The Cultural Services of the French Embassy, in a move sure to delight fashion-lovers and Francophiles alike, is continuing their style-centric Breakfast at 972 panel series—the same one that saw us chatting it up with Olivier Theyskens about a month ago.
In addition to designing his eponymous accessories label and working with the aforementioned all-American high street store, Hardy’s spent over two decades as the Creative Director of men’s and women’s footwear at Hermès, where he later put his stamp on the house’s jewelry. Add to that his responsibilities as Balenciaga’s resident shoe designer, and it’s a wonder that the bespectacled cobbler still finds time to serve as a teacher and mentor to art/design students on a weekly basis!
Here are some of the choice takeaways from the morning’s chat, which was once again moderated by Charlotte Sarkozy and Timothée Verrecchia:
Art—not fashion—was Hardy’s first love. “My family was never into fashion—they were quite sporty, and very involved in dance. My parents were teachers, and so I prepared to become the same. Clothes were never my dream…it was always more about painting, sculpture, and architecture.”
He got his big break at the world’s greatest luxury labels. “I started designing shoes for Christian Dior in 1987…and at that time, though Dior was a centerpiece of the entire fashion world, I had no idea! Then in the early nineties I went to Hermès. That house has such a great amount of history–it’s like a national treasure. My own label is ten years old, and in comparison, that’s so young.”
He was pals with Balenciaga’s main man long before they began working together. “Oh, I’ve known Nicolas Ghesquière for about fifteen years. It’s like working with a brother!”
He applies core artistic concepts to his work as a shoemaker. “An artist is always trying to make shapes that are completely new to everybody. Sometimes I wonder, though, am I doing something new—or am I just doing the same thing as before in a different way?”
Designing his boutiques provides Hardy with yet another creative outlet. “When I do a store, it’s just another way to express myself on a different scale. New York is my second home, so opening that store here [on Jane Street last December] was like a childhood dream. The store is meant to feel like a little house! I think it’s important to keep things very personal.”
Hardy would never give up teaching, his primary passion. “It forces me to analyze what I do from another point of view. It gives me perspective, and that’s very refreshing.”
Teaming up with Gap was a no-brainer from Day One. “Many mainstream brands had asked me to work with them before, but I said yes to Gap because it has such a clear, specific image. I’ve been lucky to work with Dior and Hermès, big luxury brands, but the challenge of making shoes on a more simple scale is great for me.”
When it comes to inspiration, Hardy’s always looking ahead. “Vintage references, things from the past…they don’t interest me so much. I say, let’s move a step forward!”
He truly believes in the transformative power of fashion. “Sure, they won’t make you better, stronger…but clothes and accessories can definitely change you in a small, special way.”
Don’t get your hopes up for Pierre Hardy ready-to-wear. “I try to stay focused on just a few things—clothes, jewelry—but it’s difficult! I feel like when a shoe designer tries to do clothing, or a clothing designer tries to do furniture, it can turn out…not so great. But it’s definitely tempting…”