All photos by Voula Monoholias, except*
In this weekly series, photographer Voula Monoholias goes behind the curtain to see where and how creatives live.
This week we’ve changed things up a bit and sent Monoholias to photograph fashion designer Anne Valerie Hash‘s Paris atelier for a look at where creative works.
Tell us about the area in Paris in which have your showroom. Why this area?
Grands Boulevards was a very trendy area in the 19th century. It was like rue St Honoré. For that reason, lots of wonderful buildings are located in this area. But you have to look for them because they are hidden. It is part of the mystery of this district. I found my showroom here by chance. I was looking for an art gallery in Le Marais area. I wanted to work in a white cube, something pure and modern. But when I first discovered the 36 Bd de Bonne Nouvelle, I was seduced by the atmosphere of this place. It is an extraordinary building!
The building you are in is magnificent. Can you tell us a bit about its history?
The 36 Boulevard de Bonne nouvelle was built in 1880. At that time, it was a very trendy hotel/restaurant called Le Marguery (from the name of the owner Monsieur Marguery). Each room of the building had been decorated according to a particular theme. The room where our showroom is located was the Ball room (Gothic inspiration). But there also was an Egyptian room, a Chinese room, an Arabic room, really exotic and surprising places for unique evenings. I guess that’s the reason why this place was so trendy. It was eccentric and exciting. As I said, the Grands Boulevards area was as trendy as rue St Honoré. But with the sad events of 1914-1918, the first world war destroyed everything. The money was gone and the mood was sad so the restaurant and the whole area declined.
In 1939, during WWII the German soldiers took over all the beautiful places of Paris to settle their troups. In the restaurant, they were taking their meals. After the war, the place became a synagogue. How ironic isn’t it? After the synagogue, in the 70’s, it was already a fabric workshop. This place has a huge background. You can feel it when you enter the room!
Where do you draw inspiration from?
My inspiration sources are very different, but, in general, contemporary art has a very strong influence on my life and on my work. In my everyday life, anything from the movement of a piece of fabric to the form of a leaf can become inspiring. A sound, a feeling, it just catches me by surprise.
How does Parisian street style affect or inspire your creations?
I am a real Parisian it is both home and my favourite city in the world. I love its energy and its elegance. It’s eternal. It is also a very good place for creativity because it is very challenging. Everything inspires me here, the architecture, the colours, the differences from one arrondissement to the other. They each have their own energy, their own light and even their own music and one can play with them.
Also, I think that the Parisienne woman displays a very particular form of femininity shaped into sophistication. That’s inspiring to me. It’s an allure, a state of mind, a form of freedom. She hates vulgarity, show off and over the top. She pays a lot of attention to the quality of fabrics and to the details. She will never follow a trend but create her own. The art of being French is also the art of balancing different elements. The Parisienne woman is very complex. She may look simple sometimes but never in an easy way. Each detail is carefully studied. In the end she is very hard to define because she manages to be herself, and this to my eyes is what makes her charm.
What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers?
My advice to aspiring fashion designers is to be themselves and to be confident. Never compromise, always push the idea to its limit and be proud of what you want to say. Don’t try to imitate trends, create your own fashion way. I also always recommend to choose a good quality of fabric and to work on the cut of the garments as much as possible. These are great tools to reach style and elegance.
What do you do to relax and to completely remove yourself from the fast-paced world of fashion?
When I have free time, for example during the week end, I love to visit art galleries in Le Marais. I enjoy any exhibition at the Modern Art Museum of Paris, Le Palais de Tokyo or at Centre Georges Pompidou. Contemporary art is a very important part of my life and of my work. It is a permanent source of inspiration. I also enjoy nights out at the movies with my husband or at the Opera with my 2 daughters. They are young but they both adore ballet.*Portrait courtesy of Anne Valerie Hash
Voula Monoholias is a contributing photographer for Toronto Standard. Follow her on Twitter @voulavous.