Jean Touitou issues open letter to fashion; defends cancelling A.P.C.'s recent show
Jean Touitou, the founder of cool and quirky Paris brand A.P.C., has issued a long open letter to the fashion industry, defending his decision to cancel his Paris runway show in March and calling for a great sense of community.
A.P.C. infuriated many senior French fashion executives when it called off its runway show, scheduled for March 2 in the Paris catwalk season. Many perceived the decision as lacking in esprit de corps, even as the world slowly woke up to to the impact of coronavirus. Only one other house, Agnès b., pulled its show in a calendar of some 80 shows.
However, in his letter Touitou insists he is “extremely proud” to have cancelled that show, “to safeguard the health of my teams and guests. I think that I can claim a certain form of morality.”
Known for his sharp wit, and loquaciousness, Touitou can be as wordy as the Unabomber, albeit with a softer tone. Below, we reproduce his entire letter, over 1,400 words-long, to let readers judge for themselves.
It is entitled: For a Reasonable Utopia Amidst Monstrous Chaos Everywhere
The ongoing catastrophe is making me refocus and ask myself:
I started thinking about the idea of A.P.C. well before the brand debuted its “Hiver 87” labelled collection in 1986.
It was around the mid-80s, I remember. Women had huge shoulder pads in their jackets. They wore a sort of absurd shawl over ONE shoulder. Men had trousers that were too wide and high-waisted. Only the (already) old punks were elegant.
What I’m trying to say is that I was disgusted and revolted. When the famous “Palace” nightclub had reached the height of its popularity, I was tagging “DEATH TO DISCO” on the walls of the Les Halles neighborhood in Paris. For me, everything in the world that I lived in needed to be rethought and redesigned. I couldn’t breathe anymore. Everything was suffocating me.
(Note for readers who may be shocked by this attitude: I secretly loved the musical gems and vital energy of disco; I listened to this music a lot when I would go to New York. At the time, I was selling post-psychedelic rock type vinyls “by mail order” from a small office on rue Saint Honoré in Paris.
I would find them in the U.S. in warehouses full of unsold stock and I would send them out from the warehouse of a record dealer friend, located on the western end of New York's Canal Street.
To keep everyone in a good mood in this workplace, the music was disco, of course. It lifted me. I was at the center of a contradiction, because I loved a music that I forced myself to hate. I continued my mission because, without this warehouse, I couldn’t send Remains and 13th Floor Elevators albums, to mention the most obscure bands, to France.
Obviously, what tortured me during this period wasn’t that people might like to dance, but that it was obscene to talk about politics and philosophy during dinner. Everything had to be fun all the time -- even though, behind the scenes, everything was a mess.
I had to get away from this lack of perspective and, since I was never tempted by self-destruction or drugs, I looked for a way to transform my destructive energy into something good, while avoiding all sorts of compromises with social modes and fashion cliques.
I wasn’t alone in this, but let’s just say that our numbers were limited.
So, I tried to create a haven of esthetic dignity and I called it A.P.C.
To finance my venture, I designed and produced collections that were far from my liking. It’s pretty funny when I think about it: truckloads and truckloads of python-printed leggings financed the development of my raw jeans and slim-shouldered woven wool suits.
Since then, almost nothing has improved: in addition to all the evils that already existed in the 1980s, the oceans now overflow with plastic waste and global warming is causing phenomena that are making this planet harder and harder to live in and preserve.
The fashion world has been subjected to things that are difficult to accept: impossible schedules, the increased power of advertising and money in general, superficial creatures conveying values that, strictly speaking, are disgusting—those of an easy, marvelous and enchanting life that is totally fake. Fashion has really become the opium of the people and celebrities have attained the status of Messiahs.
A whole lot of water has gone under the bridge since the feminist movement of the early 1970s, represented for example by Delphine Seyrig. Progress was made, of course, but despite this, too many women are still treated as objects.
Some of the de-objectification efforts of the “second sex” were swept away by fashion, which has become a libidinous relationship with merchandise.
I’ll stop there.
With the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, and still weighed down by the ideas that I just mentioned, I took stock of my choices.
In such circumstances, and considering that I had “nothing left to prove” (as Catherine Deneuve herself told me), I could have thought: “what’s the use, why should we even try to survive as a brand, because at any rate, the world is ‘bound for worst’ as Samuel Beckett wrote in a collection of poems. We are ‘worstward ho’ (title of Beckett’s prose poem) and we should stop now. Game over.”
To be honest, I have to say that I did ask myself this question. I told myself that I had built enough, that my children would have a future at any rate thanks to their talent, and that I could spend my time between my future boat, my home and my “hobbies.”
Yes, in March, this possibility did run through my mind for a few seconds when I was systematically taking stock of every possible outcome.
Then, I started thinking about all of these adventures, about all of these stores constructed with a real architectural effort every single time and, especially, about all of the individual people who participated and are still participating in this “reasonable utopia” that is A.P.C.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank, from the bottom of my heart, all of the people who participated and worked on building this project, some of whom have been by my side for 33 years now.
Without others, nothing is possible.
I realize that I’m not a cynic after all and that only the quest for beauty and sharing it with other sapiens can keep me from the black hole of game over.
So, I pushed aside the option of giving up.
And that’s when I simply told myself that the period that is opening up right now is a revolutionary period in which everything can be reinvented. A sort of chance in which I actually feel at home. Social distancing has always been a way of living for me.
But personally deciding to isolate myself from too many people doesn’t stop me from thinking about the world in general and the positive role that we can play by participating with more harmony, awareness and desire.
I am extremely proud to have cancelled the A.P.C. show that was supposed to take place on March 2nd to safeguard the health of my teams and guests. I think that I can claim a certain form of morality.
More than ironic, the musical theme that we were working on was a song called “World Destruction.” This was a pure coincidence, of course.
So, after rejecting the hypothesis of “refusing to jump,” I started considering that there was a new mission that I and we had to accomplish: ensure the survival of A.P.C. and its esthetic and moral values.
I want to continue to make fashion by creating wearable clothing that allows people to feel like they are themselves and not the puppets of a stylist.
I want to continue to make sustainable clothing, in terms of both style and quality.
I want to leave esthetic traces through fashion images whose development and finalization have always belonged to the photographers and stylists who crafted them and not the brand who commissioned them.
I want to continue to use A.P.C. to initiate artistic projects that recycle our fabrics or old clothing, as I’ve already done with the quilt-making programs and the Butler program, which reintegrates old second-hand jeans in the sales circuit. I’ve been obsessed with not wasting things since I was a kid.
I want to enrich our customer relationships by having clients participate in an A.P.C. clothing recycling program with charity associations and asking them to join a loyalty program.
Above all, I’d like to nurture a sense of community.
When I assess the situation, I think that we’re on the right path and that it is the best one to get through the trying times ahead of us.
And what could be better adapted to the future than the fashion that we make? Minimalism was almost seen as a flaw, a breakdown. Now, it will be considered as the ultimate virtue in every field of human life.
I wrote this very personal text because I needed to tell you where A.P.C. came from.
It’s the first time that I’m allowing myself to be so sincere, at the risk of seeming naïve and “opinionated,” as our American friends say.
I would like us to move forward together to this destination of mine (“to infinity and beyond,” of course).
The strength of a small group united by a free mind can be limitless.
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