By Cheryl Tay
SENATUS spoke to Anne Valérie Hash during Women's Fashion Week 2011 Singapore, ahead of the upcoming Haute Couture Week in Paris come late January 2012, and is part of SENATUS' Masters of Luxury interview series for 2012.
Anne Valérie Hash was once so poor she could not even afford pasta; her first collection was financed with a modest 8,000 euros – the minimum proof of funds required by French law to start a company – in 2001. Working with this shoestring budget, Hash managed to produce six collections, three runway shows, and also to have exhibitions combining fashion and art in Ace Gallery in New York and the French Cultural Institute of Milan by 2004.
She was later bestowed the official label of Haute Couture in January of 2008 after being sponsored by the senior Couture house, Dior. In 2009, she was honoured with the insignia of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by French Minister of Culture and Communications. It is a mark of prestige awarded only to artists and writers who have made significant contributions to the arts.
One of only 2 female grand couturieres, Anne Valérie's rise to the world of Haute Couture has never been easy. Her brand now encapsulates lines ranging from haute couture, ready-to-wear, to even childrenswear and is globally recognized as a fashion tour-de-force.
After seeing off some clients, Anne Valérie Hash welcomes us warmly into her showroom at Women’s Fashion Week and introduces herself as Valerie. Despite her success, she has no airs about her and is the kind of person you instantly like. She cut short her family holiday at Mauritius, and brought her entire family to Singapore just to make Women’s Fashion Week.
SENATUS gets to know this remarkable woman who has a decade of designing under her belt and has been honoured with the insignia of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by French Minister of Culture and Communications.
Can you tell us about the collection you showed here yesterday?
The collection was a mix of different couture that I made over the last ten years. So there are pieces that are really old and some that are more new. It’s a mix of feminine and masculine pieces that we mixed together. We (gesturing to her assistant) chose the pieces together, because we wanted something special and we decided which ones were the best for Singapore.
What was your inspiration for your latest collection?
It’s a mix between romanticism and architecture, and between masculine and feminine pieces. It’s really a mix of different inspirations; it’s not just one, it’s many.
I can be inspired by flowers and nature, it could be anything.
I understand that you like working with menswear and transforming it into womenswear?
It’s really a question of mix of femininity and masculinity. I have always loved masculine clothes, so I decided to make a mix. But only masculine clothes is not enough for women. I think when a woman wears really masculine clothes it makes her look a bit harsh and too masculine so I like to mix both.
How did you get started in Haute Couture?
It was really by passion – I studied at the Chambre Syndicale school in Paris. It was a very technical school, and that’s how I began.
Did you always want to be a fashion designer?
Yes and no. Yes because I studied at a fashion school, and no because I thought it was very hard to imagine such a possibility.
How did you go on from there?
I did many jobs, and I was always afraid that I was not strong enough to be a designer. So it took me time to decide to launch my brand, and to decide to show something somewhere because when you show, you don’t know how people are going to react. So it’s a special thing to show, it’s very personal.
You have just launched a children’s line too?
Yes, it’s here! And my daughter is wearing one of the dresses. I created this line because it’s really linked to my life, as I have two daughters, and I thought it was good to do something for them because I don’t see them very often.
For the children’s line, I don’t work with menswear because for little girls, I like romanticism. The dresses are made of delicate fabrics and very romantic.
Your muse is also a child; could you tell us the story of how she became your muse?
She is twenty now, but she was ten years old when we met. I saw her, and I thought that she was a very special character. So I asked if she could pose for pictures. And then these pictures of her were my drawings, because I don’t know how to draw.
I’m not a specialist in drawing so these helped me to give the pattern-maker – I don’t give drawings; I give inspiration. Instead of giving them sketches, I give them photographs.
Now that she is older, does she still inspire you?
Now she is a woman, and I cannot drape fabrics on her anymore. I have not found a new muse – I think I need a new step, which is to try to see a woman more than a young girl. The fabrics and silhouettes have to go through a progression, to see the maturity.
Since you like working with menswear, do you have any plans to develop a line for men?
That’s my dream. It’s too early now; I hope to do so in the next few years, but I have to develop my company first.
Which designers inspire you?
Yohji Yamamoto, and Azzedine Alaia. Coco Chanel also, I read her biography often. Her character is very strong, and it is rather masculine. I think I was also unconsciously inspired by her use of fabrics from menswear, like jersey, to create womenswear.
Do you have a signature in your designs?
I use a lot of lace, and I love when it looks like it’s not really finished, when it is deconstructed. Little twists in the fabric, fringes, all these have been present since my first collection.
Grand Couturiere Anne Valerie Hash showcased the best-of-her Haute Couture collection at Women's Fashion Week held at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. See more photos: http://senatus.net/album/view/2561/