While the fashion world seems to have fallen in love with prizes from LVMH, ANDAM to Woolmark, this pioneering festival in the South of France has been the coolest plum to win. This past weekend, with a little help from Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld’s gang, the Hyères Festival’s 30th anniversary was a powerful statement for its relevance and importance. Achtung Digital was there as well, and more than happy to witness an unexpected German moment since Hamburg-born Lagerfeld brought along the Princess of Hanover as juror and the winner of the fashion prize was Berlin-based Annelie Schubert. Also taking part in the jaunt down south were Virginie Viard, Chanel’s creative studio director, ably performing as president of the fashion jury, and Eric Pfrunder, image director at Chanel fashion, who was president of the photography jury.

Spoiled by warm temperatures and lots of sun, the festival had its first highlight when Lagerfeld and our editor in chief Godfrey Deeny gave a master class in public debating. Both known for their fast wit and verbal returns, the two talked about everything from Lagerfeld’s outfit of the day – a Dior Homme coat and a Hilditch & Key shirt with a big white collar – to his alliance with the Villa Noailles, the architectural gem of Robert Mallet-Stevens, which houses the festival. This was a return of sorts for Lagerfeld since he had already published a book with Steidl on the villa in 1995. In his vast photographic oeuvre Lagerfeld often turns to architecture, like he did when shooting the then completely run down Villa Noailles. It has to be said that thanks to the efforts of Jean-Pierre Blanc, the villa and festival director, the Villa Noailles in 2015 is a beautifully restored landmark of the Var region, an important tourist attraction. A vibrant artistic community, of which its original owner Marie Laure de Noailles would have been proud.

The villa illustrated by Karl Lagerfeld, this was the official Hyères 2015 key visual
The villa illustrated by Karl Lagerfeld, this was the official Hyères 2015 key visual

Lagerfeld also took over a series of exhibition spaces and showed some of his best black and white fashion photographs. Over the years, Lagerfeld has always enjoyed working with German models and some of the best images are those with blondes such as Claudia Schiffer and Toni Garrn, many of them published in German Vogue with beautiful styling by another blonde, editor in chief Christiane Arp. In fact, this is the only criticism we have of the festival, which is also known for photography. There was not a single fashion image to be found amongst the ten nominated photographers. In that light, Lagerfeld stole the show with his fashion images as visitors were really longing to not only see clothes but also fashion images.

Claudia Schiffer and Karl Lagerfeld, an on-going German love affair Hyères
Claudia Schiffer and Karl Lagerfeld, an on-going German love affair
Hamburg blonde Toni Garrn, another German Lagerfeld favorite  Hyères
Hamburg blonde Toni Garrn, another German Lagerfeld favorite
La Schiffer by KL Hyères
La Schiffer by KL

Another intelligent and ground-breaking idea of support was to use the different teams of Paraffection, Chanel’s holding for its métiers d’arts companies like Maison Lesage (hand-embroidery), Maison Lemarié (feather workers) and Massaro (hand-made boots) and to work with the winner of the 2014 edition Kenta Matsushige. He was allowed to use these precious ateliers to get the clothes done for his newest collection, entitled Jardin Sculpté, which he showed as a highlight at the end of the 2015 edition shows and which he premiered on the Paris calendar past March in his very first real défilé. How amazing must it be for a student to see his ideas translated into reality by these master craftsmen who generally only work for haute couturiers like Lagerfeld himself. Right? We thought this was maybe the most amazing contribution by Chanel.

An example of Lesage craftsmanship Hyères
An example of Lesage craftsmanship

Hence, it was only apt that one exhibition in the Villa Noailles was for Chanel Haute Couture. In fact, the Chanel creations echoed in their conception a luxurious and sophisticated architecture reminiscent of Mallet-Stevens. By the way, the architect is having a moment as one of his modernist chateaux for Paul Cavrois outside Paris is reopening its doors to the public on June 13th after twelve years of renovation.

 One of the Villa’s bigger spaces housed Chanel’s Haute Couture exhibit Hyères
One of the Villa’s bigger spaces housed Chanel’s Haute Couture exhibit

On the occasion of the opening of a smart, new Chanel summer pop-up store replete with a giant high-tech plastic carnation floating in its swimming pool in St.Tropez, we talked to Eric Pfrunder about photography. Important to know, he is the man responsible for turning Lagerfeld into a photographer. On the occasion of several failed look-book shoots for Chanel in 1987, Pfrunder told the ever demanding and critical Lagerfeld to simply shoot the images himself since he seems to know best. From a simple press image shoot for Chanel, the collaboration of these two white shirt loving men now nearly spans four decades. But let’s be clear, while Karl likes his shirts high-collared and finished with an enormous tie, the suave Pfrunder likes them unbuttoned showing off his tanned chest.

 Hyères  Elegant Eric Pfrunder
Elegant Eric Pfrunder

Achtung Digital: What makes a good photo?

Pfrunder: For me it’s a simple requirement. I have to be able to hang it in my house. I want to be able to live with an image.

Achtung Digital: So what hangs in your house?

Pfrunder: Oh, I love Newton, Bourdin and also Araki and Jean Loup Sieff. In fact, I have a rather big collection of nudes of the derriere or the bum. I think there is a wonderful graphisme to the behind of a woman and I collect that.

Achtung Digital: Tell us more about this festival experience?

Pfrunder: Can you believe, at first there were 730 portfolios from all over the world. Then Raphaelle Stoppin, my art director for the jury, edited them down to 50 and that’s where I got involved. We then brought the rest of the jury to Paris and we selected the ten finalists. A rather intense experiment and full of work. With my already tight schedule working with Karl, this was a huge challenge.

For me it was interesting that my fellow jury member Kamel Mennour who is also a gallerist was more interested to meet the photographer or artist first and then wanted to see the images as for me it was the other way round, I really care more about the images and the emotion they give and not the author.

Achtung Digital: How important is photography to you?

Pfrunder: Very simple. Photography is my life. It’s what excites me and fills most of my days. For example when we worked on the exhibition for the Little Black Jacket, I was working not only on the creation of the images but also the printing. That’s what fascinates me and we were able to develop a never-before used screen printing technique which allowed us to print on glass. That’s the scope of my work with Karl.

Achtung Digital: Who is your favorite fashion photographer?

Pfrunder: That’s simple, apart from Karl, it’s Steven Meisel.

Another high-profile member of the photography jury, Gerhard Steidl Hyères
Another high-profile member of the photography jury, Gerhard Steidl

Winner of the photography prize was Dutch Sjoerd Knibbeler, whose pointed studio images of model air planes in black and whites had notes of Man Ray, a regular at the Villa Noailles in the 30’s.

Interestingly, this 30th festival also had a relevance for German fashion. Winner Annelie Schubert lives in Berlin and showed a modern and restrained collection with a heavy dose of sophistication. In the words of Jean-Pierre Blanc, she won “because it’s simply beautiful what she does. From the first ideas I saw in Paris to what she showed on the runway here, the collection had taken a huge leap forward. I love the idea of the two lives she managed to create. The front of the garment and the back are completely separate but still in sync. She is a worthy winner of the 30th edition.” But why Mr. Blanc do you think the winner is from Berlin? “Very simple, I think they now have good schools and they have nothing to do with the German fashion industry and that’s maybe why. I have been to Berlin Fashion Week and have not seen any fashion.”

An outfit from the front Hyères
An outfit from the front
And behind Hyères
And behind

Needless to say, Achtung Digital could not agree more with this icon of fashion festival making and talent supporting, Jean-Pierre Blanc. While there seems to be no relevant fashion design happening during Berlin Fashion Week with the exception of Augustin Teboul on a creative level and Kaviar Gauche and Lala Berlin on a commercial one, we find it encouraging that the schools now churn out talents who can compete in Hyères where the festival has been heavily dominated by Belgium, Dutch, French and English hopefuls in the past. In fact, we are still waiting for this one groundbreaking Berlin designer who takes the city’s culture and turns it into an international fashion statement. The Chloé prize was also won by a German talent, namely University of the Arts Bremen graduate Anna Bornhold who stood out with her impressive fabric research and according to Chloé CEO Geoffroy de La Bourdonnaye “a remarkable understanding of the brand’s DNA by showing a two tone denim overall.”

And what does jury president Virginie Viard, who looks as good in Chanel Haute Couture as in the army green bomber jacket from Givenchy which she wore when we spoke to her, think?

Chanel’s Viard in cool Givenchy, of course the bomber is a gift from KL  Hyères
Chanel’s Viard in cool Givenchy, of course the bomber is a gift from KL

“It’s simple, aha, or maybe not. This is my first time on a jury so it’s really a new feeling to meet all the talents. But here is what I want: Wearable, eccentric, good colors, good shapes, panache. It needs to be chic but can not be boring.” Well, we couldn’t say it better about what makes winner Annelie Schubert’s collection stand out and makes her a very much a name to watch from Berlin.

Gut gemacht Annelie und Anna. Und danke Karl!

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