Fashion Dispatch from Paris: What is Hyeres?

Courtesy of Hyeres 2010 International Festival de Mode et Photographie

I’m in Paris for the next nine days before heading to the South of France to cover the 25th annual International Festival de Mode et Photographie in the city of Hyeres for the San Francisco Chronicle.

With all the chaos happening for the past week in Europe, caused by that now infamous and insanely-hard-to- pronounce Icelandic volcano, my husband and I were anticipating that our working vacation might be postponed. But as good luck would have it, we left without a hitch on one of the first flights out of San Francisco to Charles de Gaul, which finally reopened this morning. (It was obvious that a crowd of anxious Europeans who had been stranded abroad were on our flight when the plane erupted in lively chatter and applause as we touched down.)

Although not widely covered by the American fashion press, the upcoming festival in Hyeres (pronounced ee-AIR), which takes place from April 30 to May 3, is an influential fashion festival and competition that showcases up-and-coming talent from abroad, and has served as a launching pad for such designers as Swedish knitwear designer Sandra Backlund and women’s- and men’s wear designer Henrik Vibskov of Denmark. Viktor & Rolf are Festival d’Hyeres alumni, having won the prize in 1993.

The top 10 who’ve made the cut this year hail from Austria, Spain, UK, Belgium, Mongolia, Netherlands, and South Korea. Along with exhibitions, fashion shows, and industry panels throughout the long weekend, a top honor will be bestowed upon one of the designers at the end of the festival by an 11-member jury of international industry experts, including this year’s festival president Dries Van Noten, Hermes’ co-artistic designer Pascale Musssard, and Sally Singer, fashion news/features editor at American Vogue.

Nathalie Doucet, president and founder of the Arts of Fashion Foundation. Courtesy of Arts of Fashion.

While I don’t make a habit out of jetting off to the South of France at a moment’s notice, I couldn’t pass up the rare invitation to attend the festival with colleague and friend Nathalie Doucet. A Paris native and former professor of fashion design, Doucet travels to Hyeres each year to stay on the pulse of new talent also for her own work as president and founder of the international Arts of Fashion Foundation based in San Francisco. (Look out for more on Doucet and A of F in another post.)

I’ll be sending out dispatches from all the events here, as well as on SFgate’s Unzipped blog, so stay tuned!

Travel and fashion are all that’s on the brain of the moment, so here are three parting recommendations for any upcoming trip you might have to France (all of which kept me infinitely entertained on my 12-hour journey):

SpareSoles: Awesome product. These cute and comfy ballet flats actually fold into themselves to fit into a convenient zip clutch, which folds out into a tote to carry the shoes you change out of. Brilliant for slipping into on the plane or when you can no longer bear teetering around in heels in any city.

“The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication and Glamour” and Eyewitness Travel’s “French Visual Phrase Book.”

The former is packed with fascinating details about how Louis XIV’s reign set all standards for luxury from the invention of haute couture to the elevation of the beauty trade.

The latter (below right) taught me how to say some essentials in a hurry: chocolate, cheese, red wine, and … shoes!


  1. My organization just sent me to Denver. Needless to say, I’m a tad envious (nothing against Denver–at least I didn’t need a phrasebook). Can’t wait to read all about your trip!

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