In depths of pandemic, one fashion designer turns hand to being a movie director

FILE PHOTO: French designer Julien Fournie unveils his Spring/Summer 2021 Haute Couture collection
FILE PHOTO: Fashion designer Julien Fournie poses during the shooting of a film to present his Spring/Summer 2021 Haute Couture collection in Paris, France, January 8, 2021. Picture taken January 8, 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

January 28, 2021

By Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) – French fashion designer Julien Fournie first learned to wield a pair of scissors, then to design a dress on an iPad. Now, the global pandemic has forced him to pick up a new skill – as movie director.

Paris Haute Couture Week is normally a riot of runway shows where the fashion crowd congregate in sumptuous locations. This year, COVID-19 means most live events are off.

Instead, many designers have turned to video to showcase their collections for the week, which officially began on Monday and runs until Jan. 28.

Fournie, a 45-year-old who runs his own couture label, spent three days shooting a 9 minute and 30 second film in his Paris workshop, starring himself, some of his staff, and three models.

“We designers have to reinvent ourselves endlessly,” he said in a break from filming. “We have to know how to sew, to design, to manage social networks.”

That meant moving into a new medium to present his collection was not a big leap, he said.

“It’s an incredible opportunity in our times to be able to reinvent yourself during COVID, to be the director of your own destiny, to stage your own universe.”

The film features women dressed in goose feather outfits and multicoloured organza fabric, moving through a fantasy world with a Middle Eastern flavour. The majority of Fournie’s clients are from the Middle East.

Because of the global pandemic, customers want less extravagant designs, because the gatherings where the outfits will be worn these days are more modest and intimate, said the designer.

His staff too have had to adapt. After a client has visited to try out an outfit, employees iron the dresses. “The heat eliminates bacteria and viruses,” said Lea Gelenan, one of Fournie’s senior staff.

(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Jan Harvey)