PARIS — That Olivier Guillemin counts among volunteer contenders to Pierre Cardin’s throne will come as no surprise to those familiar with the designer’s sci-fi-infused creations, a sprinkling of which are currently on display at Joyce here.
The veteran designer tonight will host a cocktail for the exhibition — dubbed “Fashion Experiments” — which gathers 28 archival pieces from across the period 1984 to 1997. Guillemin invited two graduates of Studio Berçot, Robin Thoby and Adrien Pailliez, to rework the pieces for the event, which falls two decades after he wound down his label. The brief: rethinking the pieces for how a girl of 20 would wear them today. A one-off sale of the creations will take place Friday.
“I’ve always been into this sci-fi idea of fantasy and future, the colors and shapes come from my head. I wanted to invent a new future but I was also very interested in vintage, the mix of the two,” said Guillemin, who was a protégé of Anna Piaggi when he launched his label in 1986, going on to scoop both the Woolmark Prize and inaugural Andam prize in 1989. “It all happened at once,” said Guillemin, who today consults for international brands including Shiseido. He is also president of the French Committee of Color, Secretary General of Intercolor and the creative director and color expert for trade shows including APLF in Hong Kong.
“I’ve always worked in different domains, be it food, cosmetics or design,” added the designer whose projects across the years have included a collaboration with the Manufacture nationale de Sèvres.
Guillemin as a young designer did stints with Thierry Mugler, Azzedine Alaïa, and Claude Montana. But it was at Le Palace, Paris’ equivalent of Studio 54, that he really discovered fashion. Some of the wildest nights, he said, included a Venice-themed fashion week party thrown by Karl Lagerfeld where guests were carried in on sedan chairs. “Anna Piaggi came dressed as a Venetian peasant, she wore this huge hat covered in mussel and oyster shells, with a giant lobster.”
His own creations are a world apart, spanning “Jaws”-inspired corsets peppered with tooth-shaped, metal pyramid studs; “Super Nature” T-shirts mixing images of palm trees and satellites; vibrant tutu bodies; cape dresses in technical satin, and hooded looks à la Grace Jones fitted with sculptural carbon fiber harnesses. His key shows included the Globules collection, presented at Studio Berçot in 1984, and hooked on sculptural forms and primaries, and the fall 1990 Jules Verne collection.
Known for his experimentation with color and materials, Guillemin, whose key inspirations include Fritz Lang’s 1927 movie “Metropolis,” was a proponent of the easy care, ath-leisure trend ahead of his time. He was one of the first to use stretch, and liked to spin luxury aspects on functional fabrics like polar fleece and Tactel Diabolo.
Another motivational factor for staging the exhibition was the dearth of creative fizz in fashion right now. “I wanted to show that today we’re in a period that’s a bit repetitive, to show the evolution and nonevolution of fashion with my own designs that still feel fresh. I also wanted to have fun,” said Guillemin, who was named Chevalier of the Ordre of Arts and Lettres in 2002. “There’s something therapeutic about coming back to fashion after 20 years.”