Ahead of his Paris Fashion Week show, French designer Alexandre Mattuissi explains why ballet has shaped him as a creative
“From the ages of four to 14, I used to be a classic ballet dancer: a Billy Elliot if you like. I discovered it when I was watching TV with my mother; I looked at the screen and saw Swan Lake. I said to my mother that I wanted to do this and she told me to ask my father. I said to him that night, ‘Dad I want to dance’. And he said okay.
“My parents really believed in me and they really believed in my passion, so I did that for 10 years. It really helped me to build my passion around art, music and choreography. But what I loved the most about dance was the theatrical and performance side. I love the idea that for a show you work on it for six months and then we do it for one night only. You have the audience, the make-up, the music, the costumes… you have everything. I stopped dance when I was 14 as I realised that my passion was fashion. It was the best field in which I could feel the same kind of feelings.
“When you discover fashion you start to think about art, because inspiration is the base. You have to be precise about the things you believe in and the things you love. I have a special approach with art in general; I’d say I am very curious. As a dancer, you become a performer. It’s a sport, it’s a technique and it’s a gesture: the way you breathe; the way you stand; and the way you put your arm. It really relates to the music and the choreography. It’s really about how you control your own body. From a technical point of view, it’s really interesting as you become an athlete you have to take care of yourself. As a kid it’s special because you become very mature and sensitive about the world you’re surrounded by.
“When I started to do fashion I really related to the body in the same way because clothing is really about a shoulder, a line, a length… So I really had the chance to understand the body before studying. Dance has really helped me as a designer, but it’s only with hindsight that I have realised that.
“It’s hard for me to say I’m an artist because I make clothes and it’s commercial. It’s about business, but the process is creative. Everything I do is about studying a feeling and an inspiration. For my latest collection, my inspiration is the people of Paris in the 1970s and what that guy is wearing. I want to make it effortless, cool and chic, as I am more inspired by people than art.”