La Samaritaine is a very old department store. It’s in the centre of Paris, really, not far from Notre-Dame. When it opened in the 1920s [when its famed Art Deco facade was added], it destroyed all the rival department stores because it was the most modern in Paris. When I first came to Paris in the 1980s/1990s, it was falling apart. Then LVMH bought it—they’ve done fantastic work to restore that jewel. It was going to reopen in the spring [this year], but obviously couldn’t.
So serendipity has worked, location-wise?
My office is just opposite. The space is absolutely stunning. They’ve been renovating it for a decade. Architecturally, it’s very beautiful, a masterpiece of Art Deco. They asked SANAA, the Japanese architects, to work on another part of the building, so there’s this verrerie, a glasshouse, on the top floor [that] is a fusing of the two buildings. It’s big, it’s empty. So we didn’t have to ship clothes across Paris for the show. For everyone to be safe, it’s practical, but also, to feel at home. And that’s so very nice.
Can you explain the scale of what you’re planning and what impact you’re hoping to make?
The message of today is not to be extravagant. It’s going to be beautiful, and about being responsible without losing the effect I want to give—which is [presenting] a great show, but maybe in a more balanced way than we are used to, when [we used to show to] an audience of 2,000 people. There are going to be two shows, with 200 guests at each of them. It’s going to be a maximum of 40 outfits—firstly, because this is not a time to develop too many things. But also because we have to be mindful of the attention we catch online—we have to be very careful about how long the show takes.
What makes it so essential that you still have a physical show?
I feel deeply that a live presentation is necessary. My vision is that, of course, it’s about fashion, and it’s about giving a great message for the future—which is also what fashion’s about, looking forward, something that creates desire. Also, to me, the actual responsibility to show is important because it’s about the artisans, the atelier, the production people. All the economics of it, and their passion. I feel very responsible for that these days, to be honest. The responsibility to go on.