You grew up and studied in Paris. How is it like to divide your time between the U.S and Milan?
I always wanted to travel. My most important jobs as a designer were always in Milan and Europe has always been my inspiration. The U.S provides me with a better quality of life on a personal level, which in Miami in particular, is astounding and helps me to balance perfectly my professional and personal reality. I am on a plane almost every two weeks. Because of my work I have the opportunity to travel to London, to Berlin, to Tokyo. I need to see all that is going on major cities, as this feeds my creativity. If you want to work in fashion, you need to absorb every little detail. The more you see, and I mean in real life and not in social media, the better you get.
You were the co-founder, creative director and a buyer for the French concept store, Colette, which became renowned for its unique collaborations. What did Colette mean for Paris and the fashion industry?
Before starting to talk about the store, I have to say how amazing Colette Roussaux is as a person. I truly admire her and I will be forever grateful; she believed in me when I was only 25 years old, and she gave me so many opportunities to learn and express myself not only through work but in life as well. Colette asked me back in 1996 what would be the ideal concept store for me. I remember putting everything together on paper and I am very proud of everything that happened. I believe that at the time, we’ve done a mini retail revolution. People were not even talking about concept stores. Everything was new, from the merchandise to window displays, and so on. I was the exclusive buyer for the store back then and I think I was one of the first to ask big brands to create special, limited collections for us. I knew this was the way to stand out among other retailers, and to have customers keep coming back to the store for more. Sarah Andelman took over when I left. Her amazing work made the initial concept even stronger. As you said, Colette made history because at that time, it was the beginning and the peak of sportswear and streetwear, both in clothing and accessories, combined with high fashion. For us, all this was achieved because we had in mind the limited edition and exclusive distribution concepts. Retail is now evolving through online stores and the various social media platforms. I believe it’s time to re-invent retail, which I find really exciting.
You have served as the creative director for major fashion houses, such as Jil Sander, Trussardi 1911 and most recently for the menswear line of Port 1961. Also, you were the editor-in-chief and creative director of L’Officiel Hommes Paris, and you have been working as a photographer and a publisher. How do you manage to keep up with such an intense workload?
I always enjoyed challenges. And the amount of work has never been an issue for me, as long as I am passionate and happy about what I do. There are so many things I would like to do, still. My brain never stops working. I love observing everything that happens around me (TV cinema, music, art, design). And above all, I like researching, analysing and creating. I never thought I’d work in fashion magazines or photography. But things just happened. So, I took advantage of every chance and I tried. I believe it’s very important to try and fulfil our dreams. It doesn’t matter if we fail; we learn from our mistakes and every challenge makes us better and stronger. I used to work hard in the past, but now I try to take care of my body and lead a healthier lifestyle.
What's your advice to the young creators who want to work in fashion?
Believe in yourself. And most importantly, be humble. Take your time to learn. Be patient. Don’t be afraid to try new things and to stand out from the crowd.
Fashion industry, as most people would admit, is tough. Which were the biggest challenges you have faced during your career?
Being accepted for all the different things I’ve done. Fifteen years ago, it wasn’t very trendy to be a designer, a buyer, a journalist or a photographer. Now, all these seem so normal. However, fashion tends to label people. I’m a free spirit, I follow my own taste and style and it keeps getting recognised. But it takes time. The main challenge is probably that you have to reinvent yourself constantly. Trends come and go, and so does fame. In fashion people love you one day and they hate you the next.
You have shot major fashion campaigns and numerous editorials. How did you decide to work as a photographer?
I always loved photography. For years I was buying so many books and I have always collected photography from other artists. I was quite scared to even try to take pictures. It was when I started to work for L’Officiel Hommes Paris that I thought to give it a try. I even used a fake name for a few months. I didn’t want people to know it was me. I was looking for honest opinions. When I realised that people liked my work, I started doing it more professionally. But as I said before, I do a lot of other things and some people don’t think of me as photographer, still. I’m just so proud and happy of the last seven years of Fashion For Men. It’s more than a magazine. Its like a book or a diary of all I see and like.
International media refer to you as street style icon. What are the characteristics that define your style?
Fashion is all about having fun. I love to dress depending on my mood. Also, it's really important to feel good and confident in your clothes. That’s what’s sexy to me. Style is more important than being trendy.
In 2011, you launched Fashion for Men magazine. Could you tell us about this project?
Seven years ago, I decided to go completely against to the all-digital trend. I love print. Beautiful print and beautiful paper. I love models and beauty in its many different aspects. I wanted to give space to photography and to fashion stories. Also, I wanted to do portraits and interviews of people I admire and who don’t have something to sell. I wanted something that lasts, something that you can look at and understand what was going on in men’s fashion at a certain point in time. It’s a very personal project. Again, it’s my diary, my view, my feelings I put in those pages. It’s a tremendous amount of work; it’s like publishing a book once a year.
Last June, your Spring 2018 collection for Ports 1961, triggered controversy due to the logo of the Black Lives Matter movement that was printed on some garments. What was the thought process behind it?
The controversy didn’t last long. Some people—especially now we are in the digital era that everybody has a voice and an opinion—don’t filter their words. There are a lot of haters out there unfortunately. Nobody should have to justify or explain his beliefs about peace, love, and fraternity. This show and this collection was a statement about how we all SHOULD fight against racism, extremism, terrorism. I totally support the “Black Lives Matter” movement. I know some people think fashion is not a place for politics or debate. But if your are a creative person no matter the media—it could be music, art, design—you have to use your voice and defend your ideals. I REALLY despise racism and extremism. The first look of the show was a clear message. Raise your fist and resist. Resist to hate. I believe in love, this is what makes us human. I believe that our differences make us richer, stronger and better. Strangely, my show was in June, and shortly after so many things happened again, in Charlottesville, in Libya and elsewhere. I feel and suffer for those who don’t get justice against police violence. I suffer when I see so many immigrants risking their lives in search for a better life. What about slavery in Libya? Yes, we all need to fight against this. For me racism and terrorism are crimes against humanity. I couldn’t imagine the support and love I received after that collection. Love is stronger than hate.
This interview has been originally published in Ozon Magazine.