Jean-Pierre Blanc's Unfailing Support for Creation

In 1986, a then young Jean-Pierre Blanc imagined the Hyères Festival while studying. Thirty-five editions later, the fashion design and photography event which traditionally takes place on the French Riviera can be considered one of the fashion industry's leading events for the discovery of up-and-coming talents. This year, the Festival will take place from April 23rd to 27th. Jonathan Anderson has been announced as the head of the fashion jury of the 35th edition of the festival. Paolo Roversi and Maison Lesage’s Hubert Barrère will be joining him by judging respectively the photography section and the accessory section. In an exclusive interview, NOWFASHION caught up with Hyères Festival's hard-working founder.

After so many years of running the Hyères Festival, what does it take to keep your enthusiasm intact?

I must admit that I sometimes ask myself this very question because 35 editions are quite a lot and, at the same time, I did not see the time pass. These years have been so intense, eminent, rich in encounters with a wide variety of talents and audiences. All of that is an excellent fuel that keeps you going. Our goal is really to support young artists and designers, to listen to them and understand them, to meet their expectations and to set up projects with them to make people discover them on a larger scale. We have to find the right balance: it's quite exciting. As time passes, it works like a drug. There are questions, fear and doubts that may arise, as soon as another Festival edition is about to start. Therefore, the passion and the energy required by this project are maintained even after all these years. Besides, I have been lucky enough to be involved in several exceptional sectors: architecture, design, interior decoration, photography and, of course, the fashion industry, which has become my extended family. Fashion is a world in which I feel comfortable, at ease, with a level of creativity and boundless energy that you won't easily find anywhere else.

People say that fashion has changed a lot that the industry is no longer the same; however, do you feel that the Festivals applicants have changed compared to the Festival's first editions?

Honestly, I don't think they are any different. While prospects have never been bleaker in many ways, their creativity and enthusiasm have never been more tangible. At the same time, fashion and design schools have evolved a lot. The courses have improved — students are being taught and supported better than ever before. Finally, the fashion industry has grown considerably. It is now a primary industry in which young people can see a real future. We can sense genuine confidence in creation in the applications that we have pre-selected for the 35th edition. These kids are so great that I could spend all my energy supporting them.

How many submissions did you receive?

For the 2020 edition, we have close to 400 candidates of 50 different nationalities. I'm proud of this growing interest in the Festival because we're far from Paris and its fashion institutions, so we are doing things on our own. When you get so many applications, that' s a sign that our efforts are not in vain, that our legitimacy and notoriety haven't waned over the years. Quite the opposite!

For a long time, the Hyères Festival has been the only platform of its kind. Today, there are numerous competitions and prizes dedicated to the next generation of fashion designers. Even if a young designer doesn't make it into the finals of one event, it might make it in another one! In the end, aren't there more events than worthy winners?

I keep my distance from these debates because I think it's a good thing that there is a lot of support for young designers in our country. I would even say that we will never have sufficient support. Secondly, our Festival has its distinctive qualities. If it were just a matter of injecting a lot of money into the project to make it work, we would have disappeared long ago because we do not have the means to do so. So this is a sign that we have something special going on here. Young designers and artists always say they feel at home at the Villa in Hyères. That's one of the most beautiful compliments I can get. The vision of Marie-Laure and Charles de Noailles is looking forward to an even brighter future. We have to maintain our spirit to stay in tune with our times and to not reduce the Festival to a trivial communication and marketing platform.

According to you, where does this sudden obsession for young designers come from?

For the past few years, we have been witnessing an incredible turnover of artistic directors at the head of the fashion houses. This turnover resulted in an increased demand for new designer profiles. Moreover, the industry has considerably expanded, as I already mentioned. It needs more qualified talents — talents which are ultimately scouted and supported by organisations like ours. The Hyères Festival - like other events - guides and nurtures the industry by putting the spotlight on gifted young people.

A particular feature of Hyères is also its panel of jury experts which is re-elected every year!

The selection of the jury members is a real source of delight and gratification. The aim is to spark curiosity, generate interest and encourage encounters between industry professionals and the audience. There is always an element of uncertainty, but I have no doubt whatsoever about the next edition.

Do you give them any special instructions?

No, I don't give them any special instructions. I like the selection and the final choice to be a "carte blanche" for the jury. It's subjective — maybe someone wouldn't have won if the committee hadn't been there, but that's precisely what makes one year different from the next. There are industry professionals who only remember the Festival editions following the chairperson.

Nevertheless, if you had to improve something, what would that be?

For the past few years, the Festival has managed to implement various partnerships to support the design and production of the finalists' collections, notably via the Première Vision trade show or Chanel's métiers d'arts. If I had a magic wand or, let's say, more means, it's this partnership aspect that I'd focus on as a priority.

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