MOTHER: Olivier Saillard had questioned the relevance of his Moda Povera project within the fashion ecosystem. Not intended for sale, the idea was to highlight “ordinary” clothing by reinterpreting it using haute couture techniques and fabrications.
When the fashion historian lost his mother two years ago, an idea took hold. Should he consign her wardrobe, with no intrinsic value, to charity? Or should he give it a new life as befits his beloved parent? Renée, a mother of six and a taxi driver, had over the years bought her clothes from out-of-town supermarkets near her home in eastern France after shops in the city center closed, but she loved and looked after them, he explained. .
“When my mother died, I kept all her clothes because I thought it was unreasonable, as a fashion curator who had inventoried thousands of fashion collections from different eras, not to do anything with her wardrobe,” he said. “One day it dawned on me that this is what we should do with Moda Povera.”
He continued: “We realized while we were doing it, no one works on the intimate side, the memory of clothes. Fashion is a model based on novelty.”
In an hour-long presentation that was really more of a performance, Saillard helped her model and friend Axelle Doué take on each look one by one, gently smoothing out creases and gently brushing hair loose from her chignon back into place.
A narrator read Saillard’s written description of each, in French, a form of poetry that played on nostalgia for the transformed pieces, with humble T-shirts transformed into evening gowns, winter coats tailored into structured jackets and handkerchiefs made into delicate gloves. At the same time, the text (except for abbreviated English translations) was like a lesson in couture vocabulary, echoing Moda Povera’s educational vocation, which aims to help keep couture knowledge alive for future generations.
There was barely a dry eye in the Oval Salon of the National Archives – where 14 centuries of historical documents, including the trial of the Knights Templar and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen are kept – at the end of the presentation.
“I’m glad everyone has come to see this performance, because we have nothing to sell and nothing to offer except a moment of introspection,” Saillard said.