Only in Paris: Fashion Week, Day One

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Published March 5, 2009

The problem with the Paris collections is when to begin. Once you start, the rest of your life falls by the wayside. After skipping a few shows, I took the plunge with Gustavo Lins’s showroom appointment. There I found him, his Cato-like assistant (Cato as in Inspector Clouseau’s valet-cum-sparring partner from Peter Seller’s Pink Panther) and the fitting model, a lynx-like blonde from Eastern Europe  dressed in castoff kimonos. “I get them at the flea market in Tokyo,” explains Lins. “They’re old and nobody wants them. So I dye them black and throw them in the washing machine.” Lins trained as an architect before he discovered fashion design. He takes the kimonos apart, but leaves some of the hand-stitched seams and twists them around until they look like 1930s-era femme fatale frocks. Only in Paris: Lins works from a thimble-sized gazebo located in a small Marias courtyard and has a team of Parisian tailors produce his collection. He’s a master of complex cuts, the workmanship is impeccable, and it doesn’t come cheap, so he only sells to about 20 stores scattered all over the globe. (Photo: Peachoo + Krejberg)

Next up was Gareth Pugh at the Passage du Désir, a cavernous space located in the middle of Paris’s African hair salon neighborhood where ladies spend hours turning their tresses into braided sculptures while gentlemen friends hang out in front. We were admitted in small groups to an entresol next to the screening room; a red light countdown clock displaying the seconds remaining until we could enter. This created a sense of anticipation, bordering on anxiety. Pugh’s graphic, wham-bam film presentation by Ruth Hogben looked like a Rorschach test and what I saw was a slashed leather T-shirt with exposed boobs and a huge accordion pleat culotte skirt. The woman, a Pugh-styled samurai, danced Kung Fu before she transformed into an ink blot. The film is obviously a teaser, and Pugh fanatics must make a showroom appointment to get the real lowdown. I tried to reach Pugh for more details after the show, but he was busy living it up with Ponystep, who took over the Passage du Désir for the evening.

Peachoo + Krejberg sounds like a burlesque duet, but they’re actually a designing couple. Peachoo Datwani is from England and Roy Krejberg hails from some Nordic land. The collection they showed in a Marais garage featured a bunch of giant knits that looked as if little people had dressed themselves in somebody’s old winter scarf.

It was then French Vogue Editor Carine Roitfeld’s turn to transform the Prada store on avenue Montaigne into the Viper Room as the final leg of a four-city series dreamed up by Miuccia Prada. Prada asked iconic stylists (Katie Grand in London, Olivier Rizzo in Milan, and Alex White in New York) to “rethink” the brand’s stores. Inspired by the snake prints in Prada’s spring collection, Roitfeld filled the store with real  big snakes in small display cases, a rubberized python patterned carpet and an ‘exotic’ snake dancer in a 60s bouffant ‘do.