Diane Pernet, Portrait by Alessandro Simonetti (provided by Diane Pernet)
Poised in portraiture as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa, Diane Pernet is as much human as she is icon. Under the dark shades, high headpiece and distinct black ensemble, Pernet is one of the most inexplicitly approachable, shrewdly opinionated and creative-minded women I've encountered in the fashion world. The "Paris based, American-born French international fashion blogger and critic" (per wikipedia) graduated with a documentary filmmaking degree from Temple University and, after 13 years designing her own line in NYC, immigrated to Paris in 1990. Pernet has spent the last 2 decades building her blog, A Shaded View of Fashion (ASVoF), and establishing fashion film as an art form. Keep reading for the Q&A...
Diane Pernet (middle) w/ Robert Molnar (bottom), Stephen Sprouse (top) and models / Photograph by Dustin Pittman (provided by Diane)
To start with, I am really not--and have never been--into trends. That said, in the early 80's when the Japanese made their first fashion shows in Paris, they caused a gigantic eruption on the fashion landscape. I have a clear memory of a double page spread in WWD with a huge magic marker X across the 2 pages calling it 'bag lady couture.' Actually, it was a great layout and of course impacted fashion as we even see it today. It was over Comme des Garcons and Yohji. When I first moved to Paris 23 years ago, I was working for CBC on Fashion Files and I attended the couture show of Claude Montana for Lanvin. It was pure sculpture and the sheer beauty made the hair stand up on my arms. There were also many shows by John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. More recently, Rick Owens' step-dance teams sent electric shocks through all of us; It was beyond perfection. As for reoccurring themes, I dream to see the end of the constant regurgitation of the 80's…
You have a distinct style and very recognizable silhouette. Tell me a little about the black, your style philosophy and the "uniform." Do you ever wear color? What's your closet like?
Black makes me feel strong and my silhouette gives me comfort (several interpretations of the word 'comfort', I might add) and I still allow myself a little room to experiment. Like everyone, I tried many looks over the years but once you find the style that satisfies you, you do not need to search any further. There are many people, like me, who 'always look the same,' but of course the elements in their outfits are different. For example, Azzedine Alaia in his Mao suits... there are too many to mention. Perhaps there's an opportunity for someone in the fashion magazine world to finally expose the truth behind this myth and explore it for their readers by featuring these individuals who seem to wear a uniform but are actually not. We are decisive and use subtlety. That's all.
I need more closet space, to be honest. I have 3 closets packed with black, and I’ve literally run out of space. If I find something I love--something like a skirt made for me by David Szeto--I order 8 at a time so that when they wear out I have more in stock. The same with various black shirts made by Boudicca over the years. I love my coats by Dries Van Noten. To be honest I never counted how many black shirts and skirts I own.
As for color, it surrounds me in my apartment and I have a blue and a red bathrobe.
ASVOFF Festival at fi:af NYC, March 2014 / Diane (center) with 2 of her cinema director icons Jerry Schatzberg (L) and Mike Figgis (R) (provided by Diane Pernet)
The best fashion films are movies. She Said She Said by Stuart Blumberg for Co with Marisa Tomei, Elodie Bouchez and David Wain is a perfect example of that. Therapy by Roman Polanski for Prada is another example. Mike Figgis' The Four Dreams of Mis X – Shadows for Agent Provocateur was a viral ad that is a film and is as valid now as it was when it was first made. I think you have to apply the same criteria to a fashion film as you do to any other film; Does it take you somewhere that you have never been? Does it act upon your emotions? How is it constructed, written and directed? What is the sound design, the acting, editing, etc. etc.?
Sketches by Miguel Villalobos of designs by Diane Pernet when they were was dreaming of making dolls (provided by Diane Pernet)
I guess I would set it in my old neighborhood in NYC--the West Village, 11th St. between Bleeker and Hudson, but essentially downtown NYC. I’d follow a small group of close friends, little cameos about their life--day into night. Brian, an adventurer/documentary filmmaker. Lovey, a model and total personality. Edwige a French performer and Queen of the Night life. Paola an artist/client of mine and …someone playing me, an independent designer in NYC in the 80’s.
The thing about the clothes, the ones that I’d like to use are not really 80’s…If I was to be authentic, I’d use my own designs (which were not typically 80’s). If I were to use fashion that could be styled to look 80’s, more minimal than disco…Haider Ackermann, Rick Owens, Dries Van Noten, Boudicca…
It would be different, but would have a raw Strangers in Paradise tone--black and white. Some scenes would involve night life, The Mudd Club, the Factory, Save the Robots, Danceteria, the Roxy…the advent of Hip Hop and the mix of totally different tribes…the art scene with Mapplethorpe, Holly Solomon, Mary Boone…and how different individuals had an impact on society at that time.
With all that traveling, some exotic foods must have come across your plate. What has been the most unexpectedly delicious food you have encountered and what has been the least appealing?
Bird saliva in Shanghai in ’87 was the most disgusting. The best is the delicacy of Japanese cuisine that is guided by the season and the mix of so many ingrediants in one dish but always very clean, refined and fresh. Hard to single out one particular dish; I am always in heaven when in Tokyo.
Diane Pernet with Christophe Lemaire / Photograph by Paul Mouginot (provided by Diane Pernet)
Clearly, social media plays an important part in the communication of your brand. It is one way to build your own ‘tribe’; the immediacy of instagram is a delight. Of course I think one has to filter what they choose to put online because it is going to stay there to haunt you forever. ‘Controlled access’ is of course the key. How much do you want to reveal? A bit of mystery is always a good thing.
I don’t really need to know what you eat for breakfast or if you are desperate to find a mate…Who cares? I prefer to see images of inspirations-- be it in art, architecture, music, film or fashion. Technology is a tool for the future and it is key to how we will continue to live and respect our planet. I think what is important is to learn from people like Bruno Pieters for Honest By who represents a new direction in an approach to fashion, the planet and humanity in general.
As for mass-produced, affordable fast-fashion, it is great if it is not created by exploiting the individuals that are producing it. Interviews with pre-teens directing factories makes me sick to my stomach, as do the conditions under which they are forced to work.
Diane with Cosmo and Adan Jodorowsky / Michael Pitt and Diane @ the Rad Hourani show 2014 (provided by Diane Pernet)
My blog came about while I was still writing for vogueparis.com--that was before it was vogue.fr. I had been writing for elle.com (the international site) before it moved to NYC and was based in Paris. Naturally, when you work for a big machine, it is ruled by its advertisers. Anina of anina.net introduced me to life-blogging, a technology that was introduced in 2005--long before twitter but a cinema verite (meaning that you could go somewhere take an image or short video and immediately post it to your blog). www.ashadedviewonfashion.com was launched February 2005; It was the first or one of 3, fashion blogs. It gave me the freedom to report on whatever I found interesting, hence my shaded view.
Diane Pernet unveiling her new fragrance at UNSCENT, Milan 2014 (provided by Diane Pernet)
I've just launched 3 fragrances at a UNSCENT this past weekend. The official launch will be in September. For a preview, these are the fragrances and a brief:
TO BE HONEST captures the experience of stumbling upon an ancient church while walking through the woods. The green and woody fragrance follows you inside. Candles burn silently, their lights still flickering. A waft of incense lingers high above the alter, as if the congregation has just vanished. There are notes of myrrh, black pepper, cedar wood, patchouli, vetiver, leather and amber.
DESIRED is reminiscent of an oriental garden as the mist rolls in. Slightly disheveled and overgrown, moss clings to stone statues obscured by twisting trees and shrubs. Bursts of exotic scents elevated by a delicate cloud of steam. There are notes of clove, juniper and nutmeg with a little musk accord in the air. Energetic and narcotic.
IN PURSUIT of MAGIC makes you feel as if you've entered a familiar yet parallel world. Standing atop a hillside temple, time is lost in a moment of sensory overload. The refreshing citrus air simultaneously invigorates and purifies you. Tart, clean, intense, restores and protects
Also, I am writing my autobiography--could be another few years. Work in progress