Want to know what the next Céline collection might look like? Stalk Phoebe Philo at Première Vision — the most renowned textiles and fabric trade fair, which was born when 15 weavers from Lyon got together and presented their work at the International Textile Centre in Paris in 1973. We spoke with Pascaline Wilhelm recently, who has been the fair’s fashion director since 1998, to hear her thoughts on new technologies, the difficulty of balancing silhouette and the appropriate fabric, and why it’s so important to work with the body as opposed to merely using the eye. They say that once you master how to create your own fabric and use it in your fashion designs, the world is your oyster… So what’s vital to learn?

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It is very complex to be a fashion designer, it requires a lot of work.”

How do you feel technology has changed the textiles industry? Do you think it has been beneficial?

Yes, I think it has been. But technology changed the world of textiles and fashion long time ago, we should not forget about this. It all started with the industrial revolution and the invention of industrial weaving. In the past 15 years, we have witnessed the evolution of fabric printing technologies and innovations with invisible performance. Big evolution.

Do you see any big changes in the way young designers are now buying their fabrics?

It is very interesting, as we often see fashion designers on the catwalk who have very good intentions when it comes to the shape of the garment, but then they don’t know how to choose the right fabrics. It impoverishes their collections. It is very complex to be a fashion designer, it requires a lot of work. In fashion, there are two types of people: the ones who have the intuition for the material, and the ones who have the intuition for the shape. When these two talents are joined together, you can expect very good outcomes. There must be a connection between the design and the reality of the material. It is very interesting when you look at fashion through this perspective.

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Today we speak a lot about 3D printing, but to conceive a fabric, you always need a strong sensibility of the material.”

Should there be more collaboration between textiles and fashion designers?

Yes, they should be in constant collaboration. Textiles designers need to share their deep knowledge of the fabrics with fashion designers — we all need to train our own hands, so that they can read the materials and their behaviors, and work well with it. We have to touch things. Today we speak a lot about 3D printing, but to conceive a fabric, you always need a strong sensibility of the material.

Are there any advices that you’d like to share with textiles design students? Any skills that they should develop throughout their studies?

I think in this job, it is important to love people and to want to help people to be beautiful, because at the end, that is the aim of your creation. When you’re making or designing your textile, you need to be modest, because your creation will be taken by the fashion designer, and the designer will put his name on the garment. I think young designers need to be opened to the evolution of materials. I feel that at school, students learn a lot to use their eyes and visual skills, but they have to learn even more to use their bodies. They should be aware of the trends and evolution of garments and fabrics, as it is interesting to produce new concepts and to imagine the future in different ways. There are loads of different ways of thinking and creating the future.

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“Students learn a lot to use their eyes and visual skills, but they have to learn even more to use their bodies.”

What sort of help is there for new textiles designers?

We have a partnership with Hyères Festival of Fashion and Photography, which supports young designers. We work with them, help them finding the right fabrics for their collections, and put them in contact with manufacturers that work with Premiere Vision Paris.

You once said the ‘100% wool’ is over. Do you think that luxury fashion is disappearing?

No, we cannot say that. You know, today there is a very wide range of mixed fabrics. The 100% natural fiber is a thing of the past. Today we can mix them with a very high level of polyester — for example, we have wonderful polyamide which can still be very luxurious. It’s very interesting to add performance, beauty and complementary things to fabrics, by mixing and adding the finishings. We have a lot of different ways to create fabrics and that is amazing.

Words by Constança Entrudo

Images courtesy of Première Vision

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