from FWD http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/f...shion_fwd/ash_1 Hash, Anne-Valerie: Small is Beautiful Godfrey Deeny Fashion Wire Daily May 05, 2004 - Paris - Anne-Valerie Hash is living proof that even without proper financing, talent can make a major impact. On barely enough funds to pay for a cruise holiday for two, Hash has in just a few years created an acclaimed fashion label and become a member of the most elite of fashion echelons - a Paris couturier. Under French law, proof of funds of 8,000 Euros (approximately $9,000) are needed to create a company here, which is precisely what Hash used to finance her de-constructionist foray into fashion. Working on this shoestring, Anne-Valerie managed to present six collections, three runway shows, and stage fashion/art presentations in Ace Gallery in New York and the French Cultural Institute of Milan. This July she stages her winter 2004 collection in the beautiful Musee Galliera in Paris during couture season. In the fall, she appears alongside designers such as Alexander McQueen and Viktor & Rolf in "Fashion-ation," a joint show at Stockholm's Museum of Modern Art. And along the way, Hash and photographer Michelangelo Batista have prepared three of the most beautiful recent fashion catalogues - wonderful shoots staring Guinevere Van Seenus, Stella Tenant and Erin Wasson. In effect, Hash is the latest proof of the premiere position of Paris women's fashion, and this city's remarkable ability to continually throw up talent. Her oeuvre, deconstruction, is not that original. But Hash's topsy-turvy sense of proportion, unique blend of menswear and feminine fashion, and her exceptional cutting technique immediately mark her out as a special and unique talent. Bindings, seams, linings and interiors are always evident on the outside of Hash's fashion, yet the effect is superbly subtle, and never sloppy. In person, Hash is tres petite, as is her muse - Lou Lisa Lesage, the 13-year-old daughter of rocker friends, with whom Hash always works. "Why a child?," Hash replies when asked about her working relationship with Lesage. "Because when you take adult-sized garments you can reduce them and play with the proportions easily, which you can't on a grown-up," she explains with a smile. Before each collection, Hash creates a roadmap of where the look is going by compiling a dossier of photos of Louise. This season, her theme is circus, clowns and patchwork; the prototypes were sourced from flea markets. Once a month, Hash shops for vintage and used clothes in the north Paris puce, Port St. Ouen, and she also makes the occasional pilgrimmage to Portobello Road in London. "I pick up anything from an 19th-century ladies' jacket to a '60s suit for men," she notes. In her very quiet way, Hash seems tremendously ambitious. She has been re-reading a biography of Coco Chanel every second year since she was 18. She is now 33. "Chanel was such a character, so compelling, and in her photos so severe," she muses in rather good English, fruit of the year she spent studying at Temple University in Philadelphia. "Yet from observing fashion in the '80s and '90s I'd say I am more influenced by Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garcons," she continues, going on to explain that after college, she did internships and brief stints in the weeks before catwalk shows with Nina Ricci, Chloe, Christian Lacroix, and of course, Chanel. These stints, she says, offered her the opportunity to work right in the atelier, fitting skirts and jackets for wealthy couture clients. "I learned a huge amount, and really under stood how clothes are made, and unmade," she recalls of the experience. Hash launched her debut collection in July 2001, with an exhibition of photos from her first catalogue. Subsequent limited edition catalogues, sponsored by the producer who supplied the paper, surpass in quality those of established houses. "I did not sell one piece," Hash admits, disarmingly, discussing her opening season. But since then, she's gone on to win orders from stores such as Browns Focus and Liberty in London, Onward Kashiyama in Paris and Louis Boston and Nordstrom in the US. And she has been feted by and featured in magazines on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet, as recently as three years ago, Hash confesses that she fell into a major depression, too poor to afford even pasta. But if the hard monetary realities of the fashion business pushed Hash into a slump, it was the creative business of making fashion that helped her through it. "Fashion to me is like therapy," she says. "The very act of recreating or re-inventing something is therapeutic. I think that's true for writers and artists too." Hash also notes that her experiences of three years ago conditioned her to frugality: Even now, she runs her virtual couture house out of a tiny atelier in the Third Arrondissement. "In the beginning, I had to be very tough with banks. When I got orders I asked to be paid half up-front. Now we have quite a few orders," she adds cheerfully. Unlike some designers, she has a refreshingly open manner. Her explanation of how she became an official couture member of the Chambre Syndicale, for example, is typically and sweetly candid. Needing a sponsor from one of the senior couture houses, she recalls, she wrote to six. Her first letter was addressed to Christian Dior CEO Sidney Toledano. "I found out later that I cut and pasted the Dior address into all six letters!" She laughs. Hash is in a position to laugh about the snafu, of course, because Toledano did in fact end up sponsoring her applicaton to the Chambre. "His name was on every one," she continues, shaking her head. "I suppose you could say Sidney had no choice!"