I meet up with Thierry Dreyfus the day before the Raf Simons’ event. When I make my way over to him through the semi-darkness, the venue is lit up by a bright red and he is surrounded by the smoke of his ever-present cigarette. He looks up, speaks and moves his hand towards his collaborator. And I nearly feel held back by the fear of interrupting him.

Runway designer, light artist, show producer, Lord of lights; Thierry Dreyfus has collected many nicknames throughout his impressive career. Light designer is probably the most well-known one, even though he says that “I believe it’s maybe a bit reducing being called just that.’ 

Suzy Menkes, International editor of Vogue, has described him as the man who is making the Ville Lumière, the City of Light, live up to its name.

He’s a master of suffused lights, luminous strips and laser lines. 
 
Without a doubt, the French Dreyfus deserves the credit for having transformed the concept of a fashion show into an event of only ten spectacular and precious minutes long. In all this, he doesn’t leave his own mark, but allows the stylist’s creative mark to come out entirely and therefore manages to involve the audience emotionally.

His career in fashion started in 1983 thanks to the shattering genius of the American Patrick Kelly. He prefers to underline that "I don’t have a career. I simply follow the stream, sometimes it’s a big stream, and sometimes it’s a small stream." At the beginning of the year 2000, he took care of most of the Parisian fashion shows’ light design. In 2001 he became the artistic director of EYESIGHT Group Production, the company that he now owns. This allowed him to expand his competences beyond lighting to activities like venue scouting and sound design, moving between Paris, New York and Milan.  

 

The intangible material; if I had to define his stylistic medium, I’d think of this. I’d think of the intangibleness of an element that Dreyfus has turned into something concrete through his work. A creative approach and a unifying aesthetic line that brings together the two worlds of fashion and art. Two worlds that move on different levels in terms of goals and time. The intangible material. This is light. 

Through his incredible use of light, the invisible becomes tangible in front of our eyes.

His style is characterized by enormous precision and a chirurgical attention to detail.

And even though he’s aware of the fact that one can never stop improving one’s work, he notches up one success after the other.


“Vous êtes content?”, “Non, Jamais! … Mais tu sais, si Raf est content je suis content”

("Are you satisfied? No, never!... But you know, if Raf is satisfied, I am satisfied"), he tells me at the very end.
 

His language is visual and instrumental, suitable to the dimensions of fashion; to its speed and its unexpected changes.  


‘It’s my job to translate the vision and the aesthetic sense of the stylists with whom I collaborate. Sometimes it’s about a specific inspiration, other times it’s about an abstract dream or a generic indication…- he tells me – ‘this job has completely changed over the past ten years. And very often the person who stages or produces a fashion show has become a real star. And this makes me laugh, because we actually have to stage that which the designers want. In a work of fashion – and we’re not talking about art here – I try to express the stylist’s idea and to turn it into a feeling for the audience. At other times I create coherence between the set and the advertising campaign of a brand or the windows of a store...’

Next to light design and the production of unforgettable fashion shows - for Dior Homme, Helmut Lang, Jil Sander (also at Pitti Uomo, June 2009), Kris Van Assche (Pitti Uomo, Jan. 2007), Ann Demeulemeester, Rei Kawakubo, Raf Simons, Giambattista Valli (Pitti Uomo, Jan. 2009), Yves Saint Laurent, Diesel Black Gold (Pitti Uomo, Jan. 2014), Gosha Rubchinskiy (Pitti Uomo 90, June 2016), Hedi Slimane - Intermission (Pitti Uomo, June 2002), Costume National, Hardy Amies (Pitti Uomo 81, Jan. 2012) ... and many others - Dreyfus has also given life to installations at the Grand Palais, Notre Dame. In fact, he has been the first artist ever that was able to insert his own installations into the Cathedral. His work also appeared at Versailles, the Canary Wharf in London and at the Art Biennale of Istanbul and at Art Basel of Miami.

He designed the lighting for the Parisian club Silencio, that was created by David Lynch and he has taken care of the design of boutiques like those of Robert Clergerie and Versace. Furthermore, he has created exclusive interior design lighting elements which are being exhibited in the showroom of Atelier Courbet in New York.

 
In the world of design and art, Dreyfus brings out layers and points of view, changing coordinates and symmetries that burst into existing spaces in a surprisingly natural way. He successfully innovates the idea of lighting, liberating it from the obvious and more traditional ways of depiction. 

Jil Sander, Pitti Uomo 78 June 2009 - Villa Gamberaia, Florence 

Giambattista Valli, Pitti Uomo 75, Jan. 2009 - Salone dei Cinquecento, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence 

Giambattista Valli, Pitti Uomo 75, Jan. 2009 - Salone dei Cinquecento, Palazzo Vecchio 

Diesel Black Gold, Pitti Uomo 85, Jan. 2014 - Stazione Leopolda

 Florence Calling: Raf Simons, Pitti Uomo 90, June 2016 - Stazione Leopolda, Florence

Florence Calling: Raf Simons, Pitti Uomo 90, June 2016

Intermission - Hedi Slimane installation - Pitti Uomo 62, June 2002

Gosha Rubchinskiy, Pitti Uomo 90, Manifattura Tabacchi, Florence

Hardy Amies, Pitti Uomo 81, Jan. 2012, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Project room MASTERING THE INTANGIBLE MATERIAL. Thierry Dreyfus

Fashion / Design / Performance By Sara Pizzi
 

Unlike the usual pour out after every fashion show, the visitors take their time to leave the impressive venue Stazione Leopolda in Florence. Before reaching the majestic doors, they turn around to take one last look at what they’re leaving behind. Then, they step outside towards the chaotic lights of a rainy Florentine night.
Between the post-industrial elements wrapped up in darkness, green and red lights interrupt, yet enhance the scene in which hundreds of mannequins are scattered along the massive naves of the big station from the nineteenth century. It’s a unique display containing several creations of one of the most iconic contemporary fashion designers.
The visitors want to stay inside Raf Simons’ universe just a little bit longer because they feel that something really great has just taken place. The beats of Michel Gaubert’s soundtrack still echo around the scattered fragments of the Belgian designer’s twenty-year old archive, which has finally become tangible. And you can feel it – no need for further explanation. Just feel it!
Because apart from the commercial physiological pragmatism, fashion is also this: empathy. It’s a feeling, a weave which consists of many different factors. There needs to be a unique appeal, different from all the others, but consumed within a handful of minutes. And there’s no room for second chances. 
Among all these factors there is the simple factor of emotion – which is actually anything but simple. 
And a person behind that: Thierry Dreyfus.
He is behind the emotions that the spectators have been able to experience at the event Florence Calling: Raf Simons by Pitti Uomo. For EYESIGHT Group Production, he was in charge of the set-up, the lighting and the overall direction.    

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