Words by Jessica Rushforth
Hyères, [pronounced ee-air; French yer] is situated in a commune in the Var department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in the South-East of France. It is the oldest resort on the French Riviera and expands from the Mediterranean Sea to the hill of Costebelle as is nicknamed “Les Palmiers” due to its 7000 palm trees shading the town’s streets.
Hyères population reached 57 645 in 2016 and since 1830 has been classed as a tourist destination well known for its cultural events, its beach and gardens and for its thermal cures during winter. In the 1800’s it was a very popular destination amongst the European aristocrats and notably those from the UK arriving in search of winter warmth and have left an architectural signature still distinguishable today.
Hyères has a very nice relaxing and holiday feeling to it. It has very pretty colourful houses with little local commerce’s. It wasn’t too busy and seemed like there were only locals apart from those there for the festival – however in summer it will get very busy!
The general atmosphere is set by the locals and their lifestyle so the shops were only open for a few hours before they shut for a two-hour lunch break and most seemed to open only Monday to Friday. However, you can easily find the locals sitting at a terrace drinking wine and enjoying delicious food at any time of the day.
We somewhat adapted to this lifestyle and made sure we tried many different restaurants and of course accompanied most meals with a glass of wine. Some of the restaurants we tried and enjoyed were Tony Burger, Le Cercle, La Pastachuca and Au Pied D’Poule, they all served a variety of foods from composed salads to steak tartare and French specialities such as melted Camembert cheese with charcuterie or Coquilles Saint-Jacques and Gambas. Our favourite restaurant was Le Marais, the food was delicious and it was located right on the beach. It was so sunny the restaurant owners lent us some sun hats giving that true South of France holiday feeling.
In terms of the Festival itself and the Villa Noailles, the atmosphere was also quite relaxed. In contrary to fashion week, the journalists and guests seemed content and less stressed. There was a nice community feeling too, you could really feel that people were there to work but were happy to be out of their usual work environment in big capital cities and enjoyed Hyères rhythm and the French “laidbackness”. The different workshops you could participate in and the panel discussions you could attend really made us all come together and be able to engage with one another creating exciting discussions.
On the Saturday we attended the after-show party, held in the Hippodrome which was a very peculiar location as the room was very long and thin. None the less, we had great fun as we were able to mix and chat with the different industry professionals in a very friendly and social environment – the open bar helped a bit too!
Overall, the atmosphere during the Hyères Festival was very pleasant and positive. It was great to get to approach professionals and network in a relaxed and intimate environment – a perfect mixture of working and enjoying ourselves at same time.