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Pascale Cayla (Art en Direct): "Contemporary art is one of the codes of luxury"

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Benjamin Fitzgerald
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today Jun 1, 2017
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Passionate about contemporary art, Pascale Cayla and Virginie Epry founded the Art en Direct agency in 1992, a project which has put their skills in communication and management into the realm of art and business. With 25 years business experience, Pascale Cayla sat down with FashionNetwork.com to explain how luxury has moved closer to contemporary art in the last 20 years, and the essential role art is now playing in luxury.

Pascale Cayla - Photo Bruno Khoury

 
FashionNetwork : When did art and fashion start working together? 

Pascale Cayla: 
In the 1980s and 90s, luxury brands carried a rather traditional and institutional image. Then, in 2001, there was a deflagration. For one of its most memorable runway shows, Louis Vuitton invited American artist Stephen Sprouse to collaborate on a collection of bags, which saw bags customised with fluorescent-coloured tags, shaking up everything sacred about the brand: the bag, the leather and the logo. With this stunt, Louis Vuitton woke up to the times.

FNW : What do you mean by that?

PC :
 In terms of image, contemporary art allows us to understand our times, cause it speaks of creativity, innovation, impertinence and disruption. Everything a business needs. Large firms, as well as banks, need to show their shareholders that they are visionary. And they do it through art. In luxury, this relationship has intensified over the last twenty years. It is beneficial to companies, but has also proved to be a tremendous opportunity for artists, allowing them to diffuse their art in a different way.

FNW : Today, what role does contemporary art play in relation to the luxury sector? 

PC :
 Contemporary art is one of the codes of luxury. Because of the values it echoes, but also by the ecosystem around it. Luxury customers are mostly connoisseurs and lovers of contemporary art.  Art has become a sign of social status and success, just like owning luxury-branded products. Today, if you work in luxury, you have to know the codes of contemporary art. For example, being in sales, in a luxury boutique, without knowing some of these codes, is a professional mistake. 

FNW : A message, which must be difficult to get through ...

PC : That's true. Sometimes these big groups have incredible art foundations, but they are left behind. Now, we are at a time when art is a lever of performance in terms of human resources. The fact is, interacting with art allows businesses to attract new talent, those who like culture and are in need of it, and it shows that a firm allows its staff to be creative and is capable of making them grow in areas outside traditional work duties. That's a social responsibility. Not to mention, it's a benefit for the business. A study in Canada showed that investment in staff wellbeing at work results in increased productivity (that is, a productivity jump from 1.5 to 1.7, according to the study). 

FNW : In what way?

PC :
Art allows people to open their minds, to find a creative space. That is all the more important today, where people are confronted by compressed routines. Involving an artist in a company means that they will question the workplace, as well as processes, by making things happen. In a production unit, the artist will push the worker beyond their duties, and consequently advance them. Art and fashion are constantly feeding into each other. Still, it is necessary to have the intelligence to engage it fully. One of the keys to success is continuity, long-term commitment. When entrepreneurs put in place a real strategy, corresponding to the needs of their staff, then it works.

FNW : Have companies changed their approach to art?

PC : After feeding into the imagination and communication of luxury houses, art has taken on a new dimension. For the last three or four years, I received different demands. Brands have sought contemporary art to motivate staff. This can take many forms: conferences, workshops, or even artists' residencies in production places to create a work with craftsmen or employees.
Producing something creative outside of their work duties will allow people to create the link. It tells of creativity, innovation, transversality. In any case, it is a gain for the company.

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