Vallier meets: Vanessa Pilon

Vallier meets: Vanessa Pilon

The year 2020 has given us a lot to look forward to. This year, our gathering place is outside. As the cold weather sets in, we dress up artists from our new collection and set the table for an exchange with the most beautiful architectural locations in the city - and in this case, the countryside - as a backdrop. Vallier offers you a space for discovery and discussion. 

The entertainer and woman-in-charge Vanessa Pilon opens the door of her home and tells us about her perspective on travel, life and her projects.

You are a frequent traveller—how do you live these (long) months shut in?

I had seven trips planned that fell through! That's quite a change of plans. Rather than brooding, I thought about Proust's statement: "The real voyage of discovery is not looking for new landscapes, but having new eyes." I have therefore seized these last few months of forced sedentary life to really get to know the territory, the nature that surrounds my house, and to try to look at the familiar with renewed curiosity. I have started to identify wild plants and mushrooms, to pick what is edible and medicinal. I also took time to go inside myself. It's a cliché, but the more I interact with nature, the better my mental health. 

What do you find most appealing about travel? Is it a passion that you want to pass on to your daughter?

I believe deeply in the power of human interaction to broaden our perspective. When we only meet people who look like us, who live in similar contexts, we end up having the illusion that there is a unique truth. By meeting people who look at life through glasses completely different from mine, it allows me to question my values, my ideas. It makes me less rigid. And, ultimately, I realise that we all have the same deep aspirations. At first, when I was travelling, I noticed the differences. Now I see what unites us, what we have in common. And I think that applies not only to traveling, but to daily life here. I realise more and more how important it is to talk to people who live different realities to mine, and to listen, with humility. Beyond my passion for traveling, I hope to pass on to my daughter my open-mindedness, compassion and adaptability.

A few years ago, you made the choice to leave the city and move to the country. What made you decide to do so?

I had been feeling the call for a few years, I knew that the city didn't suit me so much any more, but each time I thought about the reasons for staying: work, culture, nightlife, habits, etc., I knew that the city wasn't for me anymore. When we knew we were expecting a child, it gave us the courage to take action. We visited just one house. It was ours. I have never regretted it. It's a dream! It's so crazy, the effect it has on the head, the heart, on the nervous system, to have access to nature, to space, calm and the horizon.  I have never regretted it. Especially with the confinement that goes on! 

For many, the pandemic has put "normal" life on hold. You already seemed to have adopted a slower, more secluded rhythm, to concentrate on the essentials. What would you say to those who are in a hurry to get back on track?

I think there was a lot of nonsense in the old rhythm: Always wanting more and being more productive, at the expense of the environment and the well-being of the vast majority of people on the planet. I think that we are so caught up in this system that we have internalized it, and that sometimes it is difficult to discern whether our aspirations really come from our heart, or whether we have inherited them from the consumer society.

I was lucky enough to have access early in my life to many things associated with success, to realise that they didn't make me happy. I believe today that success should not be measured by money and popularity, but by the positive impact we have around us. For me, that translates into community and decline. It's a long process that requires a lot of willpower, because it's still very much against the tide and everything pushes us to consume. We have a lot of automatisms to deprogram. 

Recently, you took part in the #womensupportingwomen challenge on Instagram, a way to raise women's voices against violence and feminicide - and to encourage women's solidarity and positivism. What do we need to pay more attention to as a community?

Phew. Big question. I think it's more important than ever to see that, even with the best of intentions, we all have blind spots. I think it's time to diversify the voices, and make way for those we hear less.

I also believe it is important not to reduce feminist struggles to a power struggle. For me, the question is more about how balance can be restored, and how the masculine and feminine can collaborate, coexist in their respective essences, beyond the binarity of genders. Everyone has to feel welcome in the discussion, and for that, we have to be careful not to fall into this pretence of holding virtue, when you are supposedly "woke", that's where it gets out of hand, that polarises opinions.

I've noticed that when people are shameful for their opinions or actions, they stiffen up and take up their position. Rather than allowing change, it slows it down. Let's be gentle and caring. Let's move forward together, not one against the other. 

What inspires your style of dress?

Visual arts, nature, stage costumes, nostalgia, the future, mushrooms and my daughter's drawings.

You encourage local fashion. What are your good finds?

Betina Lou, for her collaborative approach that also makes others shine.

Rightful Owner, for the theatrical grandiloquence that makes me happy.

UNTTLD, for creative elegance.

Denis Ganon, for his enduring genius.

All the second-hand shops, for the circular economy and unique finds.

What's important to you when choosing a garment?

First and foremost: I have to find it beautiful! But in order for the piece to make its way to my home, sustainability and the ethical side of production are my main criteria. For me, this translates into the quality of the materials, the comfort, and the versatility. That's for 80% of my wardrobe. The rest is madness, unusual, funky stuff, for which I had an irrational crush, and which I will just put in my home, waiting to find the perfect opportunity to dare. It allows me to play with the clothes, without taking it too seriously.

We can see you on the screen in your new show Allons boire ailleurs on TV5. You go to meet foreign people and discover their culture through their drinks. Can you tell us about it? What do you want people to get out of this show?

I was so surprised at how rich a subject it was. The drinks are really revealing about the culture. For me, this show is the perfect balance between information and human encounters. I find it relevant and touching, entertaining and serious. I'm really proud of the work we did! I hope that by watching it, people will come away with a desire to approach others with curiosity and openness. When you try to go beyond surface conversation, there are so many beautiful things that happen.