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Journalist and Cinephile Diane Pernet on Her Fashion Film Festival and Favorite Movies

Diane Pernet with Dries Van Noten and Caroline de MaigretFashion journalist Diane Pernet projects an unapproachable and mysterious persona. Perhaps it’s the lace mantilla. Surrounded in a shroud of black layers, she floats through the fashion and art worlds, charming acquaintances, collaborators and friends with her calm enthusiasm. But beneath her many veils, she is surprisingly forthcoming.

Pernet’s diverse and amplifying interests led her to launch her A Shaded View on Fashion Film Festival in 2008. A competition and showcase of short fashion, style and beauty films, ASVOFF begins in Paris during Fashion Week and then travels to museums and cultural institutions throughout the world. This year, Jean Paul Gaultier serves as jury president.

We spoke with Pernet about the festival, fashion and her personal style.

Diane Pernet with Nick Walter graffiti in New York CityHow did A Shaded View on Fashion Film Festival begin?

I’ve never been one to map out my distant future or calculate how things might pan out. At each crossroads, I’ve simply followed my instincts. Although it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, I can honestly say that I think it has been the best approach for me. Over the years, I’ve been a fashion designer, a costume designer, an editor, a stylist, a journalist and a filmmaker. Although they are all very different roles, they do all revolve around fashion so there has been that constant throughout my professional career. It is the creative process that is the most different, I think.

In 2006, Mark Eley of Eley Kishimoto asked me to make a road movie for the launch of his menswear line and we did it via the Gumball Rally, a 3,000-mile race from London’s Trafalgar Square to Monte Carlo. The result, Adventure of Pleasure, became the basis for You Wear it Well, a short-lived, curated fashion film festival that screened at Cinespace on Hollywood Boulevard.

The spirit of fashion film is important too because it’s typically one where the consumer expects brands to push the boundaries a bit more and to not necessarily be quite so precious about things. A Shaded View on Fashion Film Festival has always been for anyone who enjoys films or wears clothes. Fashion film won’t be for everyone but it is intended for everyone. It’s not just an insider medium. Great fashion film should touch people like any art form or cinematic form. We’ve still got a long road ahead of us to experiment, which is hugely exciting.

Are there any really unique entries this year that we should know about?

We have short film competition entries from all over the planet as well as more documentaries than we have ever had. How fashion expresses itself through dance will be one topic, with a discussion between Marc Happel, director of the New York City Ballet, and Iris van Herpen, who did costumes for one of the ballets. Jean Paul Gaultier is our president this year and we will give him a carte blanche. There will be performances opening and closing, many things that I cannot unveil right now but we are super excited.

What are some of your favorite films of all time?

In terms of features, my number-one fashion film is still William Klein’s Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?. But there are so many others that I also love, like Puzzle of a Downfall Child with Faye Dunaway—the story of a model and a photographer and the relationship that fashion can have on one’s life. I loved Unzipped and Zoolander as well. I think the documentary Dior et Moi was one of the most realistic designer docs and a great source of information for anyone wondering how it works for a big brand.

Les Stars is the first film directed by the prolific photographer, filmmaker, fashion architect and perfume maker Serge Lutens. Les Stars, which is a spine-tingling visual masterpiece, ultimately made it into the official Quinzaine des Réalisateurs selection in 1976.

Some short fashion films that I really appreciate are The Four Dreams of Miss X by Mike Figgis for Agent Provocateur and She Said She Said by Stuart Blumberg with Marisa Tomei and Elodie Bouchez—and Muta by Lucrecia Martel.

You are one of the premiere fashion journalists who experimented early with blogging. What about the modern media landscape most excites you?

I love experimenting with online tools and channels, looking forward to whatever comes out next. Lately I’ve been playing with Snapchat and making a series of 15 second video Sound Byte teasers, posting two a day up until the festival.

Diane Pernet with director Alejandro JodorowskyYou have an incredibly unique personal style. What questions must someone ask when cultivating a personal style?

I think it depends on the individual. Sometimes they need to be educated and that is the value of a brick and mortar store, to teach people what works for them and how far they should go with it. Otherwise, they find their own way and trust their judgment for what feels right for them. So much of personal style is about having confidence in however you dress.

How has your sense of style evolved over the years? Is there something you once wore that would surprise us?

I am sure there are many things…for instance, I’m sure you would have a hard time believing that I was once a pom-pom girl wearing stitch down pleated cream-colored skirt and heavy knit boat neck sweater with saddle shoes. As a little girl I loved the color pink and everything was pink. In between I went through many different looks: glam rock, white Victorian underwear as outerwear. That was a lifetime ago, but I’ve been gradually evolving the same style now for several decades. Once you find your style, you have to own it.

Do you have a personal talisman, a piece of clothing or objet d’art that seems imbued with special powers?

Yes, I have a beautiful, quite heavy silver snail that my friend Miguel Villalobos made just for me and of course the silver spiders by Mario Salvucci. Spiders are good luck and protection.


Watch past seasons of the film festival online now. ASVOFF season seven films will be available to view online after December 6.

—Britt Olson