John: What is in your mind, since the name of your company, your service, your consultancy is “Just an idea”. What is an idea?
Sarah: That is the best question. And I’m sure you will reply better than me. In my mind, there are two kinds of ideas. I would say, and I speak in general, there are illumination ideas, ones you are suddenly in the shower or you wake up in the middle of the night and you think this is a new obsession and you are absolutely convinced that is the right thing to do.
And there are the ones that are more progression, brainstorming, and suddenly you manage to verbalize something you had in your mind for a few days. It’s vast, I think. But I picked it, again, for… the name for my company came through working with Chitose from Sacai on her popup on the second floor of colette, and we were in this meeting, and I kept adding new ideas. Why don’t we do this and this and this and this, and just an idea. And it just came to my mind that I kept repeating this, so that’s how.
John: Let’s go to image eighteen, since you mentioned Sacai. And one thing that’s unusual, and this is pure you, when you normally, in vernacular, when you said, “Oh, it’s just an idea,” it means that it’s something you haven’t made happen yet. It means something in the future, something that you’re thinking about. But you made it happen, immediately. You made just an idea happen immediately. We have on the screen some images, I’d love for you to talk about what this very important client of yours, what you did together. Let’s start with eighteen and we can go through nineteen and twenty as Sarah speaks about this.
Sarah: Craig, that character, like Kevin Lyons, has been part of the colette family for many years. We have done many work projects together and this project with Ikea started before we announced we were going to close and with Ikea, any project will take many months or years to happen. I didn’t know that back in the day. I contacted them for our 20th anniversary to try and do something together.
And so, at colette, we had some Ikea classic furniture and artists came into the gallery space to paint them. It was a really really fun project. But then the collaboration continued and I didn’t want to do just colette products, so I suggested to Craig, because we both could imagine his character. And we worked with Ikea to give them this twist, which eventually came out last year. And we jump to Sacai popup shop, because in Paris we have this great relationship with Chitose.
I will always remember the first time I went to the Sacai showroom, since there is something new, this brand has a really really strong difference. We go far. And for many years, colette was the only shop in Paris to sell Sacai. She didn’t need to do a fashion show, she didn’t have a PR, we sold it very well, because it was the right clothes, you try it, you want it. I was very touched that she asked me to help with this pop up in Paris. We did collaborations with French brands, like A.P.C., Petit Bateau, Hervé Chapelier and she had this collaboration with Ryoto Morikawa for the design of the space, and it was a very nice project.
John: Sarah, what’s so interesting is that while major brands are calling upon you for your help and your creative thinking, and your ideas, of course, you are rather anonymous in this process. You have made a very obvious choice to stay in the background and not be up front. Can you talk a little bit about why that is.
Sarah: It’s super important. I never liked to be in the front, and especially now, with this new company where I help projects, it’s not about me, it’s about the brands that we work with. I’m here to give a perspective from the outside, to give some input, and I think many brands are too busy with all the content they need to do all the time and I think they appreciate having fresh ideas from me. But, after, they will adapt these ideas with their own process and their own way of working.
I’m here just to pass, and not like I used to do with colette, with a project from the beginning to the end, and participate with everything. With the brands I work with now, I’m from outside, and I’m very happy to stay in the shadow, even if I help to create some connections to help things move on.
John: Well, Sarah, in the world, all businesses are feeling a great sense of challenge today, to be relevant and so forth. And you have been such a great collaborator for major fashion brands, discovering new fashion brands and new creators. I have to ask this question, because I’m involved in it too, is fashion still relevant?
Sarah: No, I think, now everybody asks lots of questions. But, yes, for me, fashion will still be relevant. It’s a form of art, for me. There is creativity in fashion, like you can find in art, in music, in photography. Yes, there are lots of lessons to learn. It started, I think, already in the last years to question the way fashion works, the fashion weeks, the fashion system. But at the end of the day, we still need to get dressed every morning, and what you wear, it expresses a lot. So yes, for me, fashion is still relevant. Somethings are changing and will continue to change, hopefully. But, I think so. Can I ask you the same question? What do you think?
John: Yes, and I think that I am fortunate to have entered a new phase in my creative career. You know, the organization. I didn’t realize what a change in my mindset, I have this phrase I use a lot, “You have to unlearn to learn again”. So, for me, as a creative director, having to look at fashion and look at aesthetics and look at design and look at business through a completely different lens. I worked a lot on exclusivity and that was fun.
But now, when people ask me, and I’m trying to answer your question as short as possible, Sarah, so forgive me, “What do you do now, John? What’s your job now?” And I say my job is to bring the highest possible quality of experience to the greatest number of people in the world, and that means value and values are very important. So, my lens towards style or fashion starts with respect everyone from the beginning. “Made for all” is our philosophy. So we have to bring quality and bring that sense of style and quality together, but for everyone.
So that makes me have to look at the world in a slightly different way. But, culture, style, concept, all adds to fashion, and it is an art form and I do think it’s an important art form that happens to drive a lot of business as well. So, my view has changed towards fashion a lot, but I enjoy it immensely and I enjoy being inspired by all the typical people that we look at in the world. But my entry point into it is now very very different. This “made for all” has been a very liberating thing. It has forced me to look at the world in a very different way. And I’m so happy to be going through this experience.
Sarah, of course everyone, I hope they stopped asking you this now, but, everyone was asking, “Do you miss it? Do you miss it? Do you miss it? Do you miss the store?” And of course, your office is on top of what was the store, right. So it’s very close for you. You walk down the same street and so forth. But your answer was really interesting. I saw somewhere you said, “I don’t miss it at all, I don’t miss the store, but I miss the gallery. I miss the art gallery.” Tell me why. Why is it that part you miss so much?
Sarah: If you think about it, for twenty years, we had a new exhibition in the gallery space every month. I love the process to look for the artists, to meet the artists, invite them into the space, and to see what they would do within this space and how each exhibition would be different. We would take down the previous show on a Saturday night, paint white or the artist would pick something else, meet on Sunday morning at 10am, have one day to install, and Monday morning open the shop with a new exhibition.
I loved the interaction with the artists, to walk in the exhibition and sometimes to have a zine, a catalog, postcards, little souvenirs. I think art is so important in our lives for the emotional. The little gallery space, it was not like an art gallery, it was in the middle of the shop. But with time, more and more, I started to ask the artists, start from the gallery space, but you can use this wall here and you can use this wall here, and if you want to do a window, you can.
Slowly but surely, more and more space to work with and take inside colette. That’s true, there was a gratification to introduce an artist, to have some people who would come to colette and discover an artist, fall in love with, and follow his work after. No, it’s true, I miss this part. And I will try in my projects in the future to find again this process.