After the summer lull, New York's live arts season is revving up, and the plucky Crossing The Line (FIAF's fall festival) is first in line with Olivier Saillard’s performance project Models Never Talk – aptly timed to coincide with New York Fashion Week and presented at Milk Studios, the epicenter of New York’s fashion coolness.

Amalia Vairelli in Olivier Saillard's <i>Models never talk</i> © Giovanni Gianonni
Amalia Vairelli in Olivier Saillard's Models never talk
© Giovanni Gianonni
The audience are seated catwalk-style, and soon exposed to an awesome sevensome of former models, most of them well into their sixties, long retired, but still drop-dead gorgeous and in remarkable physical shape as they casually strut in elegant, tightly fitted neck-to-toe black body suits and pencil-thin stillettos.

As Saillard observes in his title, in this world, models never talk. But as you may have surmised by now, they certainly talk here, and they sure have a few things to say. Over the hour-long piece, we become privy to secrets and behind-the-scenes anecdotes from their former lives in the high fashion industry – names such as Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier, Comme des Garçons and Thierry Mugler are casually dropped, eliciting chuckles and sighs from the fashion connoisseurs in the audience. Meanwhile, the women stylishly and sensually inhabit the performance space, sharing vivid accounts of their own tactile experiences of wearing some iconic, memorable couture pieces.

In the course of the show, we get a sort of crash course in mid-1980’s fashion, and the hour breezes by quickly. The models’ stories are intimate and fascinating, but accounts of the personal aspect of their lives are strangely absent, and it is one of the several shortcomings of a work that intends to put a human face to bodies reduced to glorified mannequins in the context of fashion shows. Likewise, while arrestingly endearing, this work suffers from a nearly complete lack of dramaturgy, so – if one reads it as a theatrical performance rather than a novelty item – it very quickly loses steam and falls flat into the sameness territory.

Olivier Saillar's <i>Models never talk</i> © Giovanni Gianonni
Olivier Saillar's Models never talk
© Giovanni Gianonni
Regardless, Models Never Talk provides a curious exposé of an aspect of the world of fashion one rarely gets to hear about. The work is endearing and intriguing but never too deep – much like the industry it purports to critique.

***11