PARIS — “I want a heel that makes a beautiful sexy noise when I walk.” “Find me a sweater.” “Can you gift-wrap the wooden spatula?” “No, these cushions are too soft.”
These absurd and amusing statements, overheard at Le Bon Marché, will soon be plastered all over the upscale Paris department store, as well as products ranging from T-shirts to trays, as part of its latest collaboration with French filmmaker Loïc Prigent.
The director of fly-on-the-wall documentaries including “Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton” is fashion’s most famous eavesdropper. The outrageous and entertaining sentences that he posts on Twitter were recently compiled into a book and read by Catherine Deneuve for a series of short films.
Prigent garnered the quotes for the Bon Marché project by talking to sales associates, hovering near changing rooms and having lunch at the truffle bar in its food hall. “I can’t wait to see them written on the walls,” he said over a Perrier in a Paris café. “I’m sure it will be odd. It’s kind of meta, right?”
The “Heard at the Bon Marché” exhibition, set to run from Feb. 25 to April 2, will include a pop-up store selling white items such as baseball caps, tote bags and mugs featuring the words in thick black font. Prigent has previously made short films for the store, but this is his first time creating products — and he wants the full set of tea towels.
“I like the fact that you hear this kind of thing almost daily at Le Bon Marché,” he said. “It reflects a certain Parisian joie de vivre that has taken a pounding recently, so it’s nice to celebrate that a little bit.”
During its run, Prigent will be busy shooting the next installment of his long-standing Paris Fashion Week series “Habillées pour…” starring Mademoiselle Agnès, and he expects to collect plenty more pearls of wisdom during the show season.
“People in fashion don’t need to be pushed to talk nonsense and say hysterical things,” said the director, who views the compulsion with fondness. “If you work in fashion and you don’t enjoy its frivolity, you’re wasting your time and energy.”
Besides, he noted, eccentricity has been at the core of fashion since time immemorial. “Roman women used to dye their poodles to match their dresses, so Kim Kardashian is really not to blame. She belongs to a long and extremely prestigious tradition of madness,” he said with a wry smile.
The latest designer merry-go-round has yielded its own share of absurdity, said Prigent, who is puzzled by the way fashion houses announce the departure of their creative directors in press releases filled with gushing praise. He singled out Clare Waight Keller’s exit from Chloé as an example.
“’She is really fantastic, and she is leaving.’ ‘It was the best working experience I ever had, and I’m leaving.’ It’s really a symptom of how we talk about fashion today. It has reached a kind of paroxysm,” he said. “It makes you wonder how, in what terms, will they announce the arrival of the next person?”
The recent changes in creative direction at leading brands like Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Lanvin pose another challenge for the storyteller: fashion designers are no longer household names.
Still, Prigent is confident that despite the industry’s experiments with new schedules and formats, the runway show still has legs. “Runway shows tell the story of a brand in a super powerful way. You don’t write that story with capsule collections, client events, tweets, Instagram or Snapchat,” he said. “If you take away the runway show, you cut the head off the chicken.”