Up in the Hyères
A quiet seaside town on France’s Côte d’Azur comes to life during an internationally recognised fashion design competition. By Zara Wong.
Cobbled pathways bordered with sandstone walls lead the way to Villa Noailles, a name so vowel-ridden that non-French-speakers say it with a lilting murmur. The ‘villa’ is a geometric castle rising out from the hillside, the Cubist residence of 1920s art patrons Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, in Hyères, southeastern France. The building is a century old but the sight of it still inspires a frisson of awe.
Vogue is here for the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography, a hive of young creators who compete in the renowned fashion design competition that has previously awarded Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, Julien Dossena (now of Paco Rabanne) and Anthony Vaccarello. It continues on from the villa’s fantastically artistic bohemian origins: the de Noailles commissioned works from artists such as Joan Miró, and entertained them as friends, too. The villa itself has appeared in the Salvador Dalì film L’Âge d’Or, and Man Ray’s surrealist film Les Mystères du Château
du Dé was filmed here. In 1995, Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld curated the festival’s program and photographed the house before its restoration: Chanel continues its relationship with the festival by offering a collaboration with Lesage embroiderers, from its Metiers d’Arts stable of specialist ateliers, to the design competition winners.
“It’s super-chic,” proclaims French writer and professional Instagrammer Sophie Fontanel, looking out at the villa’s rooftop garden at Hyères and the coastline. “This house, the ambience, the scenery, the designers here: it’s like a full-course meal.” French-born Laure Hériard Dubreuil, of luxury Miami retailer The Webster, also mused on quintessentially French items not available to her in her base of New York. “Rondini sandals!” she exclaims to me on what she’s on the look-out for here on the Côte d’Azur. “I can’t get enough of them! I asked if I could stock them, but they said no, because they want to focus on their own store and artisan workshops. I think that’s a good thing.”
Reverberating through the springtime gaiety of the Hyères Festival is the reality of the impending French national elections, less than a fortnight away. A shudder of anticipation underlies the tension in the air. Jean-Pierre Blanc, the founder of the Hyères Festival, launches the event with an impassioned speech about the need to vote, to a cheering crowd. “The world is changing a lot,” television journalist-cum-cashmere designer Alexandra Golovanoff says quietly. “We are frightened of
“It’s superchic. This house, the ambience, the scenery, the designers here: it’s like a fullcourse meal” – professional Instagrammer Sophie Fontanel