I’ve been coming to Patmos, Greece, for 10 years now. I’ve never experienced such a beautiful place. There are no cars, no billboards, no supermarkets, no health clubs — nothing but the essentials, and that’s probably what keeps bringing me back. There’s this tiny protected cove — no bigger than a single room — that’s, to me, perfection. I look out into the distance and see nothing but rocks and the horizon line between the water and the sky.
The sun begins to set around 7:30 at the end of the summer, and it happens fast. In that window of time, when the light is changing and I know I have to go home, sunset is both sudden and serene. By then, I’ve been sitting by the sea for six, seven, eight hours, just reading and looking. I come to the beach and turn into a lizard. I love the sensuality of summer. What I feel here is more physical than spiritual. It’s like returning to a lost paradise. I’m a city guy — I was born and raised in Paris — but here I’m reminded of something that’s older than I am, deeper than I am. Without it, I don’t exist.
When I’m on Patmos, work stops because what I’m doing here is almost the exact opposite of what I do back home. My entire job is to think about how to dress, how to accessorize. Here, I’m wearing no clothes, or at least as few as possible. This tension, the distance between those two things, is interesting. I just need to empty my mind for a while and then return again to the pleasure of fashion, the artifice of it, because fashion is a game to me. If I were to describe the experience of being here as essential and deep and peaceful, I would say that my job as a designer is, if not exactly the contrary, pretty close. Maybe it’s because I studied fine arts when I was younger, and fashion was more of an amusement. There’s a part of me that still sees it that way.
I’ll sketch when I’m here, but I’m not a maniac about the type of paper I use, or the pen. I buy whatever I find on the island. And it’s not as if I’m planning my collection for the next season. It’s more that I’m taking notes. I like to say that inspiration is like archaeology, that it’s built layer upon layer upon layer. I picture an archaeologist taking a soil sample from the ground: Some things I’ve loved for years, and they run deep, while others I’ve only just seen on the street. Patmos, the feeling of the island, its mood, its essential Mediterranean qualities, is one of my core layers. And at a certain point, after I’ve read all my books and taken all my naps and looked at all the landscapes, I think to myself, “OK, I can go back to human things now.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.