Olivier Saillard on 1930s Gender-Defying Journalist Annemarie Schwarzenbach

Pin It
Olivier is wearing a wool shirt by Holland & Holland

“She was so intense in a very short moment,” says the French curator and artistic director of her short, fascinating life

“Annemarie Schwarzenbach was a great discovery. I was looking for women who wore men’s clothes in a literary, intellectual way, and came across her photo taken by Marianne Breslauer. Schwarzenbach was a Swiss journalist and archaeologist who wrote a lot of books, non-fiction and anti-Fascist novels, and took pictures all over the world. She was one of a few to visit Afghanistan in the Thirties, but she did it all in her own car – and there were no proper roads. And she almost always wore trousers. I like this maybe more than very feminine dress. I think it’s quite a paradox – a woman becoming more sexual, sensual, in men’s clothes. She died very young following a stupid accident – she fell off a bicycle at 34 years old – which leaves me with many questions. She was so intense in a very short moment; it’s violent almost. Since I was young I’ve had a real fascination with works that talk about the moment of death – the moment of disappearing, the moment of absence.”

Olivier Saillard’s ‘solution’ to the compulsory military service of France in the Eighties was a two-year stint of civil service at Musée des Arts Décoratifs. From there, an esteemed career in fashion curation was born, first as director of the Musée de la Mode, Marseille, then of the Musée de la Mode et du Textile in Paris, and latterly the Palais Galliera. As the new artistic, image and culture director of the footwear brand JM Weston, Saillard explores a passion for performance exhibition – he previously directed figures including Tilda Swinton and Charlotte Rampling in a series that transformed simple processes of dressing into a form of choreography. His recent debut at the brand – a défilé in collaboration with Mathilde Monnier, the director of the French National Centre of Dance, at Men’s Spring/Summer 2019 – was an exploration of androgyny and uniform.

Hair: Pawel Solis at Artlist Paris using Oribe. Make-up: Adrien Pinault at Management Artists using MAC. Photographic assistant: Charlotte Krieger. Styling assistants: Rebecca Perlmutar, Camila Paiva and Georgina Craig. Make-up assistant: Marie Tritsch

This story originally featured in the Autumn/Winter 2018 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale internationally now.