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A black veil, spider clips, red lipstick and cat-eye sunglasses. That’s Diane Pernet, the fashion pioneer who made herself known to such a closed system for succeeding in overcoming any boundaries by turning creative thinking into reality. “I’d rather carve my own path than follow someone else’s”, Diane told TheCornerZine in this exclusive interview.

First of all, what is the happiest memory of your childhood?

Being lost in my own dreams, I suppose…

Diane, how did you build your signature look?

Things have always evolved organically, without any particular epiphany. I can tell you when and why I started wearing black: it was in New York, in the 80’s, when I was a fashion designer for my own brand. I found wearing prints and colours distracting, I found they were competing with my designs. So, I took the decision to dress in a black, self-imposed uniform. High hair and platform shoes come from the fantasy that I was born to be taller than I actually am. As for the veil, that was more recent: I’ve always loved veils, since going to church with a mantilla. Not that it has any religious connotation now, but perhaps it came from that. Sunglasses? I like to keep a distance, and the same with spiders. I’m warm and approachable, but also very private and I like my personal space respected. I know that Americans are into hugging, I’m not. I prefer the Japanese approach, maybe I was Asian in a past life.

Diane Pernet

A black veil, spider clips, red lipstick and cat-eye sunglasses. That’s Diane Pernet, the fashion pioneer who made herself known to such a closed system for succeeding in overcoming any boundaries by turning creative thinking into reality. “I’d rather carve my own path than follow someone else’s”, Diane told TheCornerZine in this exclusive interview.

First of all, what is the happiest memory of your childhood?

Being lost in my own dreams, I suppose…

Diane, how did you build your signature look?

Things have always evolved organically, without any particular epiphany. I can tell you when and why I started wearing black: it was in New York, in the 80’s, when I was a fashion designer for my own brand. I found wearing prints and colours distracting, I found they were competing with my designs. So, I took the decision to dress in a black, self-imposed uniform. High hair and platform shoes come from the fantasy that I was born to be taller than I actually am. As for the veil, that was more recent: I’ve always loved veils, since going to church with a mantilla. Not that it has any religious connotation now, but perhaps it came from that. Sunglasses? I like to keep a distance, and the same with spiders. I’m warm and approachable, but also very private and I like my personal space respected. I know that Americans are into hugging, I’m not. I prefer the Japanese approach, maybe I was Asian in a past life.

Always look forward and learn from experience, say what you feel and mean what you say. It saves time and makes life much easier.

That being said, what’s your biggest fear?

It’s very common, I have to say: it revolves around money.

Let’s go back to your own style. What’s your fascination with spiders about?

Spiders are the protectors of the universe, but the idea came from my dear friend Mario Salvucci. He used to design accessories for my collections in New York. He stopped doing accessories for a while and designed lighting fixtures. After a while, he decided to get back into jewelry. I suppose I was his muse, and he loved Louise Bourgeois. He was inspired by her great protector, the spider, and felt that spiders are something that either attract or repel. Perhaps, he felt like my look had the same effect on others: you either are drawn to me or horrified…believe me, I don’t bite!

Do you have any obsessions, a repetitive thought?

As a child, I was left alone a lot. So I lived in my own fantasies, I guess. From a young age, I’ve been crazy about fashion and film. I used to spend a lot of time in the cinema, collect movie magazines and just dream. I always had friends and was in love with love, even though I had no idea what that really meant. Style icons? I was crazy for Anna Magnani, Jeanne Moreau and Sophia Loren!

How do you deal with the passing of time?

That’s life. Always look forward and learn from experience, say what you feel and mean what you say. It saves time and makes life much easier.

You were born overseas, but now you live in France. How would you describe Paris’ fashion scene? Does it still live up to its name?

I’ve lived in Paris longer than I’ve lived anywhere else: it’s been 28 years, going on 29. Certainly, Paris’ fashion in the 90’s was far different from what it is now. Maybe, that’s the reason why there’s so much interest in Claude Montana at the moment, or Mugler and Gaultier. They came out of a time of pure creation. Now, it's more about product and business, and much less focused on dreams…except, of course, as a communication tool to sell products. As far as living up to its name, Paris still is the biggest platform for global fashion and that’s why everyone wants a place here, be it on the catwalk or in a showroom. It has the longest history and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Ten years ago, you launched ‘ASVOFF-A Shaded View on Fashion Film’, the first annual fashion film festival. What do you hope for its future? Did you have any goals or ambitions when you launched it?

It was August 2006 when I started with ‘You Wear it Well’, my first fashion film festival. The idea had been on the back burner since 2000. Back then, I was making films with Disciple films. No one knew what a fashion film was and I had to explain it for years. Now look at the industry…there’s not a brand around small or large that doesn’t use fashion film as a tool to express their brand identity. I don’t claim fashion films never existed before ‘You Wear it Well’. In fact, there were films in the 60’s, made by the likes of William Klein - ‘Who are You Polly Magoo’, advertising films by Serge Lutin and Richard Avedon. They were innovative and fresh but, as a genre, fashion films didn’t exist. I launched ‘ASVOFF’ in 2008 but, as I stated above, ‘You Wear it Well’ in 2006. So, it’s been a long time that I’ve been pioneering this genre of films. I’ve always liked story telling, as opposed to 'here is the shoe, the bag, the dress’ – that doesn’t interest me at all and it seems now it doesn’t really interest the medium of fashion films either. That was in part, at the risk of sounding too pretentious, a movement that I certainly helped to pioneer. I pioneered fashion blogs, and now there are millions of them. I hold very high standards and do my best to give opportunities to truly talented directors and brands. The goal is always to build the platform and I do take pride in the fact that ASVOFF has become a reference in the world of fashion film. Now schools offer courses in fashion film, it is a genre that never existed before and I’m very happy to be a part of it, watching it grow.

What does the word ‘independence’ mean to you?

It’s the most important quality to me. I remember more than a decade ago talking to Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek, the photographers behind ‘Exactitudes’, and saying I never wanted to see myself fitting into one of their urban tribes or subcultures. They told me there was no reason to worry and no chance of that ever happening. I was relieved, I’d rather carve my own path then follow someone else’s. I think the last time I tried to ‘fit in’ was in high school, I suppose I was rebelling against my unconventional childhood.

With over 28K followers on Instagram, you have a large following on social media. Do you feel any sort of responsibility towards your followers?

Well, if I had a strategy, it would be ten times bigger…maybe, I should hire someone to handle it! That being said, I feed people on all my platforms. My responsibility to them is that I open doors, supporting creatives in all the fields that interest me. I’m both curious and generous.

Let’s talk about emerging fashion industries. What’s that one market to keep an eye on?

It’s always funny to see if the countries that are hyped really live up to it. I’ve covered emerging markets long before it became a trend, probably for the past 18 years or more. With Vetements, a big light was focused on designers from Georgia, even though Demna grew up in Germany. Now, even more than before, eyes are on the Ukraine. Logically, I ‘d say the next wave will come from China…let’s just see who lives up to the hype!

Do you experience the so-called ‘writer’s block'? If so, do you have tips on how to overcome it?

Take a walk, read a book and get back to it.

Do you have a piece of advice for artists who struggle to get their work recognized?

It’s never been easier with social media. If you have something to say, just put it out there and someone will pick up on it: you only need one discerning eye to get some movement going.

Make a wish!

If I put it down here, it might not happen. So I’ll just do it silently…now, I’ve made a wish!