Her voice is soft and low and she blends humour with self irony as she reflects a passionate, well-informed and never indulgent opinion on nowadays fashion. She is an iconic figure, respected journalist, one of the pioneers of fashion blogging and a longtime supporter of the fashion movie as a cinematic genre and interactive medium for artists, photographers and designers. And she is sitting right in front of me, displaying her unique gothic style appearance with grace, in the bright sun of a warmish summer afternoon.
A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of meeting Diane Pernet. We talked about designers and the fashion scene in the social media era, her beginnings with A Shaded View of Fashion (ASVOF), the passion for travelling and her distinctive black shaded looks.
By Amir Doboș
Fashion designer, costume designer, journalist and actress. But why and when did you decide to start your fashion blog?
My first job in Paris in 1991 was as a costume designer for Golem L’Esprit d’Exile by Amos Gitae. The fun part was I met some great people but, in the end, it was not as creative an adventure as I’d hoped it would be. A year or two later, Tiffany Godoy proposed I write for a magazine, Composite out of Tokyo, and that is how, organically, my journalism career began. In 2000, I was making fashion videos with Alex Czetwertynski’s site, Disciple Films. It was called Diane’s Diary and I was at the same time working for elle.com and later vogue.fr.
In 2005 I decided that I wanted to report on whoever I believed in, and that was something I could not do at a more commercial platform where, essentially, you had to cover the advertisers. In February 2005, A Shaded View on Fashion was launched. In 2006, You Wear it Well, my first fashion film festival, was launched and in 2008 I went solo with it. The first edition of ASVOFF was held at the Jeu de Paume in Paris and, like with You Wear it Well, it travelled to 12 cities per year.
Since you mentioned it, I don’t know that I’d ever call myself an actress, but I’ve been a bit type cast… sitting in the front row at Robert Altman’s Pret a Porter and Ben Stiller’s Zoolander II and Larry Clark’s The Smell of Us. I also was in a film of Roman Polanski, The Ninth Gate, but they were all just cameo’s and nothing I ever looked for. I am definitely not an actress.
However, you are quite a cinematic appearance. How has your personal style evolved over the years into this unique look?
The black dates back to when I was a designer for my own brand in New York. I found if I wore colors and prints it was distracting from creating, so I chose to dress in black. There was no one moment or plan, any changes with my look are always organic. I suppose the veil is the most recent change. Or, rather, the fact that time to time now… I wear a colour. Not too often, but it has happened. I own a very deep burgundy Dries Van Noten velvet coat dress, a Dries leopard fake fur coat with a bottle green collar. So, there are a few slight changes in that direction.
What was your first encounter with fashion?
It depends on what you mean by fashion. Falling in love with a dress when I was 4 years old… Or perusing film magazines as a teen ager, dreaming of being a fashion designer… Or becoming a fashion designer for my own brand.
Fashion has evolved drastically over the past decades. What is your opinion on these changes that have shifted the art form to a lucrative business worldwide?
Yes, the past 10 years is more a focus on business men making the fashion and moving the designers around like on a chess board. Social media has taken a lot of the control that once was in the hands of traditional fashion journalists. Supreme winning the CFDA Designer Award this year, Louis Vuitton choosing Virgil Abloh, as well as BOF putting Imran Amed on the cover with Kim Kardashian — I think says it all. I heard that Kim Kardashian’s has 1% of America following her social media accounts.
Do you think the internet will continue to reinvent the way we look at fashion?
Designers create for Instagram, more and more people make their purchases on the internet and everyone gets instant gratification through social media. I think it will only grow more and, of course, fashion films are part of every brand’s communication budget.
What do you think is the power of the moving image?
As you can see, I was championing fashion films since the year 2000, and in the beginning, it was something very few believed in. When I started my first fashion film festival in 2006, August 3rd to be exact, at Cinespace in Los Angeles, it was a totally new concept. Not that fashion films had never existed, but as a genre it was new, and I spent a lot of time convincing people that this was the future for communicating about their brand or just communicating a vision of fashion. My leaning is towards storytelling and, as you can see, it really caught on.
ASVOF supports emerging talents and young designers. What do you think makes a good designer?
They need to have a signature and give something that is personal to them and also very well-conceived and constructed. There is a lot of competition and with fast fashion making everything available at record breaking speed they really have to offer something special. It is important not to follow trends but to carve their own path. Look at designers like Rick Owens or Azzedine, when he was alive, they never cared what anyone else was doing because they had their own personal form of expression and that is what stands out over time.
Is there something else in your mind that you will be thrilled to explore and discover in these coming years?
I am a traveler and curious about other cultures and my main interest these days is finding new talents both in fashion and film.