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Lucire: Fashion

Lucire 2011 A fount of fashion knowledge Pamela Golbin, expert, author, curator, presenter.

Pamela Golbin: fashion’s language defined

Lola Saab speaks with Pamela Golbin, the Chief Curator of the Musée de la Mode et du Textile at the Louvre, on her series of fashion talks for the Alliance Française in New York featuring Tory Burch, Lorenz Bäumer and Oscar de la Renta


THE FRENCH INSTITUTE Alliance Française in New York City provides a small audience the chance to attain a designer’s viewpoint of the fashion industry. Four hundred viewers at the Florence Gould Hall listen to a 45-minute talk between the designer as well as Pamela Golbin, the Chief Curator of the Musée de la Mode et du Textile at the Louvre Palace. Towards the end of the talk, the audience already feels as though they know the designers on a personal basis. To fill in the gaps for certain unclear aspects, guests have the opportunity to ask questions in a 10-minute Q&A session. Such talks permit the audience to get up close and personal with the faces behind the high-end brand names.

This year, the series of talks are held from March 16 to April 4, with three iconic figures from the fashion industry: Tory Burch, Lorenz Bäumer and Oscar de la Renta. We spoke to Golbin, the host of the Art de Vivre Fashion Talks, to attain her perspective about the fashion industry.

Lucire: How much does fashion mean to you?

Pamela Golbin: Well, it’s been my life for the past twenty years … since I started at the museum. I love fashion but what I love above all is people; fashion is a wonderful way to understand people. You know, everybody has to get dressed in the morning and it is a second skin. So whether you like it or not, it does say something about you and historically it puts things into context, into perspective and most importantly fashion is an industry. So it has an incredible dynamic, it is creative … it brings together so many different fields all at once. That has always been very exciting.


I’ve heard that fashion has always been a part of your life, as well as a part of your family’s life; could you tell us in what way?

Well, the women in the family have always been very strong and confident women. My paternal grandmother has been a client of haute couture since the 1920s; she is now 99 years old … so, it’s been a long time. My mother was also and still is quite a lover of fashion. But it’s always been a tool to better express yourself, so for me and my sister, it has always been a wonderful and creative tool as wel l… it’s been a very positive experience in our lives.


Between New York and Paris, are there any major differences in terms of fashion?

Oh … very much so and I would add Italy for that matter, Milano. You know, in Paris the haute couture system was born, and the fashion system was born, thanks to Charles Frederick Worth, an Englishman … What he brought to fashion was a creative aspect, he sold himself as an artist … So Paris has always been the creative centre of fashion.
   When it comes to New York, it came much later, obviously … It is more product-based. Historically, in New York and in America the space was so much bigger and there were so many more people to dress. It’s a very different vision, it’s more about quantity. That doesn’t mean there is not quality, but from the offset it was how to dress the largest amount of people at the same time.
   It is an ‘industry’, whereas Paris was more hand-based, it was an artisan who created it …
   Historically, Italy has also been the centre of fabric and textiles since the 14th century. In each case, they have a very different point-of-view, but together they compose of the incredible industry that it is today: the fashion industry.


You have also published many books pertaining to a number of major designers including, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and Balenciaga. What is the main goal that you aim to achieve when you publish such books?

For the most part, these books come in conjunction with an exhibition … They are not exhibition catalogues, they are books … What really interests me is the person, what did this designer bring to the fashion language? I always think of fashion as a language: it is obviously not an oral language, but it is a very complex and sophisticated visual language with all of its rules …
   Every designer has brought something to the table. And so when I start working on a designer, I always try to figure out what his or her specificity is. And then the work behind what they have done. What characterizes them? So all of these books, whether they are retrospectives or more thematically based, they are always about the person: what is that person’s voice?


You are currently hosting Art de Vivre Fashion Talks with such a great series of talks with designers including Tory Burch, Lorenz Bäumer and Oscar de la Renta. Can you give us your perspective on the talks as well as on the designers that will be featured this year?

I started these talks four years ago because I thought it would be wonderful to have a platform, kind of a master class, where informally I can invite designers from all fields to come and talk and just have a very close presence with an audience.
   Over the years, I have been able to invite all sorts of designers, whether it was for menswear, Veronique Nichanian for Hermès, or shoe designer, Bruno Frisoni for his own line but also for Roger Vivier, as well as incredible women like Donna Karan and Diane Von Furstenberg.
   And now, for this season I thought it was interesting to follow how to define a signature style. So these three designers are so different: I mean between Tory Burch and Oscar, they are two extremes in the fashion spectrum, but they each have found their place in this incredible industry and each have found their own iconic language. How to decipher that language? And of course Lorenz, who is not even in fashion but in jewellery design, has created incredible designs not only for Chanel first and now for Louis Vuitton … It was really how to convey what a signature style is and how each one found their own signature style in a very different manner.


How long does it take you to prepare these talks?

It takes very long because it is not just, ‘Oh, I can just go up and ask questions’. Forty-five minutes on stage to keep the tension … you know, these are people who give a lot of interviews to a lot of people and to be in front of four hundred guests is a lot. First of all, to be live, you can’t be cut, you can’t rewrite, you can’t control what comes out … to give that personal touch is a discipline … it is a lot of work.
   I know some of the designers very well and I’ve followed and I’ve worked within different capacities so it’s much easier obviously, but there is always a lot of work that goes behind these talks, to make them seamless and seemingly easy.


Are you already preparing for next year’s Art de Vivre Fashion Talks?

Yes, you know, the calendar is filled … designers, unlike artists, have a lot of rendezvous with the press, with the clients, with production, that are very tight every year so their schedule is completely booked … We really have to work a year in advance to get them to come in.


Are there words of advice you can give those who want to dive into the fashion industry?

The word starts with a w: work … The parties and the red carpet are just not even one per cent of the work… to get there is just incredible … Talent is very important but perseverance and discipline are even more important to survive. It is not just a one-shot deal, you have to stick around. •


‘And now, for this season I thought it was interesting to follow how to define a signature style. So these designers are so different: Tory Burch and Oscar [de la Renta] are two extremes in the fashion spectrum, but they each have found their place in this incredible industry and each have found their own iconic language. How [do we] decipher that language?’



Some of Pamela Golbin’s books





Lola Saab is Paris editor of Lucire.


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