Loïc Prigent & Eugénie Trochu

Interview by Dan Thawley

‘We are in this incredible paradox of analytics. When I release content today, the amount of information I have about my audience is nuts. I know which country it works in, the average age of the people who watch it, and whether they are men or women. But the actual control I have over whether a video I make will perform or not is zero. Zero! I recently did some K-pop-focused videos that got tens of millions of views on YouTube, but then got fewer than 1,000 views on TikTok. There is no single recipe, that simply doesn’t exist. So you just have to do decent quality content all the time, because if something suddenly gets millions of views and it’s crap, that’s all anyone will remember you for.’

Sat in a nondescript corner boardroom on the sixth floor of Condé Nast’s headquarters in the tony eighth arrondissement of Paris, Vogue France’s head of editorial content Eugénie Trochu points across the leafy street towards an impossibly high indoor climbing wall. Colleagues from the 103-year-old magazine, she says, have recently signed up to scale it out of office hours. Sound like the Vogue glamazons of yore? Not quite. Wearing a navy sweatshirt with a cartoon Eiffel Tower and the skyline of Paris emblazoned across the chest, blue jeans and sneakers, a Repossi diamond ring is the only giveaway of Trochu’s lofty post in the upper echelons of Condé Nast global editorial director Anna Wintour’s new guard of millennial ‘heads of content’. These young professionals have replaced the previous generation of editors in chief at Vogue titles across the globe, but what’s really the difference? In Trochu’s case, she’s a digital native and cut her teeth on the magazine’s digital output, before climbing the masthead. Today she shares cover stories and content with other Vogue editions, driving the French market while diversifying its readership by showcasing new voices and body types across the magazine’s pages. One of Trochu’s first jobs was to manage the magazine’s change of name from Vogue Paris to Vogue France in 2021, aligning the title with the brand’s new international standards. Other developments include more mutualized content, such as a recent cover shoot that was shared with Vogue Germany, Vogue Italia, and Vogue España. It saw a diverse group of new models photographed in different holiday spots across Europe on and off ‘Vogue Rail’, celebrating the ease and sustainability of train travel across the continent in the summer months. Many readers might have simply seen a band of travelling beauties exuding a carefree sense of summertime abandon in dresses by advertisers like Ferragamo, Prada and Michael Kors. Others – a catty few – might have seen four covers for the price of one. Yet in this world of excruciating excess, international cooperation and shared budgets can surely only be an intelligent way forward.

Seated next to Eugénie at the boardroom table, bespectacled filmmaker and cultural commentator Loïc Prigent is all smiles in a flannelette shirt, signature baseball cap, and a scruffy five o’clock shadow. His rise in fashion to become one of the industry’s most sought-after directors and front-row fixtures has nothing to do with internal shuffling and promotion, and everything to do with his witty social commentary and an approachable personal brand that has seen him move from being a freelance writer for the French daily paper Libération in the mid-nineties to TV fashion commentator Mademoiselle Agnès’s wingman in the 2000s to today’s social-media darling and documentary filmmaker. Prigent was both a loyal collaborator and confidante to the late Karl Lagerfeld and has been a vocal champion of young French designers over the years, from a young Olivier Rousteing to Victor Weinsanto, Jeanne Friot, and Charaf Tajer of Casablanca. His infectious enthusiasm for the spectacle of fashion is broadcast across diverse media, from his wildly popular (yet currently dormant) Twitter account relaying gossip and outrageous hyperbole overheard behind fashion’s closed doors, to his dynamic YouTube channel, and regular fashion segments on French TV network, TMC.

Trochu, 34, from the countryside in Normandy, and Prigent, 49, from the coast of Brittany, have long lived parallel Parisian fashion experiences: she in the third, second and now front rows of the shows; he backstage, before and after, capturing the precious off-duty moments of designers, models and celebrities as they experience the shows season after season. Both have experienced dozens of fashion shows, presentations and press junkets year after year, some by choice, others in the line of duty, but all feeding the insatiable curiosity and enthusiasm that they display for an industry that has, with time, embraced them with open arms. Up on the sixth floor, the pair unpacked the last decade with System and how, thanks to good manners and tongues firmly in cheeks, they’ve navigated the pitfalls of Paris fashion with sanity, kindness, and one eye firmly fixed on the future of fashion media.

Paris, 24 April 2023

Dan Thawley: So, let’s look back at the year 2013…
Loïc Prigent: It seems like another century. We’ve been through so much since then. Covid felt like 10 years in itself! Everything has changed. So many new people have emerged.
It’s a period that notably saw the exponential growth of social media in fashion.
Eugénie Trochu: And youth as well, I would say, there are more and more young people now at the centre of this industry. I think before it was much more about older people.
Yes, absolutely. There have been huge changes in the media, in design and even at CEO level.
Loïc: Well, it changes every six months…
Eugénie: Yes – even this morning, with Charles de Vilmorin leaving Rochas.
Loïc: Oh, what a shame!

The designer roulette wheel is crazy, for sure. But Paris has always been a hub, an incubator for global creation. It has become much more global now, we all agree on that, I’m sure.
Eugénie: In Paris, there were things that I adored. Also, the Paris shows are much longer – the ‘week’ is twice as long.
Loïc: Paris this March was very anxiety inducing, with all the demonstrations about the retirement age.
Eugénie: Then there’s this new generation of fans who create a certain atmosphere; it’s almost impossible to get into the shows. Did you go to Valentino? It was so hard to get in.
Acne Studios, too.
Eugénie: I didn’t think I was ever going to get into Acne Studios.
Loïc: The entrance at Dior was like the Stade de France during a World Cup final.
All because of one guest!
Loïc: And Kim Jones’ Dior show in January was madness, too.
So Paris isn’t dead!
Eugénie: No, it isn’t dead, Paris will always be number one, but it needs to watch out because Milan is catching up. Do Milan Fashion Week and you’ll see!
Loïc: Really, that much?
Eugénie: Yes, because of this new wave of designers at certain houses, like Maximilian [Davis] at Ferragamo, Matthieu [Blazy] at Bottega, Marco De Vincenzo
at Etro. I think that the best shows in terms of creativity and youthfulness were in Milan.
Loïc: To me, one week at Milan Fashion Week is as exciting as one day in Paris.
Eugénie: No, really, I promise you. We did a special about Milanese fashion in the February 2023 issue. I feel like Milan is really youthful.
Loïc: Hmm, I don’t know; Dolce and Gabbana feel like 300 years old between the two of them. Armani feels like 300 years old on his own! They are old, and to me, it’s the same show every time. Every time! Honestly, respect to the people who write about Armani every season.
Eugénie: I have a lot of respect for Monsieur Armani.
Loïc: Me, too!
Eugénie: In terms of audience, whatever happens around him, he has an aura and is a superstar designer, the show is always heaving. Women are just so inspired by him.

So that’s 2023, but let’s rewind 10 years. Where were you in 2013, Loïc?
Loïc: Oh là là! I was working with Mademoiselle Agnès at Canal+. I don’t think Bolloré had got his hands on it yet. We did a show every semester, so the energy wasn’t at all the same. I was just starting to use Twitter.
Eugénie: You weren’t as tired!
Loïc: Oh, it was exhausting even back then!
Eugénie: Was it harder then or now?
Loïc: I prefer now.
Eugénie: Even though you do three times as much.
Loïc: Ten times as much, but I still prefer it now. Back then I was posting on Instagram; I was starting to post silly things on Twitter. I don’t use Twitter any more because it’s too toxic.

You don’t use it at all?
Loïc: No, no.
Eugénie: Did you get cancelled?
Loïc: No, I cancelled Twitter!

Did you have a lot of followers?
Loïc: Yes, it really was my media; people associate me with that platform. I didn’t close the account; I just stopped using it. When there were events going on in Paris, it was useful, like a Rolodex to see new talents emerging, but I don’t go there any more. I’m more Instagram, TikTok and YouTube now; I’m very YouTube-centric. I work for [TV network] TMC, too. I never would have thought I’d work for the TF1 group. But today any ‘subversion’ there was on [French] television has really moved from Canal + to TF1.
Eugénie: But do you think you can be open? Aren’t you a bit censored today with everything you do?
Loïc: Yes, sometimes I have to be careful. But not on TMC, not at all.
Eugénie: Do you self-censor? Do you sometimes think, ‘I can’t say that because it would be too harsh on him or her?’ For example, when Carla Bruni joked about Covid, maybe you wouldn’t broadcast that today?
Loïc: Carla Bruni and I spoke about all that, and I stand by it; I would do it all over again. Like, come on, Carla, you coughed in people’s faces at the beginning of a pandemic! I was already in lockdown, as we had been in Milan, so my team were already respecting the rules. She was coughing and being insolent. She was looking for trouble; there were cameras everywhere. It really wasn’t a laughing matter at that point, but she was hit by a veritable tornado, as if she was responsible for the whole pandemic. The Italians hated her. I was so sorry that it happened to her, but at the moment I broadcast it, I did it with the best intentions. It was shown in the same context; I was the only one in France to have respected the quarantine. So, do I take care? Yes. I have learned there are loads of words that are taboo, and there are lots of grey zones. So, since 2013, I have a lot more filters in place.

Back then you worked in tandem with Mademoiselle Agnès, but she was the public face.
Loïc: Yes, the first season, in fact we both did the voice-overs, but it was she who asked the questions while I was doing the filming. The first season I did without Agnès, I was so nervous that I got ocular migraines. I had these terrible headaches, and I realized how hard it was. It was really intense.

Filming and asking questions?
Loïc: Yes, plus it was a new format for the show I was working on and I was looking for gossip. That changed the way I worked and then when YouTube arrived, that completely changed my way of working again. I could go much deeper and ask people lots of questions. I’m generally pretty shy.
Eugénie: You were also looking for people who were emerging on YouTube and weren’t that famous yet.

Show attendance has also really changed, hasn’t it? In 2013, you could think of it as just press and high society, princesses and so on.
Loïc: That hasn’t changed – now we just call them nepo-babies!
Eugénie: What did we call them then, socialites?

They were the only ones at the shows.
Eugénie: Along with actors and actresses. I think it was almost embarrassing to have musicians at the shows. I don’t think a brand would have invited a K-pop star back then.

On that front, it has really changed.
Eugénie: Some brands would never have invited them to the shows before, even if they were huge stars. Those brands are much more open now. Before it was just a lot of socialites in the front row, all very beautiful, perfectly made-up and so on. Back then it was really like in Robert Altman’s film Prêt-à-Porter, he captured the front row really well. I mean that was more the nineties than 2013, but still they all looked like each other in the front row.

Did you feel like you were a fashion outsider in 2013, Loïc? And do you feel like an insider now?
Loïc: To be honest, I still feel like an outsider. There was a moment when I felt like an insider, and that was during Covid. As I mentioned, for the first season I was in quarantine, and I had collaborators who went to film the shows in Paris, but the following season, I was the only guest at some shows. I was the only one, literally; I saw a Vuitton show and I was the only one there! I filmed all the preparations for the Chanel show at Château de Chenonceau, where Kirsten Stewart was the only person in the audience.
Eugénie: I went to Dior at Versailles. That was incredible. It was a ready-to-wear show. There weren’t any journalists.
Loïc: There was another one of our colleagues and she wasn’t allowed to say she was there.

Like with Chanel in the quarry, too.
Loïc: Yes, in Les Baux-de-Provence, that season I felt like an insider. The very next season, I can tell you, they made me fully understand that I was an outsider again! When everyone came back, it was a nightmare all over again; I felt like an intern again. All the snobs came back.

Eugénie, in 2013, you had just started at Vogue.
Eugénie: It’s quite annoying, but when I started my current job, I made the mistake of saying I had started as an intern, when of course nearly everyone starts as an intern! But now people still call me ‘the intern’! I’d really like to move away from that. What is pretty amazing is that I did start as an intern in 2011; I’ve moved up a few rungs of the ladder since then! In fact, I remember the first time that you and I, Dan, met was at Barcelona Fashion Week that summer. That was my first ever full fashion week.

Loïc: Oh, that’s so cute!
Eugénie: Yes, so I did my first internship at American Vogue in Paris on the Place du Palais Bourbon, with Fiona Darin, who is still working there today; she’s still in charge of American Vogue in France. I was sending clothes for shoots, and I was lucky to work there for two months which happened to be during fashion week. It was amazing because you had to organize the whole team’s agendas and calendars. You had André Leon Talley who came; you had Anna [Wintour], Phyllis Posnick, Virginia Smith. We had to organize their days and do one or two specific things, like getting special things for Anna or for André, and the Starbucks, of course, in the morning.

It starts early in the day, doesn’t it? Anna’s famous for her 8am meetings.
Eugénie: We had to be there at eight in the morning. It started early, but it also finished early. What is pretty amazing is that Fiona recruited a lot of girls who are still working here today, with Anna, including Francesca Ragazzi and me. I did that for two months, but I needed a three-month internship for my university.

Which university were you at?
Eugénie: I was at the Sorbonne, and I couldn’t validate my master’s there with just those two months, so I thought I’d apply to Vogue France, and they saw I’d been at American Vogue and took me on quite quickly for three months on digital. At the time we were writing across Vogue, Glamour and GQ all at once. I was working more on Vogue, but I was also doing shopping sections for Glamour and a few things for GQ. I didn’t do any styling; it was all shopping articles. I remember my first day at Vogue.fr so clearly because I had to write my first stories straight away. They were called ‘Look of the Day’ at the time. So, my first article was published on my first day. It’s still like that now, the intern journalists get published on the site with their own byline. Then they offered me another three months and later asked me to stay full time. I was fashion editor, so I was in charge of fashion under the direction of Jennifer Neyt. That lasted quite a long time, nearly 10 and a half years. Then during Covid, Emmanuelle [Alt] asked me to take on more responsibility as fashion market editor, so dealing with the advertisers and so on. It was pretty intense because I was doing the fashion column and the marketing. And in 2021, thanks to a global editorial reorganization at Condé Nast and a desire to be more anchored in the digital, I was offered the position of head of editorial content at Vogue France.

‘I remember my first day at Vogue.fr so clearly because I had to start writing stories straight away. My first article was published that same day.’ 

Eugénie Trochu

I remember that you were quite criticized by people when you got this job.
Eugénie: In fact, what happened is, with journalists today, sometimes you say things and then they take shortcuts! There was, at that time, a misunderstanding about my degree because I hadn’t finished my last year of my master’s as I was directly appointed to Vogue as fashion editor. But I have a licence [French undergraduate degree] and did a year of my master’s degree. I am not fond of shortcuts because they create biases, and people see you as someone you are not. This is why I don’t like talking about personal information either, about my family or my marital status, for example. It just puts you in a box instead of focusing on the work you deliver.

Neither of you were born into the circles of the Paris elite. What have you observed in terms of the city’s old guard changing in the past decade? Has it just meant that instead of princesses in the front row, it’s now influencers?
Loïc: When I started working in fashion, longer ago than you, I really felt there was a ceiling, and the guardians of that ceiling are still there. I think there are still princes, princesses and aristocrats, but the doors and the windows have opened, and there are lots of new people who have arrived. But it wasn’t easy. Ten years ago, Suzy Menkes described it as a circus when she wrote about the bloggers.
Eugénie: There’s another journalist, who I won’t name, but she recently described the front row at a Gucci show as a circus, too.

If we consider Paris as the fashion capital, it represents a lot more than just brands from LVMH and Kering, it is also a big hub for international shows six times a year: menswear, womenswear, and haute couture. Brands flock from everywhere to show in Paris. What is Paris’s allure today?
Eugénie: You can look at someone like Victoria Beckham. She’s shown in all the fashion capitals apart from Milan; she’s done London, New York, and now, she’s settled on Paris. A notion I pitched when we launched the idea of Vogue France was that France, not just Paris, is a laboratory of fashion ideas, but the essence of what we do draws its inspiration from this city.
Loïc: It’s also about the romance of the shows in Paris, ever since the glory days of Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel – it’s always been Paris. Jean Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawakubo, and Yohji Yamamoto all came to Paris. And now the romance of Jacquemus…

So, it’s about the long history of fashion in France that continues to seduce the world. The idea of the runway show was born in Paris and is anchored in Paris: the vision of a model walking in a couture salon with a paddle in her hand.
Loïc: The geography, the mise-en-scène, the dramatology, that is all French in a way. So it was [Jeanne] Paquin, but it was also [Charles Frederick] Worth, because foreigners have also always come to work here.

Putting on a fashion show in Paris remains the ultimate grail for many designers.
Eugénie: But there are way too many shows…
Loïc: And a lot of them are rubbish. Today when I talk to people who are building their brands, I realize that they’re often really pushed into doing shows, but are actually really scared of them. They’re so disorientated.
Eugénie: I have to go to a lot, to the big French brands and then all the young designers, so you end up attending up to 10 shows a day.
Loïc: The most recent fashion week was insane. With shows at 9pm, we were totally handcuffed to this crazy schedule. It’s like, OK, if they wanted to be live on Instagram for certain time zones, I get it, but sometimes it was just capricious. I think it’s because someone told them that a night show was chic. They’re just copying Anthony Vaccarello and his night-time shows for Saint Laurent.

I’m interested in what you both think about the significance of haute couture today. The word ‘couture’ is overused by everyone to signify a silhouette, a sense of quality, et cetera, but the Fédération de la Haute Couture has a very specific list of things that truly denotes haute couture. Over the past 10 years we’ve been a bit saturated by the idea of couture; it even gets used to describe cakes!
Eugénie: I’m guilty of that! I’ve overused it in articles, because straight away it gives this allure, like, ‘Wow, it’s couture!’
Loïc: I find the haute-couture schedule has really diminished. I mean, yes, it’s this ultimate craftsmanship, but there really aren’t very many who practice it, especially compared to the excess of the ready-to-wear. Haute-couture week these days is really disappointing; there is barely one decent show a day, and the week only lasts four days.
Eugénie: There are some new people arriving…

‘I was talking with a haute-couture house recently, and they were saying they can’t accept new clients because they aren’t able to keep up with orders.’

Loïc Prigent

Beyond what is good or not good, it has become a sort of free-for-all moment, with men’s and ready-to-wear brands also showing during haute couture…
Eugénie: Maybe there is not enough renewal because it’s so hard to get the haute-couture label, and we’re talking about something that is much less in demand.
Loïc: That said, I was talking to the team at a haute-couture house recently, and they were saying they can’t accept new clients because they aren’t able to keep up with orders! To me, I think that since 2013, it’s the emergence of the menswear calendar that has been really remarkable, and things really happen there. The designers who show off schedule, that’s totally new. Now, you can spend your year travelling to the shows around the world. In fact, when I’m editing my show for TMC, I don’t know how many shows I have to skip – shows happen all over the world, all the time.
Eugénie: I struggle with that to be honest.
Loïc: A 4-day trip for a 12-minute show!
Eugénie: With the way things stand in the world today, it’s kind of important that we stop putting so much CO2 into the atmosphere. When you calculate all these shows around the world, it’s alarming.
Loïc: I counted the number of trees that it costs us – Julien [Da Costa, camera man] and I – to travel: 60 mature trees a year.
Eugénie: What do you do? How do you compensate for that? At Condé Nast, we now have quite a logical process in place whereby whichever Vogue team is nearest to where the show is taking place, they attend. So, for example, if something is in Italy, Vogue Italia covers it.
Loïc: That’s great.
Eugénie: But of course, brands are always keen to count Vogue France among them though.
Loïc: I don’t do every destination show either.

This decade has really turned you two from spectators into professional commentators. You really learned the ropes backstage…
Loïc: I think we met backstage, actually.
Eugénie: Yes, Emmanuelle asked me to ask you and Agnès if something ‘was Vogue’ or ‘not Vogue’!

I wanted to ask you both about politeness in the industry. I get the impression that after so many shows today, the audience rushes to leave the building before the designer has even finished taking their bow!
Eugénie: Don’t you find that the rudest people are also the most respected? I think that we’re very nice and friendly, and polite, but then we’re the ones who get walked over. I think if we had princess attitudes, we’d be much more respected and perhaps have more legitimacy even. Perhaps we’d have been welcomed with open arms!
Loïc: Now people film themselves instead of the show.
Eugénie: Look at the shows, everyone is still filming…
Loïc: This season I saw people filming when there were outfits made of feathers. As soon as there was something spectacular, they filmed. They filmed anything orange, and anything featuring Naomi [Campbell]. So, Naomi in orange – that was the real winner! And if there were K-pop stars…
Eugénie: When you look at the shows, not in the front row, but the second and third rows, they are all filming. The more important you are, the nearer the front you are, the less you film. When you see stories on Instagram, there are always heads in front of the person filming. I think there are so many people filming, for their jobs and also for their own social media.

‘If you get photographed outside a show, it’s like you’ve been validated, in a way. I see it as a bit of a competition between the women at fashion week.’

Eugénie Trochu
‘In Phil Oh’s photos – you don’t pose, you walk past and if he shoots you, that’s cool.’

Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen the rise of street style. It’s revolutionized the industry in a way. It has taken the runway show outside, starting with stylish people wearing their own clothes. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?
Eugénie: It used to be a bit shameful to hang out with street-style photographers, to be ‘street-styled’. But today everyone, even without showing it, they all need it, there is at least an acknowledgement of it. When you get to a show, you shouldn’t stop and pose, you have to just walk in, but if you get photographed then you know that you’ve been validated, in a way. Don’t you think? For me I see it as a bit of a competition between the women attending the shows. Maybe not so much with the journalists, but outside the shows it is crazily competitive. People are desperate to be photographed.
Loïc: I remember a Phoebe Philo Céline show at the Tennis Club de Paris, where traffic was brought to a standstill because of this veritable wall of photographers…
Eugénie: People like Bill Cunningham…
Loïc: Oh, I miss seeing Bill so much!
Eugénie: For me, street style was great before, because it was something that was spontaneous, like in Phil Oh’s photos – you don’t pose, you walk past and if he shoots you, that’s cool. Today I think there are loads people who are photographed outside who don’t even have an invite. Before it was totally organic and now it’s completely calculated. On the business side, what works today is the influencers who are street-styled and then repost the photo on their platforms and tag what they are wearing.

At the most recent Jacquemus show, Le Raphia, there was a media entrance and an influencer entrance. So basically, an entrance for the people to be photographed and an entrance for the people not to be!
Eugénie: Well, when you’re an influencer you know what’s in the contract: you are dressed by the brand, you attend, you are photographed, you post your content.
Loïc: To me the apex of the madness outside the shows was last June at Celine – the menswear at the Palais de Tokyo – I think there were 20,000 people outside. They knew everyone’s names, all the fans outside were screaming all the attendees’ names.
Eugénie: I think that’s great.
Loïc: Well, it was great, but it was also a bit overwhelming.
Eugénie: Yes, but they’re real fans of these superstars. I do think it’s a bit of shame though, like they know the names of some influencers and have no idea who the real fashion insiders are, who have been around forever. That’s a bit of a shame.
Loïc: I think it adds to it.
Eugénie: I don’t know; they’re there to see the stars who go in but don’t really care about the show.
Loïc: At the last Rick Owens show, [street-style photographer] Tommy Ton didn’t even go inside the show, and when I came out afterwards, he described the show to me in detail and had actually even had a better view than me. He was still just as passionate without having been inside.

Though you are both imagemakers and storytellers, I imagine you are also watching data with figures like page views, likes, and other KPI’s on a daily basis. So, when it comes to Paris Fashion Week, what performs best?
Loïc: We are in this incredible paradox of analytics. When I release content today, I know which country it works in, I know the average age of the people who watch it, and whether they are men or women. The amount of information I have about my audience is nuts. But the actual control I have over whether a video I make will perform or not is zero. Zero. I did some K-pop-focused videos that had tens of million views on YouTube, but then got fewer than 1,000 views on TikTok. There is no single recipe, that just doesn’t exist. Every time, you just have to do decent quality content, because if something works and it’s crap, that’s all anyone will remember you for! So, it always has to be your most honest work. It has to be honest.
Eugénie: You can’t change anything on YouTube, but what is great about writing on the internet is that you can edit it as much as you like. What works for us in terms of Paris – and I find this really annoying and am trying to change it – is always la parisienne, her beauty secrets and so on. We’re trying to change by shifting the image of the typical Parisienne. It could be other women from different backgrounds, people who also come from the countryside, who have moved to Paris, and they might not have smooth, long, straight hair. We can’t kid ourselves, those ‘Parisienne’ profiles are the stories that get clicks. Everything that is on trend: how to dress, this pair of trousers worn by so and so, and the denim du jour. Food works pretty well too, like where to eat the best jambon beurre sandwich in Paris. So, ultimately what works about Paris is all the clichés. With our international audiences, as soon as you put anything online about life in Paris or the Parisienne, they just love that image.

‘I did some K-pop-focused videos that had tens of million views on YouTube, but then got fewer than 1,000 views on TikTok.’

‘What works for Vogue in terms of Paris – it’s really annoying and I’m trying to change it – is always la parisienne, her beauty secrets and so on.’

Eugénie Trochu

Looking back over the past decade or so, I would like to know what some of your favourite moments have been at the Paris shows. For me, one that I will always remember is the first Dior haute-couture show by Raf Simons, when we went into those four rooms with walls of coloured flowers. All the designers were in the front row – Alber Elbaz, Azzedine Alaïa, everyone was there. It was truly incredible.
Eugénie: For me, it has to be my first ever show, when I was working with Fiona. At the end of the internship, she gave me a ticket for Marc Jacobs’ Autumn/Winter 2011 Louis Vuitton show with the elevators, where Kate Moss came out on the runway with her lit cigarette. Of course, I arrived super early because I thought they started on time! The atmosphere was insane; it was crazy. I had goosebumps the entire way through. It was my first one and I felt so lucky to be there. Philip Glass had done the music; it was just so beautiful.

And Loïc, you spent a lot of time with Karl, didn’t you?
Loïc: Yes, so his last Chanel haute-couture show and his final ready-to-wear, too, and the very first one by Virginie Viard, they were very intense moments. It was crazy. It was the end of one world and the team carried on and took the baton. It was very intense. Then there was the moment when Virgil started at Vuitton, that was totally magical, too. With the rainbow. That production was incredible. So was the Balenciaga show for Spring 2019, when they made the video tunnel. I really loved the final Marc Jacobs show for Vuitton in 2013, when he put Édith Piaf on for the entire show, and everyone was crying.
Eugénie: For me a show is good is when I get shivers down the spine.
Loïc: Or when you don’t understand it or when it annoys you.
Eugénie: The worst, in fact, are those when you don’t care.
Loïc: No, the worst is when you’ve already seen it, when it’s recycled Balenciaga or Jacquemus. I hate that.
Eugénie: I do have fun looking out for the direct inspirations.
Loïc: The Coperni show with the spray-on dress was a real moment, too.
Eugénie: It was a moment, but then the moment eclipsed the clothes. I don’t remember any other clothes before Bella’s dress. And I wear their clothes; I can actually afford them.

And Courrèges.
Loïc: Oh yes, the Courrèges show was excellent, with those huge sonic booms!

Last summer, in the Bois de Vincennes?
Loïc: He did it three times, the swine! It was so early in the morning, I literally jumped out of my skin. Then when he did the one with the hourglass, the sand pouring down, that one made me so sad; I was so depressed.
Eugénie: Why?
Loïc: I just saw all these young women walking around this sandy hole, and I could only think about death, and deaths in my family and how these beautiful girls were going to die and how fashion is just going around and around in circles. And it’s the DNA of the house, he said, we are going around in circles; it’s Courrèges, we can’t move away from that. That show traumatized me. It was beautiful, but it was traumatizing. Virgil’s first for Vuitton really affected me, too. We really only got to see such a small percentage of what he could do.

We’ve lost a lot of major designers over the last few years. If we think about 2013, we still had Vivienne Westwood, Karl Lagerfeld, Alber Elbaz, Sonia Rykiel, Thierry Mugler, Azzedine Alaïa.
Loïc: I was really affected by the passing of Sonia Rykiel. For me, she really embodied Paris fashion and the Parisienne. That mischievousness. She was politically aware, too.
Eugénie: It really was ready-to-wear in the sense that it was so easy to wear. You could really wear it. One thing that’s rather beautiful after her death was the inauguration of the street in the seventh arrondissement, Allée Sonia Rykiel. On Boulevard Raspail.
Loïc: And Virgil, can you imagine?

What are your feelings about the idea of houses that have been taken over since the designers died or retired. It’s a completely different scenario – I don’t think it’s the same as Pharrell taking over at Vuitton – and that is going to happen a lot more in the future.
Eugénie: I don’t think we know what’s going to happen with the big houses but that is a strategy that goes back to the groups…

Do you think your audiences hold onto the names of those designers as much as before?
Eugénie: I don’t think so. What the readers want is a product that’s cool, and is maybe worn by Rihanna, but not necessarily made by Rihanna. Look at the success of Ludovic de Saint Sernin; his success comes from having been worn by lots of celebrities. To begin with no one had heard of him. He wasn’t a star; he came out of nowhere. Jacquemus was the same.
Loïc: But they make products that have personality, and there’s real value in that.
Eugénie: And the success of Virgil, who was a bit more of a star, that happened because he embodied his thing, and did something that had never been done before at Vuitton menswear. He did his thing – it was his vision.

To sum up, today, we have Chanel, Givenchy, Dior, real houses with a capital H that have much more weight than the names Gabrielle, Hubert or Christian. Will that happen with these young talents one day?
Loïc: Vuitton is worth €21 billion today; 10 years ago it wasn’t €21 billion.
Eugénie: I think for me you have the vision of LVMH and Kering, but I think today Bottega is working well, and Matthieu [Blazy] wasn’t very well known before being appointed.

You mean the internal strategies at these groups?
Eugénie: Yes. I don’t think the house of Chanel would put a celebrity at the head of Chanel. I don’t think so. But you never know, in the end. At Hermès, that’s out of the question, and yet they are rocketing even though not very many people know who Nadège [Vanhee-Cybulski] is.
It’s more about the continuity of the brand.
Eugénie: It’s the brand image, and they continue to put their prices up. They have an excellent strategy and don’t need that star-ification. I don’t think they will ever take on a huge name…

I get the feeling that since the pandemic, the whole idea of sustainability has been swept aside…
Eugénie: Really? No, I think the young designers are all talking about sustainability a lot. Maybe we don’t even need to talk about it, because they’re all just doing it, like it’s becoming the DNA of their brands. They’re working on being sustainable, not greenwashing.
Loïc: Rick Owens, too; at the last show, 90% of his show text explained where all the materials came from.
Eugénie: I think for these people, they don’t talk about sustainability any more, because it has become normal.
Loïc: The head of a really big house told me recently that none of its clients today ask about it. But we know that with their daughters, it won’t even be a question: if the standards aren’t met, they simply won’t buy that brand. I get the feeling, if you are reasonable today in a house, you are changing the production from A to Z. It’s a whole system, it won’t happen overnight; it will take at least ten years.

We’ve known the Paris fashion calendar inside out for more than ten years – this crescendo, this up and down of shows at specific times on specific days. If everything was completely different and moved around, would it make a difference? Would that be a good thing?
Eugénie: It has changed quite a lot already. I feel the fact that Vuitton no longer closes the week, that’s changed things.
Loïc: There is an importance in the organization, with Chanel at 10.30am on the Tuesday…
Eugénie: And it’s not the same because we’re not at the Grand Palais either; that’s weird, too. Balenciaga in the centre of Paris this season was very odd.
Loïc: Underneath the Louvre, yes. Jacquemus has changed that a lot, too, by not being in calendar and by also changing who sits in the front row. They’re not the same faces in the front row. He’s shown you can do one of the most important shows of the year by not adhering to the system.

We also get to see quite incredible places in Paris, and that’s all part of it. Speaking of Victoria Beckham again, and her shows at the Val-de-Grâce, for example.
Loïc: Yes, but we were all sitting on people’s gravestones! Someone should tell her that’s not good karma. I was sitting on someone who had died of tuberculosis!
Eugénie: Have you ever been to the museum upstairs? There are all these preserved foetuses.
Loïc: Quelle horreur!
Eugénie: But the space is beautiful.

We have seen shows in churches, art foundations, crypts.
Eugénie: Gay saunas! Le Dépôt for Vetements, that was crazy when we went there [in 2015].
Loïc: UNESCO. All over the Louvre.
Eugénie: The Canal Saint Martin. The Communist Party headquarters.

We’ve been on boats, to Les Invalides.
Loïc: The Observatoire.

‘At the end of the internship, she gave me a ticket for Marc Jacobs’ Autumn/Winter 2011 Louis Vuitton show with the elevators, where Kate Moss came out on the runway with her lit cigarette.’

‘What’s cool about the Paris shows is that even though the big groups might seem to have this monopoly, they still don’t monopolize the excitement.’

Loïc Prigent

So, what’s next for the system?
Eugénie: I think there’s a lot of positive change in our industry.
Loïc: What does worry me is revenues that are becoming more and more like Star Wars; I think it’s like the US, where there is such a monopoly. I get the impression that our friends, the big houses, produce so many handbags now that if you want to make bags as a young designer, all the manufacturers, all the cows, everything has already been used up by these huge companies. What’s cool is that even though the big groups might seem to have this monopoly, they still don’t monopolize the excitement. I was just as excited by young talents like Jeanne Friot this season as I was by some of the big names.
Eugénie: I just hope that the young designers today can one day find the glory they deserve. I hope they don’t just rely on Instagram; I hope that some of these young designers will take the helm of a big brand one day.

For the roulette wheel to continue spinning.
Loïc: I wouldn’t wish those jobs on anyone! Anything over €5 billion, anything over €1 billion, the amount of work, the pressure… Look at Olivier at Balmain; he never has a single Sunday off!
Eugénie: Yes, but it’s his life; he loves it. What I mean is that I hope it’s these young designers who get the positions at the big houses and not just celebrities.

Taken from System No. 21.