Pascal Millet isn’t your typical French fashion designer. Despite a long history with haute couture, he admits, “I find it a little too pretentious.” Having worked at Balenciaga, Givenchy (with Alexander McQueen) and Carven, he should know. Since launching his eponymous line, Pascal has dressed actresses, princesses, prima ballerinas and one Lady: Gaga.
While the fashion industry is notoriously volatile and capricious, Pascal is anything but. He’s warm, sincere and super relaxed just hours before showing his collection at Le Palais des Beaux-Arts — which is when we got to talk with him.
You come from haute couture. Do you miss it at all? How do you translate that sensibility to ready-to-wear?
I think it’s more or less the same craft, except with haute couture, you know your client very well because you’re working directly with them. With ready-to-wear, you might know some of the stores that are buying the clothes but you don’t know who the customers are. I absolutely love when I’m walking down the street and I see a woman I don’t know wearing my clothes. It’s such a surprise and a pleasure.
Having a couture background gives me the know-how to choose the best fabrics and cuts for luxurious ready-to-wear. But I don’t miss it at all. It’s a little too pretentious! However, we do special order at Pascal Millet, which lets me create one-of-a-kind things for the clients who’ve been with me since my haute couture days. And of course, wedding dresses.
I’m so sad I didn’t know that for my wedding!
Yes, I love making wedding dresses!
Do you have a specific woman in mind when you’re designing? Is she French, American or from somewhere else altogether?
It’s not one woman in particular. It’s all the women who surround me, some who are my best friends, some whom I might notice while I’m at a café, people-watching. (I love doing that.) It can be someone extraordinary who makes me do a double-take at the airport. Women who travel and have an international spirit — these are the women who become my muses.
What do you think is the biggest difference between a Parisian and an American when it comes to style?
I think Parisians own their clothes more. She may have a designer piece but it becomes a part of her style. The Americans are perhaps more literal, which for us designers is fantastic. They’re wearing what we want them to wear.
Parisians mix different designers, add an accessory here or there, and that’s what gives them that Parisian chic. The head-to-toe look that Americans do is what we as designers originally envisioned. And it’s wonderful.
It really was luck. The day after the collection, Rihanna’s people contacted me to tell me she wanted to wear the pink look. I thought, I’ll believe it when I see it. Not long after, I happened to go to lunch with a friend. When I got back to the office, everyone stood up and applauded. I had no idea why. It wasn’t my birthday. Then they all showed me their Instagram and Twitter. I couldn’t believe it. She was absolutely divine.
It really is about the women around me who travel to incredible places on holiday: Ibiza, Mallorca, India. It’s a real mix. I call it Hippie “Truly Chic.” The fabrics are magnificent which is essential for me.
Obviously, the seven to eight minutes of a fashion show are significant, but afterwards, I always think about the poor clothes hanging by their lonesome in a big department store. That’s when the fabric, the color, the embroidery need to call out to a woman and make her feel an emotion. That’s the most important.
I love flowing clothes. I’m really into a long length for daytime. It’s not red carpet. I love the idea of a woman in a long dress with flat sandals. I find it very feminine and delicate. There’s a poetry and romance to this kind of woman who dares to wear flat sandals with a long dress. (Of course, it’s essential that every woman has a femme fatale in her, too — with high heels!)
What are you going to do right after the runway show?
I’m going to drink a glass of wine on the terrace of a cafe! Patrick [Ney, his partner and CEO] and I always get away from the post-show madness, have a glass of wine and do a debriefing. One glass.
Can you tell us some of your favorite places in Paris?
I love the restaurant Tannat on Avenue Parmentier. Tuileries gardens is always spectacular. And I adore strolling around rue de Bretagne. It’s very hippie, very Parisian — but maybe best to go there when it’s not Fashion Week.