We interview legendary show producer Etienne Russo, who has realised shows for every major house
Y-3's dynamic, interactive set couldn't have been imagined by anyone other than Etienne Russo. The three-dimensional pyramid wall behind the runway began opening and expanding like a garden of triangular flowers, keeping in constant motion through several hundreds of individual projections that synchronized in perfect harmony. It was beautifully high tech, impressively bright and ecstatic in motion. Belgian-Italian Russo's company Villa Eugénie, founded in 1995, counts Chanel, Hermès, Miu Miu, Céline, Lanvin, Maison Martin Margiela and Dior Homme as clients, and since 2004 has been based in a minimalist former factory in Brussels, reconfigured with a glass canopy by architect Glenn Sestig. His journey in fashion started with the Antwerp six, namely Walter van Beirendonck and Dries Van Noten, who, at different times, he acted as model, salesman, cook, producer and lighting engineer for. (Russo organised Van Noten's first Paris fashion show back in 1991). Ahead of Y-3's catwalk, we spoke to the producer about his process, as well as creating such immersive environments.
Dazed Digital: How do you start working on a show?
Etienne Russo: It always starts from the collection. There's always a point of view, first of all is the identity of the brand, or of the collection, and then the briefing of the season. So this is always the starting point and then we do visual research in what we would like to go and when we are happy we share it with the designer, we get feedback and work on it if necessary until we find what we believe to be the most precise way to communicate the collection.
DD: What kind of elements are you working with in producing this Y-3 show?
Etienne Russo: Actually we are working with a video installation that is three dimensional. It's a sort of mapping but it's not a mapping.
DD: A sort of mapping like topography mapping?
Etienne Russo: You know like how they do for new buildings. Basically we made pyramidal forms that go along a wall of 50 meters. On that, in every triangle section, is a projection space where we change patterns, and colors. It's quite interesting.
DD: What are some of the key elements in this collection that influenced the maps?
Etienne Russo: Sometimes the final result comes 48 hours before. Or sometimes it all comes together the night before. They're putting the outfits together and the fittings decide exactly what it's going to look like so we always have a necessity to be flexible and to adapt to where it's going. Here it's nice because there was a lot of work being done and then you can sort of edit with the collection, you are building but start editing to be more precise. Sometimes it means putting in things you don't want or taking out things you would have loved to have been there, it's a give and take. Every show is like it's own world going on and a race against the clock, but it's a passion for me, not a profession, so that makes it easier.
DD: Were there any artists you were working with to make the video?
Etienne Russo: We were working with an artist called Dev Harlan. We had done research in the past and we stored it because we liked his work and then this came up and we said he's the perfect person to work with us on it.
DD: How did you find Dev?
Etienne Russo: 95% of our research is through the internet now. What the internet did was take people that were not able to communicate or they were communicating to a very small audience before – and give them a platform to the world. It's very interesting that we can pick people from wherever they are if they have something interesting to say.
DD: What about his work is so inspiring?
Etienne Russo: There's a lot of modernity to it. If you look at what we use every day we don't even realise, because it's every day like an iPhone or iPad, that everything is moving. You have movement in everything. We thought it was interesting how his work is always moving and the three dimensional part of it was very interesting to speak to this collection with. It brings the collection to a level where it talks to a specific audience that would recognise themselves in that. Aside from the fact that it's a beautiful installation it is a point of communication towards the audience.
DD: It being the 10th anniversary show of Y-3, was there any extra influence from that?
Etienne Russo: In the collection itself there were a few prints, which were in the first show, so we took the prints into the video and cut, remixed them.