Born: circa 1964. Career: Known for whimsical designs and embroidered motifs; clothing sold at Galeries Lafayette, New York, among other places. Exhibitions: Fashion and Surrealism, New York, 1987. Address: 13 rue de la Roquette, 75011 Paris.
"Bastille's Day," in Elle (New York), July 1989.
Petkanas, Christopher, "Nouvelle Chic," in Harper's Bazaar, December 1991.
Irreverent is the word for the designs of Franck Joseph Bastille. In the best tradition of Elsa Schiaparelli, whose whimsical and dreamlike designs shocked and delighted earlier fashion audiences, Bastille's witty collections launched him into the limelight as one of Paris' rising young stars. The presentation of his new ideas each season, often shown in an offbeat, trendy venue, invariably spurred fashion headlines, due in no small part to the ironic flourishes which have become his trademark.
Embroidered quotes from the animal kingdom have figured largely in Bastille's oeuvre. Lizards and lobsters, ants and rats, fish and cats—all have found their way onto his clothes. A thigh-high skirt might sport a creature snaking along the hem, or a plain vinyl shift may be stitched all over with a bright menagerie. Never one to be limited by convention, Bastille has been known to embroider frogs on a black vinyl coat and then upholster a chair with the same material.
Like his young Parisian peers he finds inspiration in a multitude of sources, sifting through a postmodern melange of ideas and adapting some directly, borrowing from others quite loosely. One fashion show had as its theme the permutations of water, from the beauty of the shimmering sea to the murky mystery of the subterranean underworld. Bastille showed a range of clever, bold clothes, including seaweed-hued frocks decorated with plastic fish, and his own kitschy interpretation of the sort of studded denim resort clothes worn on the Riviera. Other visual puns have included a black suit appliqued with silver guns, and a simple shift dress with a cut-out heart over the chest. And he is not above the sly tongue-in-cheek gesture, as in his wedding gown embroidered all over with the word oui.
Like many young designers, Bastille has rummaged about in the past for ideas, and references to different style periods can be discerned in his clothes. He became identified with 1950s-60s trapeze shapes and princess cuts for a time, but has also toyed with the body-revealing, sexy clothing of the 1980s and the decade's preoccupation with physical fitness. A collection that included clingy little body suits, short shorts, wispy slips, and satin bustiers showed that his clothes were not for the conservative customer, nor for one of advancing age. Pieces such as these demonstrate that Bastille is designing for a young, daring, and fashion-forward buyer who considers clothing a form of provocative personal expression.
Bastille has been called "fearless, with a touch of elegance." He has been known to turn a simple suit into an arch statement with the use of riotous color, as in his peacock-feather printed suit. In addition to appliqués and cut-outs he has experimented with "out of context" fabrics, using slippery synthetics, shiny satins, and crushed velvets for daytime wear, home-furnishing fabrics for clothing designs, and vice versa. Bastille might cover a blazer with sequins or fashion a strappy shift out of black vinyl, making a bold statement about the allure of "bad taste" while erasing demarcations between clothes for different events or times of day.
Bastille has crafted separates out of multihued patchwork fabric comprised of satin, floral print, and sequined squares, giving literal form to the bricolage cultural trend so prevalent in the late-20th century. In short, the imaginative, playful Franck Joseph Bastille (whose name is borrowed from the famous French prison destroyed during the French Revolution) aims to startle and amuse with his designs, asserting that fashion does not have to be such serious business.