Pushing boundaries – Vogue Fashion Festival Paris



It’s a miserable, soggy Friday morning in Paris. Anyone who might have the day off work would be expected to have a lie in. But not far from the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile outside of the gilded roofed Palais Potocki Hotel long queues are forming under a snake of colourful umbrellas. Underneath the umbrellas are individuals suavely dressed without looking as if they’ve put in any effort – as only Parisians can.

By 9:15am more than 400 of them are packed into the Palais Potocki Hotel conference room where the first morning discussion of Vogue Fashion Festival, in partnership with Swarovski, kicks off. Sidney Toledano, chairman and CEO of LVMH Fashion Group is discussing the new frontiers of luxury brands. Later when British stylist and fashion designer, Clare Waight Keller of French luxury fashion and perfume house Givenchy takes to the stage with Emmanuelle Alt, Vogue Paris’s editor-in-chief, to ponder Givenchy’s boundaries, 200 more people have made their way into the conference room. Now there is standing room only.



Four masterclasses

Next door 150 more fashion aficionados eagerly await the start of one of four masterclasses to be presented over the two days of the festival: ‘How to launch a start-up in the luxury industry?’ presented by online fashion shop founders Mathieu de Ménonville of Editions MR and Marie Courroy of Modetrotter.

The festival is a stately, almost academic affair. There are no catwalks, no supermodels, lingerie shows, only talk – and hours of it. With most sessions lasting 45 minutes – masterclasses for 90 minutes – and taking no form more flashy than live interviews or a round table discussion with only the occasional slide on a screen, the format seems archaic. Yet, not a single person leave their seats.

Vogue Paris has managed to bring together key leaders and influencers from the luxury world for two days of discussion, debate and reflection. Over the two days more than 2,000 people attend the festival, with 150 more attending each of the four masterclasses. At EUR€250 (USD$285) for a half day conference pass, €400 ($455) for a day pass, €750 ($852) for a two-day pass and €45 ($51) to enter a masterclass, the maths is easy. The festival is not only hugely popular, it is also hugely profitable.

Delphine Royant, publisher of Vogue Paris, however, is keen to point out that this is first and foremost an opportunity for key players and influencers of the fashion and luxury industries to voice their views on major trends and issues. “The Fashion Festival allows Vogue to elevate itself as the leading media partner in this sector.”



Taking the pulse of the industry

Since launching three years ago, the Vogue Fashion Festival in Paris has established itself as the key event for professionals from the worlds of fashion and luxury, “to take the pulse and anticipate the future of the industry”.



The theme for this year’s event was ‘Fashion and its new frontiers’. Speakers looked at how borders in the fashion industry are being transcended, whether these borders are geographical, technological versus human, digital versus print, gender-linked or seniors versus millennials. Apt within this theme, Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White, and Alexandre Arnault, CEO of Rimowa, discussed the significance of a see-through travel case in an environment sensitive to privacy invasion.

The festival fits sponsors like a glove. Apart from the obvious names, like The Woolmark Company, even the likes of Google got on board. The broad scope of debate supported this notion. Or in the words of a member of the executive board of main sponsor Swarovski, Nadja Swarovski, the event is a fresh and inspiring mix of fashion’s brightest creative, business and strategic leaders, “all engaging in boundary-pushing debate”.


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