Purple Magazine
— Paris Issue #31

allegria torassa

allegria torassa

interview and photography by OLIVIER ZAHM

a new collective called g.a.f. [give a fuck] emerged from the fashion scene in paris, pushing the industry to think about the world in a friendlier way

OLIVIER ZAHM — Could you tell me about your work in fashion design?
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — It’s been more than 12 years. I was doing a bit of everything before I joined Balenciaga. That was my first real design studio. I learned a lot there. Or at least I learned about luxury and research. It was a time of total experimentation for us. We were looking for new techniques, other textures. It was like a fashion laboratory. We might try to find new lacing systems, for instance. We’d lay out an infinity of possibilities to find a solution for each garment, always a different solution. Then I had a serious accident, and I was laid up for a year. Afterward, I took charge of the Balenciaga pre-collection, and I had a creative team working with me. I seldom saw the light of day. We were leaving the studio so late back then that we’d never even see people strolling through the streets in the evening. The pace was pretty hectic, and we were working a lot.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What would you do to counterbalance the pressure of your design work?
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — Music has always provided an escape for me. I was producing a band and holding acid-house soirées. I always managed to split my time between music and fashion. That would straighten me out because I didn’t want fashion to be the only thing I did.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Then you quit fashion.
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — After my accident, I was off my feet for a year. I couldn’t move at all. When I recovered, I was overwhelmed with a desire to celebrate my body. I became a raver. I set off for Poland and Germany and would dance for hours. I’d go to some really brutal raves, not the Parisian ones. Raves with techno, minimalist music, and trance. Some people take to raves as a sport, others as a place to get high. I realized there are often people in wheelchairs at raves. They’re places where paraplegics and tetraplegics can feel alive. They feel they get some movement in their body because the bass and the rhythm are so strong. I felt that when I was in the hospital and then in a wheelchair. I couldn’t stand listening to music with lyrics or to love songs. None of that made sense anymore. I was on morphine, in a wheelchair, in a hospital with people who’d lost everything. The only music I could listen to was classical or hardcore. Nothing in between. It’s like the bass would invade me and make me feel like I was mobile again. When I recovered from the accident, I dreamed of being in a place where I was engulfed in music and dance. Little by little, I realized that I was encountering a lot of wheelchair-bound people at raves. So, I’d go see them. I’d go see the people accompanying them. Now, when I see someone in a wheelchair at a club, I plant myself in front of them and dance as hard as I can.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And you gradually decided to hold a soirée in Paris? Could you tell me about “Cicciolina”?
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — Yes. It’s now in its seventh year. It takes place two times a year, during Fashion Week. We don’t hold it on weekends or Thursdays anymore. We have to shift it to some absurd day like Tuesday evening to get the people who really want to go, to actually go. Otherwise, there’s too many people, and we don’t want to change venues. We’re still at the Folies Pigalle, in the ninth arrondissement. We announce it in the morning for the same evening. The flyer always arrives at the last minute. During that week, there are parties all over, in these sublime venues, where the drinks are free and where everyone’s beautiful. There are trendy DJs and finger food all over. And then there’s Cicciolina, which is in this sort of grimy place, where the drinks are vile and you have to stand in line to get in and pay at the door. But as a result, everyone has a great time. It’s packed.

OLIVIER ZAHM — How do you account for Cicciolina’s success?
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — It’s a place for freedom. It’s not a sponsored party, where they try to sell you a product or a brand, however prestigious. Brands have often approached us about setting up a stand at the door in exchange for this or that, and linking their name with ours. But we’ve always refused, with a few exceptions. You can’t associate yourself with brands. The whole idea is that there are no brands involved, nothing. It’s just a playground for adults, where they can let go during a particularly high-pressure week. There’s an admission fee, so that we can pay the artists and get paid a little ourselves, but it’s a token fee.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Fashion parties aren’t much fun anymore. There’s too much marketing. They’re too much of a means to an end. I hesitate to throw them myself for the magazine for those same reasons. Everyone ends up being too self-aware.
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — You’re celebrating a brand, even if it’s your own. You’re celebrating consumption, a system, or who you are. You’re actually going to work, to show yourself, because you’re delighted to show off your new look, or you go because the drinks are free. But at a fashion-brand party, you’re always representing something. Someone will inevitably show up with a camera. And suddenly, you’ve got photographers everywhere, so you’re a little stressed. You feel like you’re part of the content.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Paris is losing its sense of protest, its antagonism for the system.
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — It’s the same all over. Mostly because of social media. Nowadays, there’s no room at night for intimacy anymore, no room for privacy. Now, you give it all, show it all. We’re losing experience. We’re always curating our own selves. It’s as if we were all putting out a magazine of our own. Real parties don’t have cellphones. People call me to say that Cicciolina spares them two months of therapy! Everyone in Paris is on antidepressants or in long-term therapy. But it changes nothing whether we speak of ourselves as “good” on social media or reveal our dirty little secrets to the shrink. We’re missing what’s really happening, passing by our very selves. You’ve got money, magnificent children, lots of clothes, too many shoes in the walk-in, and you travel luxuriously, but you’re depressed.

OLIVIER ZAHM — On social media, people develop pseudo or fake identities and try to conform to them so they can boost their likes or their followers or their market value. But in doing so, you gradually and unwittingly diverge from who you are. At some point, the gap gets too wide, and that, no doubt, is when the psychological suffering sets in.
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — Is this what Parisians have become? We can’t allow ourselves to be destroyed by social media. We’re missing out on our own experience, on our lives and what’s happening in the world. I think there’s a lot of that. I think a lot of people put blinders on and pay dearly for it. It comes back to hurt them.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You’ve recently taken on a bigger problem, having to do with fashion itself and the way it produces clothing.
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — Yes. I’ve wanted to call into question the meaning of what I’ve been doing. A lot of us are questioning what we do in fashion. I did two shows for Acne after Balenciaga. I loved it, but I wanted to stop and take a break. I’d been working like mad. I didn’t have time to take stock of myself or take a look at what was happening: the terror attacks in Paris, the climate disaster, the migrants in Paris… I had to stop, so I could look at what was happening. And in fashion, you can pass right by what’s happening because you’re always working to a calendar with endless cycles. You have to be supplying constantly. Today, I have a child. I wanted to take the time to observe.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you’ve stopped everything?
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — The only links I’ve kept are to music and parties for certain fashion shows. I’ve been handling music for Chloé since Natacha Ramsay-Levi’s arrival there. Music has always interested me.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And you’ve just founded a collective called GAF [Give a Fuck].
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — It’s a group of people, not just me. It’s not closed. It’s structured around a state of mind, an expansion of awareness.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What’s happened in your life to drive you to ask such questions?
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — I spent a year detached from just about everything. This summer, in particular, I asked myself a lot of questions, like, “How can I keep doing what I love to do in fashion and find some meaning in it?” I spent a lot of time alone with my son. I didn’t have any dinner parties or do anything social. I was invited to Greece and Ibiza, but I said: “No. I’ll be staying in the South of France, alone with my son.” I’d go snorkeling for an hour every day. That’s all I’d do, apart from reading and sleeping. I observed myself and what was happening around me. I did it at the hospital, too. And I realized that the situation was even worse than I’d thought. Not just ecologically or politically, but even in the way people relate to one another at the beach or at a resort. Two lovers together, the way people spend money at a beach, or at a soirée: all that, I said to myself, was completely mad. It was decadence. I was in the South of France. Between Monaco and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, you’ve got the more jet-set side and at the same time simpler people. There’s the guy who orders a €2,000 bottle at a restaurant on the beach, and there’s the family at the beach with everyone on their cellphone. The blasé girl with the lobster on her plate. A girl who goes to a paradisiacal little beach for a swim, takes along a brand-name bag, and seems to be at the end of her tether. And she still takes a selfie, pretending to be happy. And then, you see what’s going on in a place like Yemen. I said to myself: “We’ve come a long way. How are we going to get out of this?” At the beginning of August, Nicolas Hulot, the French Minister of Ecology, delivered a live speech, saying, “Folks, I just wanted to tell you that so far nothing’s been done, and nothing’s going to change, so I’m forced to resign because I’ve become the face of the lie.” It’s stupid, but that made me cry. I said to myself that if someone like him couldn’t get anything done in the government, then no one could. I said to myself: “Who could do something if not me? If not us?” We are the only ones responsible, the only ones who can exert the political pressure to create a system within the system. So, I said to myself that people in fields like fashion, art, music, and cinema have incredible power. We all have billions of followers. Couldn’t we take this tool that’s ruining all human relations and use it to counter all that? How can we found a movement that’ll be the movement of our era? It has the potential to be as important as the punk movement of the 1980s, or the sex and rock ’n’ roll of the 1970s. How can we muster the strength of those eras?

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you figured that GAF should be sexier, more connected, and trendier to start mobilizing people around us.
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — Yes. I said to myself, “From now on, when I throw a fashion party, a Cicciolina party, I have to include that dimension.” With the most recent Cicciolina, in September, for example, half our proceeds went to The Ocean Cleanup, a project that cleans up plastic in the oceans. When you walked in the door, there were lots of great posters with a bit of a punk allure. Instead of green stuff with trees on it, it was red on black, with very simple slogans. You can pay attention to it or not. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t hit you over the head. It was already enough to give you a hint that part of the money was going to be donated. The idea is to talk about all this stuff, but not in a militant or annoying way. On the contrary, we want to bring that awareness to everything we do, even to parties. And to our work, too, of course.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Vivienne Westwood was a pioneer. And Stella McCartney, for animals.
ALLEGRIA TORASSA — Yes, it’s true. They’ve been at it for a long time. As if by chance, they’re women. But the idea isn’t just to throw parties; it’s to expand the field of action. Now, when they call me for this or that fashion project, or to take up this or that brand, I say okay, but I set some pretty radical ethical conditions, even at the cost of squandering the job opportunity. And I’ve lost some because people think it’s too risky and they’re going to lose money. When a big brand called me recently, I was radical and felt good about it. I didn’t piss my pants because so-and-so was calling to offer me money and it might not happen again.

END

ALLEGRIA TORASSA LOUIS AUGUSTE LÉVÊQUE, DIANE, 1866, TUILERIES GARDEN

[Table of contents]

Paris Issue #31

Table of contents

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