Lagerfeld, whose fall 2009 Fendi collection Prigent detailed for the new series, lauds the filmmaker’s serious yet light approach—and disarming personal style. During the filming of the Chanel documentary, one of the chief seamstresses initially had only contempt for Prigent. “In the end, she was seduced by him. He has a lot of charm,” Lagerfeld relates. “He has a sense of humor quite rare today in France.”
Indeed, an early cut, from when Prigent was still providing a voiceover, can be uproarious, especially given his heavily French-accented English and slightly nasal voice. Introducing the Proenza designers, he explains, “This is Lazaro, the cute one.” Then, panning over to McCollough, he adds, “And this is Jack, the cute one.” But mostly he lets the action unfold and the ridiculousness reveal itself. Across several episodes, he shows, for example, how the models are mostly warm and giggly 16-year-olds who, on cue, turn on the icy, blank, don’t-mess-with-me expression that passes for cool these days. One, in fact, was on the verge of tears, having just met Lagerfeld at Fendi and being invited to walk for Chanel.
As character studies go, Lagerfeld, whose work ethic, perfectionism and cool never disappoint, is a favorite of Prigent’s. “He sketches like he’s breathing,” Prigent marvels.
Meanwhile, Prigent describes Gaultier as a “hero in France,” and he was eager to observe the designer’s seamstresses and patternmakers working their magic for the fall 2009 couture show. “The whim is king in haute couture,” Prigent says. “I get to see people working all night long.”
Born into a farming family in small-town Brittany, Prigent spent his high school years churning out music fanzines. That ultimately led to a freelance reporting gig at the left-leaning daily Libération, for which he penned several articles on fashion. These caught the eye of executives at cable channel Canal+, and he was asked to come on board as a reporter. A few years later they gave him a camcorder and told him to try his hand at shooting stories. His fashion show coverage for the station led, in 2000, to the gig with Mademoiselle Agnès, titled Habillées pour….
Given his success in the increasingly competitive medium of fashion film, and Paris’s renown as a city in love with fashion and its creators, one might think Prigent has forged the perfect career. But like most working guys, he has his complaints. French TV programmers, he laments, “don’t believe in fashion at all. They think Paco Rabanne is still designing and John Galliano is Italian.”
By contrast, Prigent is passionate about fashion and eager to take it all in—with the possible exception of secondhand smoke. While filming the Jacobs documentary, he compiled scenes of the designer firing up innumerable cigarettes into a hilarious 20-second segment. “If I get cancer,” he deadpans, “I know who to sue.”