On Friday, 27 May 2011 we caught up with the Parisian and stylist Philippe Uter to get to know him better and explore his work.
Here is our exclusive interview with him.
Q1: What was childhood and growing up like for young Philippe?
“My childhood was amazing! And with lots of laughs, happiness!” Philippe says he spent most of his childhood at his grandparents’ house while his parents worked during the day.
That’s the beginning of the story…
He continues: “My grandmother was a needlewoman, so I grew up with her in the amidst pattern, fabrics and a thousand varieties of buttons.”
Philippe then says he still vividly recalls the moment he wanted to work in fashion:
“I was 4, and I saw a Yves Saint Laurent fashion show on TV. I asked my grandmother about this and she explained it to me.” At which he says he then said to her, “When I’m older I want to be a designer!” And, laughing, he says as an aside: “Sounds like a song. Aha!”
After seeing the Yves Saint Laurent show Philippe says he became positively obsessed with all things clothes and fashion. He started sketching, and reading fashion books and magazines.
“My grandmother owned a mannequin and I enjoyed dressing it up. I’d pin ‘new’ clothes with rags, leftover fabric from her garments, old clothes, pearls and sequins – pretty much anything that appealed to me. Sometimes my grandmother would help me and surprise me by sewing my creations…often for my mother.”
Q2: How has living in the fashion and luxury capital of the world influenced you and your work?
“The advantage of Paris is that, yes, it’s a fashion capital,” and Philippe adds: “BUT people (even those who don’t care much for fashion in a particular way) know how to dress and make an effort. Parisians have a certain style, a certain manner of living, acting…That makes the influence easier to catch, the wind of trends are more powerfully felt. Paris for me is a motivation to create.”
I can hear in Philippe’s voice that he is truly a Parisian at heart. This question has set off a deluge of expression of fascination with the City of Lights. Continuing, he points out:
“Another thing, Paris has a incomparable historical heritage. It’s past and the lives of those before us now is very present in each street, in the buildings, in the cuisine…everywhere the character and story of Paris (and the French) is present.
Remarking upon the heritage of Paris, Philippe say: “Sometimes I dream about how life was before, when Louis XIV was the Sun King. The way they dressed. How they were enamoured by art and discovered new countries, exotic foods and furniture. And their architecture is splendid, ever an inspiration.”
Q3: What about your job do you love most?
Someone has said somewhere that to be fulfilled and successful at what you do you have to love it, and Philippe can’t agree more.
“Travel! I love that most about what I do, because I have to travel a lot.” And he adds, “Fashion is a universal language and the whole world is fluent at it. You can do it everywhere in the world.
“And maybe even more fulfilling, my work as a stylist gives me the opportunity to meet new people, from photographers to celebrities. You exchange points of view, artistic direction, you work collaboratively for a photo shoot and in the end result it a wholly different (and better) creation compared to what you had expected. But you are happy to push your creative limits!”
Q4: How has art and your fascination with it influenced your perception of fashion?
“Everybody is looking for inspiration from books to cinema to music. Art is mine.
“But, of course, not only!”
He explains. “As I am a painter as well, it’s easier for me to look there, and in a manner I love to paint to enter my own world and forget about the world around me. Problems, work and other stuff…”
Philippe goes on to tell me that art has conferred on him a sense of colour, geometric shapes and how to build an idea.
“Don’t forget art and fashion are very similar…In fact, it’s 70% business and 30% creation and ideas.”
Q5: Do you have any thoughts on the Galliano incident and his dismissal from Dior?
Says Philippe: “I won’t say that what he said is nothing – of course not – but I will never forget what John has done for the fashion industry and for Dior. He made me dream for a couple years, he created fashion mania and gave a breath of fresh air to fashion. So, even if I think what he said is not acceptable at all (and especially for a public figure such as him who represents a fashion house which is founded on respect and elegance), I will cannot replace in my mind all he has done in the past.
I remember how exited I was after his shows…”
Q6: How did you get the opportunity to collaborate on Guapo?
Magazines dedicated to men’s fashion and lifestyle are a rare find, moreover ones worthy a read. Guapo is of the most excellent order.
I asked Philippe of his involvement with the publication.
“Well…” he begins, “the owner (Ignacio Lozano) of Guapo Magazine is a friend of mine. I told told him that I really enjoyed his work as a men’s blog and when he decided to develop the concept into a fully fledged magazine, it was natural for him to ask me if I want to be involved.”
Remarking on the international team behind the magazine, Philippe says: “I think for me that is the most important feature of Guapo, that the people implicated are from different placed in the world: Paris, Barcelona, New York…”
Q7: How was it like working with the sex siren Monica Bellucci?
“I worked with Ms. Bellucci on a photo shoot with photographer Ali Mahdavi some time ago but I will stay in my mind forever.”
He muses, “Even though she was born Italian she is French for me, and she is (I guess) the premier diva and Hollywood-esque woman. She possesses an air of class and glamour about her that is a rare find amongst women in our time. Glamorous and sexy: two words important for a woman’s description, and she is the embodiment of that in perfection.”
And laughing, he adds, “But don’t be led to think she is a prima donna. On the contrary, she is a very pleasant and delicate human being.
Q8: Where do you see yourself in the future?
“I don’t know exactly, but I know in the fashion industry for sure. I would love to be all around the world, between NY, LA and Paris. As I said before, celebrity styling is very exiting and interesting so why not trying to continue in it? But I would love to work on the image of brands also, collaborate with designers and photographers on various projects.
Q9: Do you have a basic grooming guideline for men?
I am sure you guessed from his collaboration with Guapo Magazine that Philippe feels very passionate about men’s fashion and grooming, so I ask him for some basic grooming guidelines.
“I think that having a good balance between casual and elegant is the best way. Never too much, never less. But when you see people, the most important aspects isn’t the clothes they wear rather the way they wear them and the attitude.
“Some people can wear a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt -and they will be look amazing because they have the chic, the way to act…seduce when they talk, the real dandy! Other wear the classiest tuxedo and they remain ridiculous. Always, the most important principle in men’s fashion and grooming is to feel comfortable in your clothes and not swayed by the situation.”
I agree with him, saying that fashion is for everyone but not all fashion is for everyone.
Q10: What basic clothing items must every man have in his wardrobe?
According to Philippe, these are the must have items for every man:
– White T-shirt
– White Sneakers
– Black Tuxedo Jackets
– Silk scarfs for spring and warm scarf’s for winter
– Black tie and bow tie (be careful; only if you don’t look ridiculous with it !!!)
– Beige pants
– Black boots
– Leather jacket (Perfecto!)
– Lucky charm bracelet (for the fun and touch of colour)
Q11: How aware are you of the South African fashion and luxury industry? What are your thoughts on it?
In a tone of regret, Philippe answers: “Actually, I’m not aware at all. In Paris they don’t really communicate on South African fashion and I have to admit that I don’t always have time to keep myself up-to-date every time I’m on the Internet, but I follow a little bit. I have seen some very good creations and it’s a pity that South African fashion is not more widespread in other countries. South Africans have talent!”
Q12: Any advice or words of wisdom for those wanting to follow a path in fashion?
“I think that having experiences everywhere, with different people, and industries is the most important. But of course,” he adds quickly, “first getting quality training in a good fashion and design school is important, just for the basic…you’ll have lots of time for the rest in life.
Q13: When can we expect you to visit South Africa?
Philippe smiles at this question and says, “I don’t exactly know, but I hope soon. I see how South Africa is developed and I can tell that in less than a year I’ll be there.” And he adds a whimsical little wink.
Well, one thing that I do say to him in response is that The Luxury Lifestyle Guide would be only too happy to play host, even work together on a project while he’s here. We have so much to share with Philippe about the South African experience.
For more information about Philippe Uter and to keep up-to-date regarding his work, visit www.philippeuter.com. And keep an eye on The Luxury Lifestyle Guide when we feature his visit to South Africa in the near future.
Next week Friday, 24 June 2011, The Luxury Lifestyle Guide features an interview with the man of many hats, Alessandro Mengozzi.