IFA Paris: You are the driving force behind the creation of the Art Club, can you explain in a few words what this workshop consists of?
Sandy Bontout: This workshop offers IFA Paris students (in all fields) the opportunity to discover art in all its’ forms: portraits of artists, art schools or architectural movements, parade analysis, visits to Parisian galleries or an introduction to musical or cinematographic cultures.
IFA Paris: How often are these workshops held?
Sandy Bontout: Once a week, every Wednesday from 6pm to 8pm.
IFA Paris: How do you meet the challenge of introducing students from very different cultures to French and more broadly Western culture? Why is that important?
Sandy Bontout: I began base on the hypothesis (and observation!!!), that the students in the school did indeed come from very different backgrounds and were not all equal in terms of culture. However, whatever position they are considering in the fashion and luxury sector, knowledge of the art world is essential: the stakes are high!
The Art Club workshop is an opportunity to provide them with the best possible means, give them ideas to explore... and the magic of Paris should do the rest if the students are motivated!
IFA Paris: Can you tell us a little more about your personality and personal background?
Sandy Bontout: I have been working in the fashion and luxury industry for more than 20 years.
Having held several positions during my professional career (buyer, sales manager, director of purchasing and merchandising or business manager), I have spent the last 10 years working in the e-commerce & digital strategy sector. As a freelancer or employee ("Galeries Lafayette" or "Condé Nast International" among others), I have also travelled a lot, not only in Paris, but also in Dubai (2 years), Berlin (1 year) and London (11 years).
I accidentally began in the fashion industry! First an English teacher during my studies, I got a seasonal job during my summer holidays in one of the most popular shops in Paris, a real passion arose! Despite having a certain interest in fashion, my education had not been fuelled by this culture and I had not been sensitized on the artistic world either. The references escaped me, I felt a little foreign to some conversations...
At 25 years old, I was called by a recruitment firm and questioned bluntly by a HR director, there everything changed:
"Where do you see yourself at 40? »
" - Artistic Director of Nina Ricci " (I really like this brand, whose fragrances plunge me nostalgically into my childhood memories)
" - Yes, it is possible, but in the meantime you will have to learn everything about the history of fashion, architecture, art, design, photography... it is ESSENTIAL in this environment. »
Touched, swept away... I was devastated by his answer and since that day I have never stopped developing my curiosity to improve my culture. Haunting galleries, devouring books, admiring a piece of work and forging my own opinion, understanding the ideas behind a fashion show: culture has become ESSENTIAL for my well-being, a passion, like a second skin.
Without this kind of thought, which is difficult to accept when you're 25 years old, I wouldn't have been able to embark on such a rich and exciting career. An awareness and an electroshock that I want to share with my students: if I can pass on these fundamentals to them, then the Art Club will have fulfilled its’ entire mission and so will I!
IFA Paris: How many Art Club sessions have been held since its inception? Can you share with us those that have had the most impact on students?
Sandy Bontout: I started the Art Club in November 2017 with one workshop per week and even though these sessions were optional, the students showed much interest!
Each session had its audience, with the discoveries of Basquiat, Peter Saville, Niki de Saint Phalle, Op Art, Hilma AF Klint, or Banksy vs Damien in Hirst....
IFA Paris: Based on volunteering, what are the terms and conditions for joining the club? Is the number of places available limited?
Sandy Bontout: All you have to do is show up at 6pm in front of the allocated room, every student from IFA Paris is welcome! Only external events require prior registration as the number of places are limited, if necessary, an email with the details is sent to all students.
IFA Paris: You put culture G at the heart of the Art Club, don't you think it is elitist? In what way is it a useful source of inspiration for actors in the fashion sector?
Sandy Bontout: I am not here to judge, on the other hand, I know the industry very well for having been in it for more than 20 years... Without a good artistic foundation it is impossible to establish oneself in the world of fashion and luxury.
My objective is therefore to complete the cultural education of IFA Paris students, motivate them to broaden their knowledge, while giving them opportunities to explore.
Whether or not this is elitist is another matter. Designers or other Artistic Directors consider Art as a vector of creativity, a basic tool on which to base their inspiration; the role of teams and collaborators being to understand and interpret, it is therefore necessary to have the same codes to carry out this mission...
IFA Paris: Do you think that the general culture can change soft skills and significantly influence the professional future of our students?
Sandy Bontout: Absolutely! Absolutely! Art fosters curiosity, allows us to understand the world and to better understand others with an innovative perspective. No one is right or wrong about a piece of work, but its’ observation helps to measure the importance of what has happened before, of a context or of a point of view, in order to better envision the future. A form of self-confidence is then increased tenfold.
IFA Paris: What would you say to a student who is still hesitating to enroll in this workshop?
Sandy Bontout: To stimulate your curiosity and to come and see how an Art Club workshop works. At worst, he'll lose 2 hours, at best, he'll have a real personal revelation!
Art is like a Pandora's box, when you come in contact with it, boredom no longer has its’ place in everyday life.
IFA Paris: Can you tell us about 2 or 3 events planned for this year?
Sandy Bontout: A film on the 90's Rave stage, the Bauhaus school, Victor Vasarely... and for the rest... it's a surprise!