Jean-Yves Thibaudet admits he has always been a little bit of a freak when it comes to fashion.
I remember with my parents, when we were getting clothes for my concert, I would say, -˜I want this one and I want this one.’
Acclaimed as one of the world’s leading musicians, Thibaudet started playing the piano as a three-year-old and was performing publicly by the time he was seven.
He has since performed around the world, picked up a swag of prestigious awards and played with the likes of Cecilia Bartoli and Billy Joel.
But it is the 45-year-old Frenchman’s long-running love affair with costume that has produced some of his most memorable collaborations.
The first designer who made clothes for me was Gianni Versace, in the early 1990s, Thibaudet tells Sydney Star Observer from Paris.
I felt that the stupid tails and white bow ties [that male pianists wore] were so boring and so traditional.
Women could wear these fantastic gowns and for 300 years men had to wear the same stupid outfit.
I have to say the costumes with Versace were a little bit loud. I had vests that were bright yellow with red and orange and a lot of gold.
After the Italian designer’s murder in 1997, Thibaudet worked briefly with French couturier Thierry Mugler. Then came a chance encounter with another fashion legend five years ago.
I met Vivienne Westwood at a party in Zurich. We just happened to be sitting together, Thibaudet recalls.
We had so much fun that evening. At three in the morning we were laughing and talking. Then we spoke about music, because Vivienne adores music.
A couple of months later I had to play the Last Night Of The Proms in London. I called Vivienne and said, -˜I’m going to be very blunt. This concert will be live on TV. Could you make a special outfit for me?’
I told her I wanted to be different and modern but I couldn’t be too eccentric -“ I’m not Elton John yet.
She said, -˜Oh, absolutely!’
That’s how it started, with this fantastic outfit for the Proms. I was playing Rhapsody In Blue so it was a midnight blue jacket in an 18th-century style that Vivienne called Dangerous Liaison.
Thibaudet will be wearing Westwood again when he returns to Australia for three concerts at the Sydney Opera House next month.
It certainly will be Vivienne and it will be beautiful, I promise.
For his two concerts with conductor Charles Dutoit, Thibaudet will play works including French composer Ravel’s left-hand concerto.
I always say that if people closed their eyes, they would never think I was playing with one hand, he says.
Thibaudet will also give a solo recital on 11 December.
Jean-Yves Thibaudet performs at the Sydney Opera House on 7, 9 and 11 December. Book on 9250 7777 or at www.sydneyoperahouse.com.