[March 28 2017]
On a chilly New York evening just before the snowstorm and the shutdown of subways, Agnès B. put in an appearance for a talk and then book signing of her new autobiography, “Agnès B. styliste”, at the French Institute, with an introduction by film critic Amy Taubin and interview by journalist Melissa Ceria.
Agnès B. retains a quintessential down-to-earth gamine presence. Discovered by Elle magazine in the 60’s, she stood out of the crowd by wearing military jackets and petticoats from flea markets which was something that wasn’t worn in Paris at the time. The magazine hired her as a stylist, which is something she continues to call herself. She is known for designing the snap cardigans and the iconic black and white striped outfits worn by the models in William Klein‘s film “Who are You Polly Maggoo?” from 1966.
When asked why her name is consistently spelled with a lower case “a” she replied that she doesn’t like to emphasize anything too much and that she dislikes “bling bling.” She has never advertised her brand since its creation, but in 1996 she asked 66 photographers to photograph her iconic snap cardigan. She never looks at trend books, and describes herself as a peasant who works with instinct, most of all. She looks to the street for inspiration, not shows or other designers. The only fashion show she has ever attended was the last one by Yves Saint Laurent, when he said goodbye, at the Centre Pompidou.
Recently she was named president of the Hip Hop Center in Les Halles in Paris and commented that in France they call graffiti counter-culture, but that she doesn’t like this distinction, because for her, graffiti is culture! The discussion then led to her involvement in the arts. She has more than 3,000 works of art in her personal art collection. In July 2017, 540 works will go on display at the Yvon Lambert Foundation in Avignon, France. She loves artists, musicians, filmmakers, all types of creatives, and tries to surround herself with them as much as possible, even bringing them on trips with her.
In addition to her support of the arts, she is also an environmentalist, and sponsor of the Tara Expedition, a long term project that goes around the world studying the impact of climate change on the oceans. Agnès B. shared with the audience that now there are residencies available for artists on Tara, as even Napoléon took artists with him to Egypt.
Photo Robin Siegel