.
V: And it’s a peasant dish. It’s not very fancy.
PM: And it's a very family dish, for Sundays – a plat du dimanche (Sunday dinner).
V: So what’s next for you?
PM: We’re already working on the Fall/Winter collection because we have to show it in January – it’s only two months away.
V: And you’re doing the Ready-to-Wear in March again?
PM: Yes, end of February/beginning of March. We’ll try perhaps next season to do a show in July for pret-a-couture (more prestigious ready-to-wear collections that can be tailored). I think doing couture is a wonderful job but the real couture for me, was when I was lucky and spoiled enough to work with Mr. Givenchy. So for me I just love the concept and beauty of couture but now it’s essentially unaffordable because it’s the price of a small flat or a car. But pret-a-couture is very interesting to do something like that because it’s quite unique and it’s something exquisite and yet people feel it’s still one-of-a-kind. You have to make a big difference now in fashion because the high street, the pret-a-porter (ready-to-wear) and couture - everything is more complicated.
V: Do you find things are so complex now with fast fashion?
PM: Even today with the craziness of the queues at stores like H&M and some of these Parisian brand collaborations, like Balmain. It’s fun but what’s not fun is how you see on eBay some of these H&M pieces that are going for thousands of dollars. Thousands! And the people have to go to the real Balmain to buy some of the real pieces.
V: Do you find that these collaborations can sometimes cheapen these brands or brings down the value that these brands have built up?
PM: I think so. I understand that it’s nice because it allows a lot of people to have access to these brands. But now I don’t understand who will buy the (couture) dress (that gets unveiled) for June because your housekeeper or your little sister now wear the same brand. For me, it becomes literally the same.
V: I find that fashion now is so fast that you lose the quality. I much prefer dresses that were made a long time ago.
PM: This is absolutely true and this is what I read again this morning. Since Raf Simons (former creative director of Dior) and a few others have left their posts, everybody’s talking about it. Because time is running too fast. Now we have to do six collections a year - there's not enough time to design. And customers don't even have time to buy it and even the media and buyers can’t even remember it. That’s why I think doing two collections, but bigger, is more clever; we have more time to think about it, to come up with ideas. It’s about creation. Like Picasso, it took him time to do his art. Nowadays, the demand on us to come up with something new is too quick. And many people, although extremely wealthy, they are not buying something because they have dreamt about it for a long time. They buy it because it's the newest thing and then there's the next and the next. And I think you lose the value of the piece. Even tonight, some of these pieces (in the SS2016 collection) are, I would say, pieces of art. Beautiful, rich pieces of fabric, beautiful research done on the embroidery; it’s not just placed on the fabric without meaning. But it’s always about the ‘next design’ for people. People really have to start appreciating what they buy more of.