REPORT

Grand Magasin at Galerie des Galeries

Paris

1 October 2014

The Galeries Lafayette is an institution for Paris’s fashion industry. Founded in the late 19th century, it is a luxury retailer housed in a multi-story Art Nouveau building. It has grown to become the best-known French department store.

It is fitting then that ANDAM – a similarly renowned organisation that is dedicated to supporting fashion in France and Europe and, which is presided over by Pierre Bergé – has organised a photographic exhibition in Galeries Lafayette’s cultural space, Galerie des Galeries. The resultant exhibition, Grand Magasin, is a show created to celebrate ANDAM's 25th anniversary.

To that end, ANDAM (short for National Association for the Development of the Fashion Arts) recruited Swiss photographer Philippe Jarrigeon to interpret the design aesthetics of 15 of its laureates. Each of the designers displayed have previously won an ANDAM fellowship while the organisation's grand prix carries with it prize money of €250,000. It is a body that that has previously recognised designers such as Martin Margiela, Viktor & Rolf, Bless and Gareth Pugh, all of whom are featured in the exhibition.

“It wasn’t difficult because from the beginning it was clear that I had carte blanche”, says Jarriegon, who graduated from ECAL in Switzerland in 2006. The exhibition features photography of each designer or label's work, shot within a department store setting. All of the images are photographed in Jarrigeon’s highly-produced style, an aesthetic typified by clear composition and bright colours. Through Jarriegon's lens even an experimental Gareth Pugh look takes on a merry radiance, while the usually understated and restrained Véronique Leroy gets an unusually bright and ebullient treatment.

“I’m not here to make everybody happy or recognisable in the picture”, states Jarrigeon. “I’m here to celebrate 25 years of fashion and the 15 ex-winners of ANDAM’s prize. Grand Magasin is my way to show the laureates in different ways.”

No matter how outlandish – a giant fluffy cat on an escalator; deceivingly accurate body doubles of Viktor & Rolf – the images have an air of perfection about them that reflects the idealism inherent in the fashion industry, presented in Jarrigeon's work in terms of fantasy. “This kind of photography is very staged”, acknowledges Jarrigeon. “It’s not so far from cinema. I consider photography like a big dinner-party. You have the guests, which are the stylist, the hairdresser, the make-up artist, and the clothes. The photography is that moment when all the guests are honoured. It’s about that moment, but everything is prepared.”

The images in Grand Magasin honour and celebrate the idea of a department store, spaces that have become generic shopping centres in the eyes of most. We pass through them with only our end-goal in mind: the desire to purchase that drove us there, a desire that fashion, with its aspirational and wish fulfilment qualities, is particularly adept at generating.

Yet through the eyes of Jarrigeon, we see things differently. His department store is an idealised, romantic space, not simply a centre of commerce. It is an idea fuelled by the photographer's disinterest in capturing verisimilitude in his images. “Fashion for me is a space where you can have a lot of liberty”, he says. “It’s very attractive, but when you clean the surface there are dirty things. Fashion is cosmetic. I like that a lot.”