Purple Magazine
— The 30YRS Issue #38 F/W 2022

beauty revolutionary inge grognard


interview by olivier zahm
and aleph molinari
photography by kristina nagel



OLIVIER ZAHM — When did you start?

INGE GROGNARD — I’m turning 64. I really started as a make-up artist when I was 25 or 26. And, I have to say, Purple was one of the first magazines to believe in me. I remember that you and Elein Fleiss were the first to ask me to do something.


OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you remember some of your work for Purple?

INGE GROGNARD — In ’98, I published a small book — 500 copies — Make-Up, and you printed pictures from it in Purple. And then, we did something with gold and silver threads, with the French artist Annette Messager. Voilà. So, for me, Purple is really the people and the magazine that believed in me.


OLIVIER ZAHM — When we started the magazine, it was very small, but i-D and The Face were there. Was magazine culture important for you, coming from Belgium?

INGE GROGNARD — Yes, it was important. In the ’80s, we started to collect the first issues of i-D, The Face, Blitz, everything that came out of London. Because in France, there wasn’t much. I remember the first thing that came out was Jill, the magazine of Babeth Djian. It was Martin Margiela who told me about it. And the second one was Purple. A really important magazine coming out of France that wasn’t only fashion — there was art in it. Did you already have the Purple Sexe issue then?



INGE GROGNARD — It was a really interesting approach. When you grow up with art and music, it was good to see what was happening in France.


OLIVIER ZAHM — When we first saw your work at Margiela, it was like a revolution. Something totally new was happening in make-up and in beauty.


It was a reaction to actions that came before. Growing up with Thierry Mugler,

Claude Montana, and all this glam world. But suddenly the Japanese designers arrived

in Paris. That opened up everything for us. My group of friends in Belgium wanted to do

something that had not happened before. We were fully aware of what was happening

abroad, but wanted to do something else.


OLIVIER ZAHM — It was a reaction against the ’80s glamour?

INGE GROGNARD — Yes, it was also about a kind of brutalism, about refusing to have make-up on the whole face, the way you saw it before — you know, lips, cheekbones, eyes, and nails. I want to see skin, always.


OLIVIER ZAHM — You keep something real.

INGE GROGNARD — Real. Always. That was the beginning. We also had an important influence through Martin: he found the work of Linda Mason, a make-up artist and body painter who worked for Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto… I understood that more things were possible.


OLIVIER ZAHM — How would you define the Belgian aesthetic?

INGE GROGNARD — It’s darker. We sell dreams, but the dreams are not fairy tales. And that’s also what I have in common with Demna Gvasalia. They are dreams, in a way, but they stick to reality. They’re futuristic, but not very optimistic.


OLIVIER ZAHM — The dream is a way to reflect what’s going on. And what’s going on is not exactly a dream.

INGE GROGNARD — No, it’s not a fairy tale. What we try to do is to increase people’s interest in fashion, but there are other ways, like dreaming and all those clichés.


OLIVIER ZAHM — Your approach to beauty is conceptual.

INGE GROGNARD — It’s quite conceptual. It’s also romanticism. It’s quite dark, but there’s also optimism in it. I love romantic things but not sugary things.


OLIVIER ZAHM — You translate an emotion. It’s not beauty made just for pleasing people or seduction.

INGE GROGNARD — No. But I see seduction differently. Some people see seduction in lashes and eyebrow paint. I don’t see seduction in that — I see a mask that is covering up a lot. And make-up is a mask, but it’s the way you apply that mask… For me, emotion is very important. And much of what I do has to do with what’s happening around me, how I feel.


OLIVIER ZAHM — So, if you arrive in a bad mood…

INGE GROGNARD — It’s not about mood — it’s everything that’s happening in your life. There are nice moments, but sometimes it’s hard, personally. And I’ve always translated that into my work.


OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you don’t arrive on a set or shoot for a collection with reference images — you arrive with your mood?

INGE GROGNARD — When I do things for myself, yes. When I work with designers, they often give me a direction, and they ask me to make a mood board. It’s like what we did for Balenciaga, “The Lost Tape.” That was easy for me because everything came from the ’90s, and that was my period. So, I had all the references and I could work around that with my own stamp.


OLIVIER ZAHM — Exactly. The last story you did for Purple was incredible — the one with the teenager with the red drops in the eyes, the crazy mouth, and that weird attitude.

INGE GROGNARD — I make stories. But all the people are linked together in a way, and there’s always emotion. I love everything that is wet. I love liquids. I love tears. Like when you jump in water, I love that. I don’t want to do dry things.


ALEPH MOLINARI — But you come more from an art approach, no?

INGE GROGNARD — I’m very influenced by art, it’s true.


ALEPH MOLINARI — First, it’s more conceptual, but also the skin becomes a canvas on which you intervene with volumes and textures, and then you imprint the emotion and the concept. What informs your sense of beauty?

INGE GROGNARD — Everything that is happening, but most of the time, it’s going to exhibitions, seeing documentaries. Sometimes, music can put me in a mood. I can play a song 20 times on repeat because it puts me in a certain kind of mood. What also inspires me is when things are not going well. When bad things are happening, it makes me angry. And I need that anger.


OLIVIER ZAHM — How do you keep your energy so high?

INGE GROGNARD — I pull back sometimes. I live in Antwerp — in a way, it’s a village. So, I’m in cities, but then I can pull back. I’m in a house, a garden. I’m surrounded by people in fashion but also outside fashion. Sometimes, I don’t see people for three or four days because I love to be on my own. I need space. I pull back out of the city because when I come to Paris and the rush, sometimes at the beginning, it’s like, “I can’t continue.” Once you’re in it, it’s fine.


OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you think there’s an Inge Grognard school? Have you influenced people?

INGE GROGNARD — Yes, I probably did. And I see it in my assistants. Some can do what I do, but some can’t — you have to feel it. And that’s the difference.


OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s like being a painter?

INGE GROGNARD — Yes. And I always have to explain to them that it’s important to have a light hand. You can put a lot of paint on your brush, but then it’s the way you do it.


OLIVIER ZAHM — I’ve seen that with a lot of make-up artists — there’s an idea but no emotion.

INGE GROGNARD — It’s only technical. I see it all the time. Like when there is a perfect eyeliner, like in haute couture, I’ll explain it and say, “No, you have to go more to the right” or whatever. They can do that. No problem. But then, when you start to work freehand, there I have to do it myself. Normally, I have a good team, but I still do a lot myself. I don’t have a personal assistant.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And do you sketch on paper?

INGE GROGNARD — No, never. It’s in my head… Conveying it to the photographer is sometimes a struggle. They have to see it, then they have to capture it. When you work with other people, you have to also give them freedom. Working together is really working together — it’s not only about me. I don’t have any problems with that because otherwise I’d have to take the photos myself.


OLIVIER ZAHM — So, how do you see these past 40 years of fashion? You’ve been part of so many shows, so many magazines, three or maybe four generations of designers. It all started in Antwerp.

INGE GROGNARD — Yes, with the connection that I had with the Antwerp Six.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And you met Martin Margiela when you were a teenager.


I met Martin when he was 14. I met his niece first when I was 12, in school.

Then I met Martin around a year and a half later, and all three of us were totally

mad about fashion. All the money we got from our parents went to clothes. The first

time we came to Paris on our own — we were 16 or 17, I think— we went to the Marché aux Puces.

We spent all the money we had. No food. We were almost bleeding. We were drinking cheap red wine. And then, it’s really ridiculous, in the evening, we dressed up, sunglasses on, and went walking on the Champs-Élysées. Can you imagine? But that was the image of Paris. And even Martin — we were two girls and him. We dressed up.


OLIVIER ZAHM — Super glamorous.

INGE GROGNARD — With those big pardessus [an overcoat]. You could find them at the Puces. And small leather jackets in brown-y orange, with the elastic… We had cowboy boots in the same color as the leather jacket because they were cheap at the Marché aux Puces. We loved going there and buying inexpensive clothes. At the end of the day, we were going to a cheap hotel, spreading all the clothes on the bed, and we were happy. We were very young.


OLIVIER ZAHM — What was fashion for you? A bit of a rock ‘n’ roll or pop star attitude…

INGE GROGNARD — It was a passion. We didn’t want to be like the other people in school. It was a bit of everything because we thought fashion was very glamorous. It was a search for identity. We all come from a small place, Limbourg. It’s green, but there is nothing. We wanted to be in the big city. That was our dream. For me, the first step was Antwerp.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And going to the city was also about getting dressed up.

INGE GROGNARD — Yes. Every weekend, we would take the bus to Maastricht in Holland, where they had fancy boutiques selling brands like Fiorucci. So, we’d take the bus together and go shopping. Every weekend. The only thing in my life was clothes.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And that’s what led you…

INGE GROGNARD — To get into make-up. I did drawing a bit in evening school, but it wasn’t really my thing. I wanted to do make-up. My parents were against it, so I had to finish high school. When I started at the end of the ’70s, there was no school for make-up artists. I had to do aesthetics — manicure, pedicure, whatever. So, I learned the basics there.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And Martin was already into fashion. It was clear that was what he wanted to do?

INGE GROGNARD — He was very into fashion, yes.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And you ended up doing, what, 40 shows for Martin?

INGE GROGNARD — I did 20 years, so 40 shows.


OLIVIER ZAHM — You’ve worked with many other Belgian designers, like Walter Van Beirendonck, A.F. Vandevorst, and Dries Van Noten — so many shows. And now, there’s a continuity with Demna at Balenciaga. The story continues.

INGE GROGNARD — That’s what I felt when I first met Demna, who called me to work on a show for Vetements. When Martin left his company, for me, it wasn’t the same anymore. When Vetements started, it was the first time since Martin stopped that I wanted to buy clothes again.


OLIVIER ZAHM — So, your true inspiration for make-up is fashion. It’s the clothes…

INGE GROGNARD — …that give me the desire to express something, yes.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And then Demna went to Balenciaga. You worked with him from the beginning?

INGE GROGNARD — Yes, because he’s very loyal. When he believes in you and there is trust, it’s easier for him. When you have to work with somebody new every season, it makes life complicated.


OLIVIER ZAHM — What about your color palette.

INGE GROGNARD — Black, red. I love blue, also. Sometimes, a really heavy blue. I always come back to those colors.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And you’ve never wanted to create your own line?

INGE GROGNARD — No, no. So many people have started that already. You have to do something very commercial in order to sell well.


OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you won’t compromise. In a way, you’re still anti-system.

INGE GROGNARD — Yes, a bit. Of course, you have to make compromises, but I don’t want to sell myself. I haven’t done it for 40 years — why should I give in now? People say, “You’re still a bit underground.” I say, “I prefer to stay underground than to have millions of followers whom I don’t know.”


OLIVIER ZAHM — Plus now, it’s depressing, so many celebrities have beauty lines. Even influencers…

INGE GROGNARD — I don’t want to be dependent on anything. My freedom is very important. I don’t work for a brand — I work with and for designers. When a designer is no longer in the brand, forget it. That’s what happened with Vetements: Demna’s soul is no longer there.


OLIVIER ZAHM — So, basically, you’re an artist who works with artists.

INGE GROGNARD — For example, I worked 20 years with A.F. Vandevorst because they are friends. There’s an emotion.


OLIVIER ZAHM — These Belgium designers like Jurgi Persoons were taking risks.

INGE GROGNARD — Yes. They had an interesting image. The moment you get big or when you are part of a big house, it’s another story. That’s what I like about Balenciaga: they use personalities for the campaigns, they still take risks, and do shows in interesting ways. Demna also deals with reality, politics, and everything. I love that.


OLIVIER ZAHM — You have this energy and sense of optimism that you’ve never lost, despite your dark aesthetic.

INGE GROGNARD — I don’t want to lose that optimism. It’s not about money. When I was working the first 10 years, I did so many things for nothing. I slept in a crappy hotel when I did Margiela. Because there was no money. You had to pay for everything yourself. I took a train. It was not a Thalys — it took four hours. Today times have changed, even with assistants, the first thing they ask is, “How much is it paid?”


OLIVIER ZAHM — What has changed in fashion today?


Everything is going too fast. I’m very happy that I

come from a genera­tion that had time to grow slowly,

to know what we wanted, to know our aesthetic.

Thirty years ago, I wanted to be the best in the things I liked. I was quite ambitious, but not in terms of magazines and people talking about you, followers. There was no social media.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And beauty was not considered an important part of fashion back then.

INGE GROGNARD — No. When people talked about shows, rarely was there something being said about make-up or hair. From a journalist’s perspective, it was just not done to talk about that.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And how do you see the future of beauty? It’s going more and more into virtual transformation. You’ve experimented with that at Balenciaga, with the video game. But as a beauty artist, there’s a transformation of the face, of texture, with all these…

INGE GROGNARD — It’s all about filters. But it makes people too beautiful.


OLIVIER ZAHM — And you don’t want to do an Inge Grognard filter?

INGE GROGNARD — Can you imagine? I can’t see that people would want to buy that. But sometimes I think it’s for the generation after me. For example, paying €3,000 for a pair of virtual sneakers to put them on your avatar on social media…


ALEPH MOLINARI — Do you feel like these filters and the metaverse are changing people’s conception of beauty, of themselves?

INGE GROGNARD — Some people go to doctors to be transformed into the way they look with a filter. So, it’s tricky. All the filters you can use, it makes you beautiful or crazy or stupid, but it’s totally fake.


ALEPH MOLINARI — Look at Madonna — she’s became an anime character.

INGE GROGNARD — Jesus… Some people want to look like Ken and Barbie, but how far can you go?


OLIVIER ZAHM — And how do you see the way fashion is evolving?

INGE GROGNARD — With everything that’s happening, with Covid and the war, I think it’s difficult. Everything goes really quickly with social media. People find you on social media, and then after two years they stop working with you. And that’s a pity. There is no evolution possible.


OLIVIER ZAHM — In terms of your personal work, how do you see your next step?

INGE GROGNARD — I think the moment I won’t be relevant anymore, I will stop. I’m not going to do this until the end of my life. I’m not going to travel with all those bags until I’m 80. Forget it. I live in Belgium, so I do my own bags with no assistant, and I’m on the train with my two big bags, on my own. But I’m still waiting for a good new generation in make-up to take over. That’s what I always say. Never give up.


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The 30YRS Issue #38 F/W 2022

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