Photo Olivier Zahm
Photo Olivier Zahm
Models Laura Schellenberg, Madison Stubbington, Avery Blanchard, Amalie Frijs-Djurhuus, and Emma Surmon backstage at the Gucci Cruise 2016 show, New York. Photo Olivier Zahm
A detail of Gucci Cruise 2016 shoes, New York. Photo Olivier Zahm
READ "OLIVIER ZAHM'S COCKTAIL OF INTELLECT, SEX, AND THE SEVENTIES" AN INTERVIEW WITH OLIVIER ZAHM ON THE BUSINESS OF FASHION
Growing up the son of academics, Zahm, 52, never intended to work in fashion. "I was always going to art shows with my parents. They didn’t care about fashion or brands. They were more hippies and would wear old vintage clothes." Both were university professors, his mother teaching natural history, his father, philosophy. Until Zahm was 10 years old, the family lived on the campus of the Cité Universitaire in Paris, which became the backdrop to the May 1968 student riots. Zahm attended the Sorbonne, studying philosophy like his father, along with semiology and language. "Roland Barthes wrote a lot about fashion and that was always intriguing to me. I started as an art critic, I didn’t start with fashion and this is why when I look at fashion now I always look at it with an artistic angle."
Zahm began writing about the art scene as a stringer for publications such as Art Forum, Art Flash and Art Presse, while still at university. It was at this time that he met Elein Fleiss and launched Purple Prose. "At the time in France you had no interesting magazines for my generation. After a whole decade of 1980s fashion and art, I realized everything was changing and this change was totally fresh and exciting. But there was no media for that so it was right to do a small fanzine to express it. In ’91, ’92, the shows of Martin Margiela were extremely exciting and I did my best to sneak in or be invited. When Damien Hirst did his first show in Paris at Emmanuel Perrotin gallery, the big pharmacy, it was clear that he was a good artist and we wanted to write about it. And Alexander McQueen; it was clear that it was a new voice in the fashion world. So then you understand that this is the fashion of your time, these are the artists of your generation." Zahm had found his calling: to act as the mouthpiece for his own generation, reflecting back to his peers the work of artists and fashion designers he felt were setting the tone of the times.