A New Step for Olivier Sail­lard

Where Paris - - Contents - By San­dra Iskan­der

Meet the new artis­tic di­rec­tor be­hind J. M. We­ston’s new line of footwear

It is a new era for J.M. We­ston with the open­ing of a new bou­tique on the world-fa­mous Av­enue des Champs-Elysées and the ar­rival of a new artis­tic di­rec­tor, Olivier Sail­lard. Step­ping down from his role as the di­rec­tor of Palais Gal­liera af­ter a quar­ter of a cen­tury, Sail­lard ad­mits, “It was a com­plex de­ci­sion to quit my work as a mu­seum di­rec­tor af­ter twenty-five years. But af­ter 140 ex­hi­bi­tions, in­clud­ing nu­mer­ous ones ded­i­cated to de­sign­ers I deeply ad­mire (Madame Grès, Azze­dine Alaïa, Comme des Garçons, Jeanne Lan­vin, and Cris­to­bal Ba­len­ci­aga), I had the feel­ing of a com­plete work. I started at Palais Gal­liera with an ex­hi­bi­tion of Azze­dine Alaïa and ended with a ret­ro­spec­tive on Martin Margiela, I was very lucky. The propo­si­tion of J.M. We­ston came at a turn­ing point in my life. I was 50 years old and felt like new per­spec­tives. I like the fact that there was a fac­tory, that it was a French house with a hu­man her­itage and its own know-how. I re­mem­ber I im­me­di­ately thought of Rim­baud, that Ver­laine would call ‘l’homme aux semelles de vent.’ Af­ter all this is what con­vinced me. I saw all the po­etry [sur­round­ing] this brand founded in 1981 in Li­mo­ges.” Tak­ing on the new role at J.M. We­ston seem­ingly be­came an ex­ten­sion of Sail­lard’s work ex­pe­ri­ence, ex­plain­ing that, “I am a his­to­rian, so I first im­mersed my­self into the his­tory of the brand. I vis­ited the fac­tory in Li­mo­ges and went into the archives. The his­tory is very in­ter­est­ing. J.M. We­ston is a fic­ti­tious name. The founder was called Edouard Blan­chard. At the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury he sent his son to the United States, to a town called We­ston, near Bos­ton, so he could train in the tra­di­tional Nor­we­gian welt tech­nique and the Goodyear stitch­ing. As for the ini­tials J.M., we don’t know their sig­ni­fi­ca­tion. Then I also went into some re­search and found traces of the first Hunt shoes dat­ing back to 1937. I like the idea that J.M. We­ston is in­line with dura­bil­ity. These are shoes of great qual­ity that one keeps for a long time. I like this as­pect, quite eco-friendly and thus mod­ern.” And it ap­pears bring­ing back the old is Sail­lard’s forte with the now artis­tic di­rec­tor dip­ping into the archives to give the house’s iconic de­signs a breath of fresh air and bring­ing them to the house’s new flag­ship bou­tique. “In the ate­lier here, I have a range of shoes I stored, the Hunt derby, the Half-Hunt derby, the Repub­li­can Guard boot, the Moc­casin, eleven of the iconic styles of the brand that I ob­serve care­fully so as to bet­ter im­merse my­self. There is a mood board on the wall where I pinned the faces of Carl An­dré and writer An­nemarie Sch­warzen­bach, some paint­ings of Soulages. The Papers col­lec­tion is in­spired by the 40s. Shoes are bolder, with square toes, leather wall­pa­per mo­tifs in the in­ner side of the shoe. I don’t like ne­glected in­te­ri­ors and I like the idea of bring­ing pa­per to the feet in or­der to feel lighter. Again, the We­ston shoe is made to last. Fash­ion al­ways fo­cuses on the new sea­sons and the col­lec­tions to come. This ab­so­lute duty of nov­elty is ab­surd. I wish to set some [new] dress­ing habits,” he ex­plains. Ac­cus­tomed to putting on ex­hi­bi­tions at Palais Gal­liera for twenty-five years, Sail­lard is also bring­ing his know-how in at­tract­ing an au­di­ence to good use at J.M. We­ston by hop­ing to re­new how we dis­cover new col­lec­tions. “I sug­gested we hold per­for­mances rather than shows, not nec­es­sar­ily to show new col­lec­tions but to show the spirit of these time­less shoes, for the day, for the evening, for yes­ter­day, for to­mor­row, for ever. When a We­ston is used, we send them to the fac­tory. These shoes are passed on from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. Last June we pre­sented a per­for­mance called Dé­filé pour 27 chaus­sures at the Grand Palais in which dancer and chore­og­ra­pher Mathilde Mon­nier, who di­rects the Cen­tre Na­tional de la Danse in Pantin, showed eleven iconic shoes of J.M. We­ston. It’s a dif­fer­ent way of telling the story of the house, to breathe some mythol­ogy and po­etry back around the name of J.M. We­ston. Then, we worked with Laetita Casta, and pho­tog­ra­pher Ka­te­rina Jebb, to em­body the new aes­thetic of the We­ston shoes that can be worn just as well by a man or a woman. For this cam­paign, I thought of an­drog­y­nous women of Ber­lin in the 40s,” the de­signer says. Sail­lard doesn’t stop his “per­for­mances” at how the new col­lec­tions are

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