|Nathalie Agussol is a stylist, editor and designer–an all-around fashion industry veteran. A contributor to the most recent edition of Lingerie On Film, we had the chance to ask her a few questions her all encompassing work and her newest endeavor, the publication Pan & The Dream.|
Photo by Paul Westlake
Where did you grow up? Do you think the location has shaped you in anyway?
I was born and raised in France before moving to Australia in my late teens. Places and cultures have a very strong influence on your upbringing. Your identity is shaped by what it is you know in those early years. It always stays with you, but if you move around a lot as I did, you also go through a process of embracing new influences. We are an incredibly adaptable species.
Can you tell us about your upbringing and background? What was your childhood like, and how was creativity and self-expression cultivated in your adolescence?
I come from a very culturally mixed family. Different countries, different religious backgrounds and whilst it was confusing as a child, not having one strong definitive identity like the other kids around me, it made me very open and accepting of other cultures. I tend to gravitate towards people who also have had very mixed experiences in their lives. I was a shy child and an awkward teenager, so I wasn’t an instant ‘friend maker’ whenever we moved. I spent a lot of time on my own with books, drawing pads, pencils, paint brushes and daydreams. I made clothes for myself and my army of Barbie dolls (my daughters think this is hilarious), and I was obsessed with collecting fashion magazines.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A fashion designer!
What was your path into the fashion industry?
I was very fortunate that a relative of mine was very closely associated with Yves Saint Laurent back when he was still the man behind the brand. She made a couple of introductions for me and I spent a year in Paris doing some internships here and there. This was my gap year after high school, before going to university, and although I had been accepted into a ‘difficult to get into’ fashion design college, I declined my spot. I was no longer sure learning how to cut and sew clothes was really what I wanted to do.
I also did a short spell in a photographic studio where I got to help out on set, and Guy Bourdin was one of the photographers who shot there. I had no idea how incredible this was at the time - although I could tell by the way people were acting around him that he was an ‘important’ photographer. This was the late 80’s and fashion was over the top. I realized then that I was more in love with the process of creating a fashion image, a world of fantasy and make believe, rather than creating ‘real’ clothes for real people.
You work as a stylist, you design accessories, and have created a magazine all under the name Pan and The Dream. Where does the name come from and why have you chosen it for yourself?
It is kind of a long story and I, myself, have many interpretations for the reasons why I chose the ‘name’ PAN & The Dream. I had worked as a stylist and fashion editor for a long time and had reached a point in my career where it was no longer satisfying. The industry had changed a lot and you either go with it or you go and do your own thing. I thought long and hard about what I really wanted to do and the question I asked myself over and over was what is my DREAM?
This word ‘Dream’ just stuck with me. I give dreams a lot of importance. In dreams, there are no limitations whatsoever and there is no censorship; it’s a world that is entirely your own. It is where you are truly free to create and draw inspiration. PAN is a mythical creature who lives in the dreamy world of Arcadia and is a companion to the nymphs. It is highly romantic, something I am always drawn to and I think evident in my overall aesthetic. It also has a more personal meaning but I like to keep some things ‘personal,’ which is why I chose to have this name rather than use my own. I am by nature quite reserved and value a sense of privacy. I have no interest in being a social media celebrity or to be recognized on the streets. There is such a sense of freedom in anonymity, and in fact, I think it is now possibly the ultimate luxury!
How long have you had your accessories line, and can you share how it began, and what it’s about?
I have been making the socks for a little over two years now. It kind of happened by accident. I had designed a cotton tulle bralette and panties and wanted to make socks to match. The socks didn’t really work out in the cotton tulle but looked amazing in nylon tulle. I posted a pair on Instagram and so many people wanted them, I decided to put them into production! At the time, there was nothing else like it on the market. The fashion editors were featuring them a lot and stores were ordering them like crazy. It has now slowed down to a more manageable pace that is giving me the time to develop new things and work on collaborative projects with other like-minded people.
As a stylist, the accessory is the all-important item. Sometimes, it is about knowing when not to add anything, but often, it is adding that one item which will give a look its own twist and personal touch. A piece of clothing can be quite a financial investment, but a smaller piece, such as an accessory, can give new life to an existing wardrobe. It can lift a look from plain to impressive. Fashion is a big contributor to environmental waste, pollution and other evils. It has become increasingly important to be mindful of what we buy and how much we buy. Sometimes, a small (ethically made) accessory is all that is needed for a little wardrobe pick me up.
The first volume of your magazine, Pan & The Dream, came out this past summer. It seems more and more these days that people's need to see images is satisfied with digital content. What prompted you to start a printed publication?
Just like everything else, digital media has its upside and downside. As much as I enjoy many aspects of it, such as immediacy, connectivity and the endless source of visual material, digital media is just not palpable. In the case of Instagram, there is an over-saturation of tiny images that are seen only for a fleeting moment. When looking at art like this, you are seeing it not how it was intended to be viewed; and when art is out of context, you are not getting the meaning of the image. It devalues everything about it. It is great if the content is created specifically for viewing digitally - and there is some amazingly creative and stand out digital imagery - but I do not get the same excitement that I would get from a beautifully crafted publication, one that is a thoughtfully curated palpable object that I can go back to and look at again and again.
I also really wanted the magazine to be collectable. PAN is in fact a hybrid between a magazine and a book, but also a companion to, rather than separate from, the digital world. The magazine’s website features links to the contributors websites or Instagram accounts. This way you can find out more about them.
This first volume deals with the naked form and censorship. Why do you think women’s bodies and our nipples, in particular, are so threatening to people?
Yes, all the censorship happening on social media is really bothering me. I am not against censorship of some kind but it is the way it is being handled. Sometimes it feels like a witch-hunt. All you have to do is accuse someone of posting ‘inappropriate’ content and denounce them. There is a lot of ignorance and hypocrisy going on all at once. It seems the ‘guidelines’ loosen up for some and not for others. It is really beyond me that a woman’s body could be considered a threat. As a woman, I find this completely offensive! Vulgar, sexually suggestive images are perfectly fine apparently (I am not actually saying there is anything wrong with sex by the way) but the sight of plain and simple physiology is deemed disturbing and should not be seen. I think many people are stuck in a 'pre-enlightment’ mind set, particularly here in the U.S, the home of social media. Sadly, this has now infiltrated the rest of the world, and cultures that were comfortable with the sight of the naked human form are now being influenced by this sense of prudishness.
I think it is normal for ideals to change from generation to generation, but it is really not ok to try to silence voices and ideas just because of your beliefs, often religious ones. You end up being the same as what and whom you are fighting against. It makes Margaret Atwood’s, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ something that is all too close to home.
The magazine is beautifully put together. Can you talk about that process and your decision-making surrounding its overall aesthetic?
Thank you! I wanted to create a vehicle for the artists involved to showcase their work with as little interference as possible. Most of the images are created with the intent of being seen on a wall, so I wanted the images to shine through without type on them or fancy art direction that would take the attention away. It also had to be printed on beautiful paper stock, and it was important that the format be large, a counterpoint to seeing so much visual material on tiny digital squares. When I presented my concept to the artists whom I hoped to get involved, the response was very positive. I think artists are tired of seeing their work re-interpreted by other people. It is not completely possible to avoid this, but you do the best you can.
Can you share with us here some of the images you have posted that have been removed by Instagram?
Often I don’t even know which images they have removed. Sometimes they were posted weeks before which makes it all the more crazy. Some of the images by Stephen DiRado, Shae DeTar and Camille Vivier were removed within just a few hours. People forget photography is a form of art. Yet a sexually explicit drawing is ok, because it’s a drawing…
How would you pitch the magazine to someone who isn’t into nudity?
The volume is a lot less about showcasing ‘nudity’ than it is about showing how being nude is completely normal and natural. Unlike most books on nudity, it is not about erotica or boundary pushing sexuality, it is about humanity. It concerns us all. It is really interesting to see how diverse the images are, and how much each artist interprets the nude differently. The nude is an art form.
There are about 60 contributors in the publication. An amazing pool of artists and photographers - Nick Knight, Nadav Kander, Camille Vivier, Shae DeTar. How did you choose these collaborators and how did you get them all together?
I was exploring what was happening on Instagram (which despite its many downfalls, is a great connector), looking at what people were working on, interacting with them, having conversations with them, and falling in love with their art and their words. Without this rapport, I don’t think I would have been able to convince these artists to contribute to this ‘ unknown’ and, at the time, ‘unseen’ project. I gained a level of trust that I would represent their work respectfully and talk about issues they also very much valued. I have immense gratitude for these wonderful artists who shared their work for issue 1.
Not all of the artists are on Instagram, I found some on tumblr and others I knew about and contacted directly through their websites, such as Stephen DiRado and Jock Sturges.
Image by PAN
Image by Camille Vivier
Image by Shae De Tar
Can you share your future plans for the magazine?
I am currently working on issue 2. The topic is Beauty, but I don’t want to reveal too much just yet other than we can look forward to more beautiful imagery from some of the artists from issue 1 and of course many new ones and, much, much more… For now it will continue to be an annual installment, and it will be luxurious, timeless and collectable. If I could find a great publisher to work with (hint), then I would love to take it biannually. There is so much incredible imagery and topics to talk and write about…
What are your favorite printed publications?
What was the first magazine that you read religiously?
It must have been French ELLE when I was about 14, back then it came out every week, and Marie Claire bis (what does this mean) for the beautiful images. Later it was French Glamour for the quirkiness and cleverness of the fashion shoots. Italian Vogue too. I still have them all!
Your social media accounts, accessories and magazine all have a similar aesthetic. How would you describe it?
It is all very intuitive and simply what I like. I am glad the aesthetic follows through and I guess it is because it is true to who I am. Timeless is probably the first thing I would say to describe my aesthetic. When you have been working in fashion for a long time, and what’s ‘in’ and what’s ‘out’ becomes a revolving door that keeps on spinning faster and faster, you crave for something that has nothing to do with trends. Ageless, something anyone can enjoy whether you are 20 or 80. Mostly, I think my aesthetic draws from a romantic past and gets translated into a modern minimalist present.
Photo by Nathalie Agussol
Can you tell us some of your muses through the years?
Over the years there have been many women whose style and beauty I have admired such as Stella Tennant, Jane Birkin, Rose Mary McGrotha, Guinevere Van Seenus, Sophia Coppola, Kirsten Owen, Charlotte Rampling… right now I’m obsessed with Georgia O’Keefe. I am streamlining my wardrobe down to a few ‘same, same’ items that I know work for me - she had that worked out to perfection. And that is where the accessories come into play...
Is there a particular time period in fashion or subculture that you feel a special kinship with stylistically?
I love the streamlined glamour of the 1930s, Chanel and Schiaparelli were both so ahead of their time. The way Schiaparelli collaborated with Cocteau and Dali was so inventive and original. The relaxed look of the 70’s reminds me of when my parents were total hipsters and of summer vacations. The 90’s were my formative years and it has very much stuck with me. I developed a major crush on Margiela and Helmut Lang ever since then. I still have and wear some of the pieces I had back then. It made me realize my style was pretty much determined back then, and has for the most part, remained a constant.
Who are your favorite artists and why?
There are so many artists and so many reasons, from Marina Abramovic to Taryn Simon, Agnes Martin, Yves Klein, Louise Bourgeois, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Erwin Blumenfeld, Irving Penn and so many more, but Jean Cocteau forever fascinates. In fact, he directly inspires much of book 2. He was such an elegant artist. He is, by far, my favorite Surrealist. What I love about surrealism is the unexpected juxtapositions, the dreamlike non-sequitur quality where the notion of censorship is non-existent.
What is something you have loved for a long time?
My 10 year old dog Margot
What is something you wish you knew how to do or that you are currently trying to learn more about?
I wish I knew how to cook, but unfortunately, it is not my forte - something I will probably want to explore later in life in the same way that way people take up painting when they retire. Although I am not sure I will ever be able to retire!
What is the best gift you have ever given someone?
A genetic DNA test to my husband. He was adopted and it meant a lot to him to find out about his background.
What is the favorite gift you have received?
My two daughters Stella and Loulou
Can you share a favorite quotation, lyric, or line from a book or song that has stuck with you?
‘Each morning in every family, men, women and children, if they have nothing better to do, tell each other their dreams. We are all at the mercy of the dream and we owe it to ourselves to submit its powers to the waking state.’
- La Revolution Surrealiste, No.1, December 1924
Censorship is the height of vanity - Martha Graham
What is something that you feel is overrated? Underrated?
Instagram and Instagram
What are you terrible at but love to do anyway?
Is there anything you could recommend to us?
I have recently discovered Kjaer Weis cosmetics. I keep my makeup to a very minimal look, but I am a sucker for beautifully designed packaging as well as ‘good for you,’ ethical products. We often pay attention to what we eat, but not necessarily to what we put on our skin. Our skin is our largest organ and it absorbs the chemicals we use; there is a lot of it in most makeup brands. Kjaer Weis is as natural and organic as it gets. And it looks so good!
Please fill in the blank? - Beauty is___. EVERYWHERE
What are you currently….
Coveting? Time for Pilates and for reading
Watching? The Chi
Reading? If only I could find the time to… although I am really enjoying reading over what has come in from the contributing writers for issue 2.
Dreaming? Of a spell on the Greek Islands.
Thank You, Nathalie!
Discover Pan & The Dream Magazine ~ www.panandthedreammag.com
Shop Nathalie's line of accessories ~ www.panandthedream.com
Nathalie's selection from araks.com