A couple of weeks ago, order I was sifting through work emails and idly wondering how my forthcoming weekend was going to shape up; it seemed to be taking on the familiar pleasures of the default setting – drinks, lazing around Shoreditch Park, catching a gig or two, having a coffee at Columbia Road flower market; the same old same old essentially, and then an email dropped into my inbox that quickly made me revise my plans. It was from Ben, an old friend of Amelia’s Magazine from French-Music Org, and Liz from Brittany Tourism who were both involved in the French music festival des Vieilles Charrues in Brittany, and wanted to know if Amelia’s Magazine was interested in coming along to check it out. Being a champion of all kinds of festivals, both in England and abroad, but at the same time staying true to the ethics of not flying wherever possible, I was pleased to see that the festival encourages all non-flight forms of travel, and had a good deal with Brittany Ferries worked into one of the ticket packages that also includes transfers to and from the festival. I had a quick look at the line-up, which included performances from Phoenix, Midlake, The Raveonettes, Fanfarlo and Julian Casablancas. Then I checked my ipod and saw that apart from a little Francoise Hardy and Charlotte Gainsbourg, it was woefully lacking in French music and decided that this Gallic version of Glastonbury could be my guide to France’s vibrant music scene, especially seeing that Chapelier Fou, Revolver, Indochine, Fefe and the brilliantly named Sexy Sushi were all headlining. So that was that. All I needed to do was grab my trusty pillow and I was off to France! A few hours later, after a bumpy ferry ride that unfortunately took place on the windiest day of the year, I found myself in the picturesque town of Carhaix, home of the festival, and about 45 minutes inland from the coast.
Sune and Sharin of The Raveonettes give us a shock and awe performance.
Watching The Raveonettes with my friends – wet and bedraggled but happy.
It was straight to the festival and to the front of the crowd to watch The Raveonettes do a typically kinetic set of howling, fuzzy guitar riffs, liberally sprinkled with lots and lots of noise. Just how the audience like it. The Danish duo, made up of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo are a dark force to reckon with and played an incredibly tight set, featuring songs from their fourth album, In And Out Of Control. I hadn’t see them play before and I came away thinking that the bands waiting in the wings such as Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Crystal Castles and Vivienne Girls still have a long way to go before they steal the crowns off of these two. Later I managed to get in some talk time with Sune who refused the offer of dinner with his bandmates in favour of shooting the breeze over mugs of vodka cranberries for a whole hour. (Interview to come in the next few weeks)
The next day, when I was a little less exhausted from twelve straight hours of travelling, and no sleep, I was able to properly explore the festival and see it through renewed eyes. Truth be told, it was refreshing to find myself at an overseas festival. The crowd were relaxed, extremely friendly (stand next to any random group of strangers and within a few minutes you will be conversing away happily in a garbled mix of Franglais) and the FOOD (and drink)! It doesn’t matter how many boutique festivals are springing up over England, festival des Vieilles Charrues trumps us with champagne bars all over the site (to be sipped insouciantly while you watch French rock gods Indochine) and food tents which can provide you cheese plates and fruits de la mer to go with your choice of wine. It being slightly earlier in the day, I was trying out the regional cider which was so tasty it practically made me weep, and made my way over to watch the Fanfarlo set. Unexpectedly, this was probably my favourite performance of the festival. Having toured constantly for the past year (watch the mini documentary on their website which painfully documents their incessant and exhaustion-inducing schedule), the performances of the songs from their 2009 release Reservoir have taken on a whole new level. Each band member seamlessly flitted between a myriad of different musical instruments; no-one ever held onto a guitar, trumpet, violin, mandolin or musical saw for more than a few minutes before doing some musical-chairs. I’m not sure how well France was aware of Fanfarlo, but the full audience loved every song they played, and noisily demanded an encore – which unfortunately they didn’t get, but then, the band do only have about twelve songs in their back catalogue.
Fanfarlo talk about life on the road and divulge the little known fact of lead singer Simon’s childhood love of ham radios.
Traditional Breton music. Everyone knew the dance moves but me.
Night time gave me a chance to flit between the bands playing. I watched Midlake, the indie Texans who are fast gaining popularity over on this side of the pond, serenade the audience as the sun set, their hazy Americana sound drifting over the breeze and through the fields. Then it was a hop, skip and a jump to watch Sexy Sushi, the raw Parisian rap of Fefe and – I didn’t see this coming – some traditional Breton music involving some old men, a couple of accordions and a lively crowd who were all versed in the dance moves that accompany the traditional folk style. Then the midnight hour was upon us and the audience was heading in droves to watch Phoenix, who are clearly the prodigal sons of France. I’ve heard before that some of the French don’t appreciate the fact that Phoenix record all of their tracks in English, as opposed to their mother tongue, but there was no such bad feeling in the crowd that stood around me that night, sending waves of love and adulation towards the stage which prompted lead singer Thomas Mars to briefly lie on the stage in slightly dazed wonder at this epic night.
It was frustrating to have to leave on Sunday, as I missed performances by Pony Pony Run Run, Julian Casablancas and Etienne De Crecy, but work commitments dictated an early departure. Nonetheless, I had such a great time that I am already planning next years Festival des Vieilles Charrues (which will be the 20th anniversary of the festival). Brittany was the perfect setting for such a chilled festival, and a welcome addition to the festival calendar.
When in the fashion capital, sildenafil to miss a much talked about exhibition that focuses on the ‘prince of fashion’ would be a crime. Two years on from Yves Saint Laurent’s death in June 2008, information pills the Petit Palais Museum in Paris hosted a magnificent showcase of his work, his life and his history and I went to check it out.
A queuing time of one hour and a ticket price of 11 euros later, I arrived at the beginning of the exhibition which was a history of himself and through to ‘The Dior Years’; a fascinating look at how he was recognised for his beautiful fashion sketches and taken onboard by the famous couturier. Spending much of his time at Dior doing mundane tasks such as decorating, doing the paperwork and designing accessories, Yves Saint Laurent continued to submit his own sketches for new collections which, in time, lead to him being appointed to succeed as designer after Dior, who died suddenly at the age of 52 from a heart attack, promoting YSL sooner than expected and at only 21 years old.
Tribute to Piet Mondrian, 1965, illustrated by Lesley Barnes
The exhibition moved through to his first collections including the famous ‘Trapèze’, which were not approved of as he had hoped and slated by the press who didn’t think too highly of his beatnik designs. A long line of mannequins, donated from the Foundation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent, modelled his wonderful safari jackets, skin tight trousers and the famous Le Smoking suit, which were so perfect and impeccably designed. As the first French couturier to produce a prêt -a-porter line, his rise in fame is recognised with yet another dozen or so mannequins showcasing his ‘silhouette’ designs and a room dedicated to the film Belle de Jour, starring Catherine Deneuve and many of his garments. Film clips of the beautiful actress wearing his suits and dresses lit up the room alongside his very desk where he worked on his fashion drawings and paperwork as he left it and of course, those famous glasses of his which added such a personal and almost emotional touch to the whole exhibition. An almost pitch black room beside it showing beautifully constructed evening gowns and video clips of his inspiration, ranging from old movies to photographs of Marilyn Monroe and pieces of art such as Van Gogh, Mondrian and Matisse. Leaving this, several areas full of his more exotic work which had taken inspiration from the far flung places Yves loved to visit such as Russia, India and Morocco to name but a few, showed a different, refreshing side to his talent.
Le Smoking, illustrated by Abi Daker
As his prêt-a-porter line became more and more popular with the public, despite it’s initial reputation, YSL became considered one of the ‘Paris Jet Set’ which, although glamorous, created a worrying relationship with alcohol and drugs and a lack of interest in the production of his work. Despite this sad self destruction, his work was evidently still as fantastic as it was years before. A room decorated in red carpet and full of his best evening gowns, named as ‘The Last Ball’ shimmering underneath the spotlights and producing a lot of gasps and ‘wows’ from visitors, proved that his talent was ever-growing despite his sad personal life. Moving on to his final designs, ‘The Collision of Colours’ which were slightly different in that they were modern, classic and slightly more tamed than the extravagant previous collections, the exhibition came to a close with a few words about his last movements.
Velvet and satin evening dress, 1983, illustrated by Emma Block
With the historical photographs, films and words alongside real life evidence of his blossoming talent from assistant to famous couturier, the exhibition was personal, thorough and highly favourable of this talented French designer whose contribution to the fashion industry is colossal. After a total of 307 of prêt-a-porter and haute couture designs and around two hours of wonderful education, I walked away feeling that I could definitely go back for another visit and would hope that any visitor to Paris would make time to go and be amazed too. He may be gone in person, but his talent lives on in memory and those who took over. If it is good enough for the fashion capital, who’s to say otherwise?
- Fashion on Film: L’Amour Fou
- London Fashion Week S/S 2011 Presentation Review: Ascher Scarves
- Dior Illustrated: René Gruau and the Line of Beauty at Somerset House
- Grace Kelly: Style Icon
- Curating Yamamoto: An interview with Ligaya Salazar, the V&A’s Yohji Yamamoto exhibition curator