Through their Art, they overturned the table. Through their actions and their creations, they have built solid foundations for women today.
These are the Bonâme heroines, the women who occupy all the inspiring space of my workshop and my creation. And it is to her and to you, their heirs, that I dedicate these wishes for the year 2024.
At the beginning of January, when French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne presented her resignation, I wrote a post on the Linkedin platform on the theory of the Glass Cliff. This theory was developed by two British researchers in the 2000s: Michelle Ryan and Alexander Haslam.
The Glass Cliff - or glass precipice - is in a way the mirror of the glass ceiling but just as formidable, if not more so, because women burn there. In politics, this theory has been discreetly mentioned in the case of Theresa May or other women brought to take responsibility in contexts of acute crisis....
It is based on a survey carried out in 2005 by these two researchers and describes the process by which companies in crisis are more likely to call on women for management positions than in normal times.
The study shows that the accession to power of female leaders is often accompanied by a greater professional challenge and an increased risk of failure due to the context in which they operate.
I discovered this concept by listening to a colleague while I was working in the luxury industry: she had just been approached to take over as general manager of a company in the sector. Flattered at the start by what was presented to her as a fantastic opportunity in recognition of her professionalism, she understood that she was going to find herself in an inextricable situation, with a probable restructuring to be carried out.
A situation that could absolutely concern a man, you might say. Yes, but what was highlighted by this survey was the over-representation of women in positions in serious crisis situations. Men often do not risk, or less, taking these positions. For women who find themselves in this situation, the result is often a double setback. Because, although few of them access these positions, they take up the challenge with ardor and will, as they are proud and happy that they are finally entrusted with responsibilities (see Elizabeth Borne's speech during her inauguration on her pride for all the little girls of France). They go at it with all their guns, work hard, burn themselves to the task (for once they are entrusted with a major mission, they are not going to fail, eh...there is no question of it!). And because the fight is often lost in advance.
They are then thanked and replaced: they often come out as losers, if not with a damaged reputation and they are made to bear the responsibility for failure or poor performance. And they cleared the ground for a successor... often male.
If the Glass Cliff theory always concerns women in politics or businesswomen, it has the merit of establishing a research approach on the way in which society as a whole makes the task even more difficult for women when they attack areas traditionally occupied by men. Fortunately, scientists and researchers are becoming more and more interested in this subject and are providing new tools to unravel the old, centuries-old mechanisms that muffle the voice or talent of women.
It is the same for Art: academies, like salons, were opened to women late. Major national museums are just beginning to celebrate female talents in major retrospectives. And when they do it's not always very happy. I am thinking, for example, of the Pionnières exhibition at the Musée de Luxembourg in the summer of 2022, which seemed to me more like a quick catalog of works by women around the 1930s and 1930s without any real analysis. And when a woman exhibits, produces her art, her literature, her painting, it would be interesting to see if the reception reserved for her is not more demanding than it would be for a male artist.
The women I talk about every day at Bonâme, those from whom I am constantly inspired to create my clothes, are made of unique stuff. Glass precipice, paternalistic condescension or other ordinary or unfair sexisms, they defied everything, turned everything upside down, constantly falling and getting up again. In times when it was so hard to exist other than in a social straitjacket. Sometimes without brilliance, sometimes with excess, sometimes with gentleness and discretion. Sometimes even being totally unaware of what they were building because that was not the issue. Their challenge was to make their art heard, to create, sometimes just to survive because it was a question of oxygen.
Their names are Nikki de Saint-Phalle, George Sand, Colette, Suzanne Valadon, Berthe Morisot, Lee Miller, Camille Claudel, Olympe de Gouges, Maria Casares....Since the launch of Bonâme, I have been talking about them, tirelessly, through the most everyday, most universal, most eternal medium there is: clothing.
So to present my wishes for 2024, rather than hackneyed formulas, I suggest you come and warm yourself to the creative fire of these women, to listen to them, to admire them, to observe their striking beauty as they inhabit time, space , our conscious or unconscious memories.