Salade Nicoise at Café Marly
There’s a glass slab supported by three painted plastic gnomes at the far end of a showroom in the Shibuya section of Tokyo, Japan. It would be unremarkable, were it not placed amidst the high concept, often delicate designs of Sacai, the line created by Chitose Abe. The kitsch of the table and accompanying shiny black gnome stool isn’t what I would have expected in the headquarters of the Commes des Garçons and Junya Watanabe alum. Abe’s own look is also a little surprising, but in the best way. She’s wearing a navy and black stripe tee, a sheer black lace skirt, both of her own design, and high-heel sandals. Her toenails are coated in the fiery iridescent polish of a Japanese gel manicure complete with ruby disc paillettes. She’s wearing a platinum Cartier panther ring, black Hermes cuff and oversize watch, its face framed with square cut stones. The ring finger and thumb on one hand and the pinkie and thumb on the other are manicured with tips in the same shiny style as her feet. I’m sure she’s left her other six fingers bare as a radical statement —there’s that subversive spirit!— but she laughs and tells me the polish has simply fallen off. She’s busy and hasn’t had time to fix it. It’s forgivable considering the knock out collection for fall (Sacai’s signature hybrids seem to have crept onto other runways this season, as well) and that she’s preparing to open her first store this September in Tokyo’s Aoyama district. Sou Fujimoto was the architect behind the space, which, I’m told, may have a few gnomes of its own.
It’s a well-deserved milestone for Abe who at ten years old decided she wanted to be a designer after watching an Issey Miyake documentary. She went on to work at a commercial company for eighteen months before heading to Commes des Garçons where she began as a pattern cutter. After nine years, she was part of the design team. “It was quite scary, obviously,” she says. “Rei (Kawakubo) taught me what the fashion business is all about.” She doesn’t mention avant-garde design, rather the other side of things. “Rei denies mainstream, but in her own way she’s sort of mainstream.” A company has to make money to keep going. “But, it’s about gradually building.” After over a decade of small presentations, Sacai had its very first runway show last season in Paris. The company didn’t have a press agent until a year and a half ago. When Abe first started out, a New York showroom thought her collection was not commercial enough and too expensive to sell to clients. So, she met with buyers herself and Barney’s and Maxfield’s picked up the clothes. Her approach has always been to keep it real with a dose of reverence for her mentors, like Kawakubo who still sends advice by fax.
“’Everything has meaning,’ is my philosophy,” says Abe referencing, as example, her chiffon trimmed sweaters. “I don’t just put on frills. This is the lining falling loose, not a simple detail.” Even her excitement about the store comes from an unexpected place. It will be the perfect means to display her three collections: womenswear, menswear and Sacai Luck (“not a diffusion line, but for different occasions”) all together. She plans to mix the them up on the mannequins. “If we are lucky enough to have the chance to have a store in New York or London, we will play will be merchandising in a different way.” Abe feels it’s very Japanese to combine clothes like this, a Sacai mens sweater with a women’s dress over Sacai Luck lingerie, though she also likes to defy the cultural expectation. She’s the little rebellious sister of la famille Kawakubo. “Everyone expects me to be Commes des Garçons cool,” Abe says smiling. “It’s not like that; I like cute.” She’s charming in this admission, even more so as she runs to her office to return with evidence. There’s a knit camera from the Paris shop, Merci; a yellow pigtailed key cozy; an acid colored matryoshka doll pochette; and a Chanel Union Jack purse that matches the red, white and blue stones on her watch. Despite what she says Abe is cool, unafraid to share her taste for whimsy, which, in effect, explains the gnomes. She’s still part of the Comme-Junya clan, even if she likes a little femininity and kitsch. “Rei doesn’t wear heels, I do.”
- Stephanie LaCava
Somehow we start out talking about Auguste Rodin and Kurt Cobain.
“They have the same sensibility,” says Guillaume Henry, the 32-year-old designer of Carven. “In honesty, at least.”
We’re sitting at a tiny table upstairs at Ladurée on rue Royale, right next to Carven’s atelier. “It’s a place I would dream of when I was a kid,” he says. That is, a kid who used to correspond with Christian Lacroix and in his late teens, accepted the couturier’s invitation to visit the Paris studio. “I thought it was all about pleasure, fun, heart. I wanted to spend my days doing that—with great colors.” Henry’s wish came true when he arrived at Carven two years ago by a rather unlikely circumstance. A friend cryptically text messaged him asking what he thought of the brand to which he replied, “I love. They should stop doing couture and do dresses, dresses, dresses.” The friend forwarded the response on to the house’s owner.
Henry’s usual order at Ladurée is La Religieuse de la Rose, a cream puff pastry with fruity compote, but when we meet he chooses a salad. He needs sustenance exhausted from the week of presenting menswear and his latest collection during couture. Tomorrow, he’s off to Machu Picchu in Peru for a two week holiday. It’s a well-deserved respite after a hectic period filled with work and delights, like Inès de la Fressange pairing his dress with flats at Cannes and her family in Carven at the Monegasque wedding. Henry likes his ladies unique, spirited and well cultured. “Once I was on a scooter, and saw this super nice girl going to the Opera (wearing Carven) and thought, ‘How great she chose that dress for that event.’” As for those he’d like to dress, Gena Rowlands would be a coupe, as well as Chantal Joffe. He loves that both Isabelle Huppert and Rihanna have been photographed in the same Carven look. Age is inconsequential. Time, however, is his nemesis.
“The worst enemy in fashion is time,” Henry says, alluding to the accelerating cycle of precollections. “ What can you do in five weeks, except not sleeping?” He refuses to produce anything that doesn’t feel like Carven. “The designs have to be faithful and honest to the aesthetic,” he says. Rodin and Cobain would surely agree.
- Stephanie LaCava
The stylist team Avigail Claire and Damian Collins—or AC/DC—started working with Daisy Lowe in October of 2009. They first met through close mutual friend designer and illustrator Kate Moross. The four went to Paris together for Louis Vuitton’s show two years ago and the day after when they all returned to London, Lowe rang Claire and Collins and asked to work together.
“Not only is Daisy gorgeous, but she’s an amazing friend and unafraid to show others that you don’t have to be stick thin to be a model,” says Claire. Last week, Lowe caused quite the stir when she arrived with boyfriend Matt Smith at Jean Paul Gaultier’s haute couture show in the designer’s pale pink corset dress. It had originally been an option for the Bafta’s, but Claire and Collins felt it would be better front row.
Aside from Silver Spoon Attire and a yet to be disclosed special project with Lowe, Claire and Collins are collaborating on an accessories line called Saville Raw. They have been a part of the styling team for Rihanna in Europe (think JPG, Danielle Scutt and Louise Goldin) and are also designing tour wardrobes for Tinie Tempah, Eliza Doolittle and London-based trio, the WooWoo’s. “Our inspiration has been our vast collection of The Face magazines and our interpretation of a 90′s girl band: Nirvana meets TLC,” says Claire of the latter. Look for the launch of www.nothinglong.com to showcase their friends’ ideas and original editorial work like collaborations with artist Margot Bowman.
As for important partnerships, Claire and Collins are getting married next June in old Jaffa, Tel Aviv. The bride will wear a dress by Kate Halfpenny (the two worked together on Rihanna’s look for the MTV music awards). Says Claire, “It makes our job all worthwhile to be able to get talented young designers brought to the attention of the nation.” Lowe ended up wearing a Craig Lawrence piece to the Bafta’s, which resulted in major British press coverage, kind of like the blush Gaultier.
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- Stephanie LaCava