Dear MF fan’s family, today is an anniversary of the unforgettable concert series Avant que l’ombre… à Bercy 2006. It is 16 years ago to the day the Tour began. It was however Friday January the 13th of 2006. It is the only tour that Mylene did entirely in the month of January (13 dates exactly). She returned after almost 6 years of absence (since the Mylenium Tour ended in March 2000) and she has been definitely missed!
This exceptional performance was accompanied by stage design and costumes that are simply one of a kind. I will dedicate an entire post to the Avant que l’ombre… à Bercy – stay tuned. But today I would like to talk about an incredible designer who is a creative force behind Mylene’s stage costumes: one and only Maestro Franck Sorbier
interview with Franck Sorbier for IAO in 2006
IAO: When were you contacted to participate in Mylène Farmer’s Bercy 2006 ?
Franck Sorbier: I received a phone call in July. I was then a few days away from my haute couture show. I was asked if I would be interested in making stage costumes for an artist. And I said yes.
IAO: Wasn’t the request more specific than that?
Franck Sorbier: No. I was not told immediately who it was. I just knew she was a singer, for a show at Bercy.
IAO: Did you say yes anyway?
Franck Sorbier: Yes because I find the world of entertainment very attractive. I had just finished the costumes for “La Traviata”,
IAO: When did you know it was Mylène Farmer?
Franck Sorbier: As soon as I said I was interested. I imagine that if I had said no, I would never have known that I had been approached by Mylène Farmer.
IAO: Did you get even more excited to work on this show knowing that it was Mylène’s?
Yes because she has an absolutely personal universe and she has things to say. She is not one of the followers. Obviously, I was interested in meeting someone like that. Especially since she has always had a quest for aesthetics, whether in her music videos, her concerts or her TV appearances. It’s an approach that I like, which is similar to ours: in a parade, we don’t just drop girls on the catwalk to show off dresses. This is not the point. It is about creating a universe and a staging.
IAO: Do you think Mylène is a fashion icon?
No. Mylène is not a fashionable person. Unlike Madonna, to whom we often compare her wrongly, Mylène is not trendy (understand “trendy”, Editor’s note). She has an extremely defined universe, and very personal tastes. While Madonna is able to go from oriental zen style to disco style, including western. Mylène has a real line of conduct.
IAO: You mean you wouldn’t like designing outfits for Madonna?
Franck Sorbier: I cannot answer you. The human factor is important to me. There may be a gap between the image we have of a person and what they really are. So I prefer that it all start with a meeting. I think Mylène works like that too.
First I had to finish my haute couture collection. My parade took place on July 8th. I met Mylène on the 11th. An interview lasting several hours which thrilled me because Mylène immediately made me understand how important the costume was to her and that she was ready to devote all the time she needed to it. And that was confirmed since, after this interview, we saw each other again once in August, then in September, once or twice a week. The full costumes were delivered on December 26 [less than 3 weeks before the first concert – my note]
IAO: Was it complicated to keep this collaboration a secret?
Franck Sorbier: No because I think it is self-evident. When I hire someone for a collection, there is a confidentiality clause in their contract.
IAO: So the absolute silence was demanded from you?
Franck Sorbier: Honestly, I don’t know, I haven’t read the contract. But I think that’s the least of it. The idea was to work in peace.
IAO: And when the rumor spread that it was Christian Lacroix who would take care of the Bercy outfits, you didn’t want to scream that it was you in reality?
Franck Sorbier: No. I knew it would be known anyway in the end. It was more interesting to remain mysterious because the impact is stronger that way.
IAO: Do you know why Mylène came to you?
Franck Sorbier: She had seen in a magazine the photo of a bustier in red compressed ribbons that I had created.
IAO: How did you approach the question of her stage outfits?
Franck Sorbier: My wish was to respect Mylène Farmer’s universe by ensuring a certain continuity in what she had been able to do in the past, while trying to bring a different vision.
IAO: Do you mean you drew an inspiration from the work of your predecessors on the first three tours?
Franck Sorbier: No. But they should not be denied. I found it important to keep Mylène Farmer’s imprint and to bring something new to it. For example, when you know her clips, and especially the first ones (“Libertine“, “Pourvu qu’elles soient douces“), you tell yourself that thigh-high boots are essential – I found that this look suited her very well.
But I said to myself that we could perhaps make this Marquis evolve a little and make him more feminine. I also believe that it was also Mylène’s will. The purple outfit in the middle of the show is a little offbeat nod to this period. For the record, this purple organza dress was smooth fabric at first. But it was ultimately too steep and too bulky.
IAO: Did she have any particular wishes?
Franck Sorbier: Let’s say that the setting for his show was already being developed when we met. The story was therefore already written. It was then for me to start from what Mylène could like in my work and to make it evolve according to its decoration and the colors chosen for it. The goal was to create tables consistent with a very particular universe each time. We also had to take into account the aspect of mobility, always keeping in mind that these outfits were going to be worn for singing and dancing.
IAO: How did you work?
Franck Sorbier: During our first meeting, I brought Mylène a number of photo books from previous seasons by Franck Sorbier Couture. I was able to identify roughly what caught his eye. She then came to our house to try on different outfits which allowed me to see what she was looking for. Then came the stage of developing outfits. I submitted different drawings to her that she validated or not, depending on the case.
IAO: Did you use setlist?
Franck Sorbier: No because I didn’t get it before the end of September. So I first worked on an existing universe more than on specific songs. And afterwards, we saw what it could correspond to.
IAO: I imagine that for “Sans contrefaçon“, it was the song that dictated the outfit?
Franck Sorbier: There, yes. Besides, Mylène seemed delighted by the idea of the hat because she had never worn one on stage before. I think it fit the spirit of the song pretty well, with a Dickensian, street kid side. FYI, Mylène’s hat was covered with different laces. I say this because it was not necessarily visible from a distance.
IAO: Wasn’t it just frustrating for you to know that, in the room, we didn’t see these kinds of details?
Franck Sorbier: Frustrating, no. We just realize that it is not the same job. In sewing, we work on the details, while for the show, the important thing is the silhouette and the effect. But we nevertheless wanted to do sewing work for Mylène because I think that’s what she likes. This was also the case for Yvan Cassar and the choristers because they were in Paris, which facilitated the fittings. For the others, we asked for measurements and we did something a little more ready-to-wear; despite everything, the flamenco dancers’ vests are hand embroidered.
IAO: The carriers of the sarcophagus, at the start of the show, also had details about their outfits if I remember correctly…
Franck Sorbier: Yes, They had votive offerings on their coats – hearts, cherubs,… I had brought these votive offerings back from Venice for my ‘Opera’ collection last summer. Mylène had seen the coat when she came to the workshop and she loved it.
IAO: Were the Bercy outfits all original creations or did some already exist?
Franck Sorbier: Mylène came to help herself in the Sorbier locker room and thus laid the foundations to work on her outfits. For example, the famous red bustier from “La Traviata” that she had fallen for, I made her in purple, and in a slightly different way. The red side she loved was found in the velvet coat of the finale; it was also embroidered with real cultured pearls.
IAO: How many costumes were done originally?
Franck Sorbier: I offered her seven outfits. Six have come to life. Five were eventually worn.
IAO: Why one less?
Franck Sorbier: Because it made too many changes; it was too complicated to manage. Mylène had to sacrifice a red outfit that she liked a lot. She hesitated for a long time with the purple outfit she finally wore.
IAO: Did you make each outfit in multiple copies?
Franck Sorbier: Yes, we have all copied, except the purple bustier, the black guipure coat (from “Déshabillez-moi“) and the red embroidered coat at the end, which are unique pieces.
IAO: When I learned that you were in charge of the outfits for her show, and especially knowing that Mylène had chosen you from a photo in “La Traviata”, I immediately fantasized about long romantic dresses. Feeling reinforced by the confidence of Thierry Suc, the singer’s manager, to a weekly shortly before the first show: “The show is like opera”. I was almost disappointed that she is so often scantily dressed …
Franck Sorbier: When you work for someone, you respect their personality. This is what amuses me in this kind of adventure. I wasn’t going to make big petticoats after “La Traviata” anyway. Especially since this is not what Mylène wanted. I had designed an outfit in this style that she likes. But there was still the big mantle of the finale. And the purple outfit was in that spirit, but, because it was finally crumpled up, it didn’t have that volume anymore.
IAO: Tell us about the entrance outfit. What was the idea?
Franck Sorbier: There are several influences for this outfit. Mylène told me she was coming in a capsule. It reminded me as much of “Star Trek” as the Fayoum graves. I also spoke with Mylène about a scene from the film “Cleopatra” in which Elizabeth Taylor brings Caesar in front of Alexander’s tomb, a glass sarcophagus. The conquering side seemed important to me; the idea of armor quickly came to me.
IAO: For the final, Mylène gets rid of her tinsel to let herself be won over by the light in the simplest device, and thus leave without artifice towards another world. She wasn’t really naked. What is she wearing?
Franck Sorbier: A nude painted panties and bra
IAO: Did you attend each performance of the show?
Franck Sorbier: No because I was in a collection – I paraded on January 25. And I wanted to attend as a spectator to fully enjoy it. So I went there on the 27th only [of January 2006 – my note]
IAO: What did you think?
Franck Sorbier: I was dazzled. I had never seen such a show before. To be honest, I had never even been to Bercy.
IAO: How did you judge your creations?
Franck Sorbier: I found that it showed a wide range of his personality and that delighted me.
IAO: Which is your favorite?
Franck Sorbier: I like Mylène naked; the negligee suits her so well.
IAO: What happened to all the outfits?
Franck Sorbier: They are at Mylène’s; they belong to her. But she agrees to lend them to us for exhibitions or events of this kind.
IAO: Does she systematically keep all her outfits?
Franck Sorbier: I imagine so since I saw costumes that she wore on her previous shows.
IAO: Do you think that you will benefit from the Mylène Farmer effect like Jean-Paul Gaultier could benefit from a Madonna effect?
Franck Sorbier: It may be a bit early to find out. I just note that, on the net, my name is now often associated with Mylène. And I am delighted. But I don’t really realize because the important thing for me is that we met and taken part in a great adventure.
MYLENE TALKS ABOUT FRANCK SORBIER and his work on AVANT QUE L’OMBRE…
Le Journal du Dimanche , 08/01/2006:
“I had only one idea in mind. Find someone with a real inner world and connections with mine. Chance made me meet him in the person of Franck Sorbier“
“I saw in a magazine a nice report on the preparations and the rehearsals of a magnificent opera, La Traviata . I fell in love with one of the dresses of one of the singers. It was long, Second Empire style revisited. It was spread blood red. Sumptuous, gigantic. Like a flow of fabric, a voluptuous lava cascade. I knew immediately that this was the kind of outfit I was expecting. Love at first sight obviously.“
“Franck was not, I believe, more familiar with my world than I was with his. But I had themes in mind regarding the sets and the costumes.“
“I asked him to come to me. Alone. Franck is an extremely secretive person who does not easily leave his reserve and who does not easily betray his emotions. A language that I understand very well. We immediately recognized each other and got on well, without having to speak to each other. We both live in constant doubt. With, above all, the concern for a job well done.“
“I discovered the old-fashioned trades that make up the world of haute couture. I am no longer ignorant of the vocabulary of fabrics. I shared all the stages of creation. We started from scratch, from the sketches that were offered to me.“
June 8, 2007 Mylene Farmer, Benoit di Sabatino and Nathalie Rheims were present at the posh Dinner at the Cini Foundation. 52nd Venice Biennale.
She wore the dress created by Franck Sorbier but by her own confession afterwards “the dress had somewhat spoiled her evening because it is very heavy and rather uncomfortable“. Perhaps, it explains why she didn’t work with Franck since on any of her concert costumes. 😊
WHO IS FRANCK Sorbier …
Franck Sorbier is the only fashion designer in the world who has been awarded two prestigious honorary titles by the Government of the French Republic : he is the one and only Maître d’Art (Master of Art) amongst all the fashion designers
He is one of the very few Grands Couturiers (Haute Couture Fashion label – only 14 designers currently own this label)
Franck is born on January 4, 1961 (happy belated birthday!) Raised in the French Basque Country, at his maternal grand-parents, this is a childhood inspired by his own roots, exploring books of photos, leading to discover that the Couture has always been part of the family spirit : a linen maid fabricating bride’s trousseaux, a seamstress, sheet weavers or even a military uniform tailoring company in Alsace and in Paris.
Franck Sorbier is a Paris fashion house that achieved haute couture status in 2005. After working successfully for Chantal Thomas and Thierry Mugler, Franck Sorbier presented his first collection in 1987. Then, some major stores, such as Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus in the United States, Seibu in Japan, noticed him.
In 1995, The renowned French jeweler and watchmaker Cartier gave him the opportunity to present his winter 95/96 collection in a prestigious place, the “Carrousel du Louvre”. In 1996, he became a member of the French Federation of Couture and Ready-To-Wear, supported by Jean-Paul Gaultier and Sonia Rykiel. In 1999, Franck Sorbier designed glasses for Vuarnet sunglasses. He presented his first Couture collection this same year.
Franck Sorbier always innovates. Handling as the needle as the torch, as the fabrics as the metal, from the creation of Haute Couture dresses to the creation of silversmith trades, Franck Sorbier is all at once craftsman and artist.
Giving back all its meanings of the greek term “poïen”, standing for the art of an artist and of a craftsman as well, Frank Sorbier spreads a poetical thread all over his masterpieces.
Indeed, this is in the duet of roles – artist and craftsman, where the Couturier finds the blessing of his work.
Franck Sorbier involves in humanitarian causes for children and for education among others. He contributes to many charitable actions such as Action contre la Faim, Téléthon, Unicef, Unesco for sick children and African mothers living with HIV-AIDS … and also the heritage preservation for example.
The most federating project was to gather more than 190 celebrities by offering a textile pen and a square in organza in the way to describe their definition of Happiness : each square gave birth to a bridal veil sold at auction for the profit of a charitable action.
I would like to wish all the best to Franck in his future creations and to us all an opportunity to witness them