As director of Istituto Marangoni Paris, Valérie Berdah Levy oversees one of the top fashion schools in one of the world’s fashion capitals. Her background in law in education means that she brings a broad pedagogical perspective to the institution, where she has held this role since 2013. Through enlisting top designers as guest collaborators – Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing was recently announced as the school’s “fashion godfather” – Berdah Levy also creates essential and exciting connections between today’s leading talents and those who stand a chance of shaping the industry to come.
What, in your mind, has been the most significant change in fashion from two years ago?
The most important thing that the fashion industry at large learned in the two last years was the precarious balance of its seemingly clockwork organisation, with the immutable rhythm of fashion weeks, and the predictable tide of fashion crowd “migrations” around the globe. The pandemic shattered these schemes by freezing shows, people, and sales. But most importantly, it re-centred people’s desires and needs away from seasonally imposed “it” products and looks, forcing the industry to move out of its comfort zone and toward the customers – in their homes even – becoming more attentive and in-tune with their new sensitivity and tastes.
To what extent do you think fashion is about proposing and/or selling dreams?
Fashion is nowadays less about proposing a dream, and more about an attitude toward oneself and one’s direction in life. The new (more or less sincere) focus on sustainability, inclusivity, and respect toward the diversity of people give a more grounded feel to a brand’s communication and commercial offer, where the shift from image centred to personally centred is more open to interpretation and appropriation by each customer than before the pandemic.
How might this have this have a positive effect on people?
By getting further from imposing a brand identity on costumers, instead embracing diversity and imperfection, fashion is raising awareness and allowing individuality to express itself through the personal use of brand’s products. The focus is more on “I feel good” than the “I look good” in these clothes, shoes, makeup etc.
What is one trend or item of clothing that will define the coming year?
In my opinion, fun will still be big – the playfulness of clashing influences, and a general irreverence toward “good taste.” Anything lightening the mood of the (hopefully) post-pandemic recovery from the traumatic experience of these past years.
What would be your fashion dream-come-true?
Frankly, to be surprised, overjoyed, and even scandalised by fashion as this hasn’t happened for some time since. I feel an underlying current of “comme il faut” (properness) is still weighing too much on the industry and even young designers are less daring. C’mon people let’s shake things up a little!
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.