PURPLE RAIN: France’s minister of culture and communication Audrey Azoulay opened the 31st edition of the Festival of Fashion and Photography in Hyères, France, on Thursday.

“I want to reaffirm that fashion is fully part of culture,” she told WWD, wearing an Azzedine Alaïa dress under the rain in the garden of the landmark Villa Noailles. It’s the first festival for the minister, nominated two months ago by French President François Hollande.

Jean-Pierre Blanc, director of the festival, gave her a tour of exhibitions at the landmark villa and they visited the Château Saint-Pierre, a small house nestled in the woods that was once owned by Edith Wharton. Inside, Chanel-owned specialty ateliers Maison Lesage and Maison Lemarié were organizing workshops of embroidery and feather creations for festivalgoers.

On her plan for fashion, Azoulay said: “Education is the first axis with a master’s degree dedicated to fashion launching in September,” she said referring to a partnership between the École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Mines ParisTech and Paris Dauphine University, announced by her predecessor Fleur Pellerin in December. “The second main axis is to provide economic support to fashion, through special funds.” She also backs the creation of a Fashion Forum, a suggestion made by politician Lyne Cohen-Solal to bring together all players who would meet once a year to discuss common interests and have a stronger voice in front of the government.

The opening coincided with the death of music icon Prince Thursday: “He was the essence of creation, a complete artist: songwriter, dancer, multi-instrumentalist, outstanding showman,” the minister said in a release.

Attendees at the ceremony included Audrey Marnay in a flimsy Tory Burch dress, Charles Berling, Pierre Hardy, and Julien Dossena and William Klein, the respective presidents of the fashion and photography jury this year.

Thursday was capped off with a dinner hosted by Chanel at Le Marais restaurant. Prince’s song “Purple Rain” was playing in the background.

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