Elle, Gabrielle.

IMG_4093

Over the years, I bought a great many books on Coco Chanel. Not only because I’m into fashion, her achievements in fashion are more than just outstanding, she was the designer of the century, there was no competition to question that, Balenciaga surely was an artist, carefully designed perfection-to-wear, he was born to give Mona von Bismarck her raison d’être, and Dior gave the world the New Look, a look so very old now, so very démodé, visited today by millions in a museum in Paris, next to the Mona Lisa, a woman whose mysterious smile has turned into a grimace when it had become that liveless cliché it is today, a smile so rarely if ever smiled back at, merely admired, like moth balled haute couture on mannequins, but Chanel’s iconic inventions live on, they are out, on the streets, they breathe and move, they were born free, copied, reinterpreted, updated, backdated, timeless, but all of that, all these hats, buttons, pearls, fake and real, all these two-tone shoes, suits and little black dresses, all that comfy beige tweed and that refined soft lace, these numbers 5, 19 and 22, olfactory revolutions, all of it bears the same genes. Style galore. We owe it to the little black-haired girl from humble beginnings whose genius outlived it all: the Belle Époque, the wars, the Roaring Twenties, the rise and fall of countries, people and fashions, she met and loved Dukes and Grand Dukes, Englishmen and Russians, she encountered Picasso, Stravinsky, Cocteau, Reverdy, Diaghilev, basically le tout Paris of the last century. Two books by Isabelle Fiemeyer, published by Flammarion in English and French, introduce us to some of the traces such a life left behind, we are allowed a glimpse, however long, of private belongings, on letters and jewels, on golden artifacts and worn clothes – these intimate details are treasures not to be missed.

IMG_4109IMG_4105IMG_4108IMG_4102IMG_4112IMG_4098IMG_4110IMG_4117IMG_4116IMG_4113IMG_4115IMG_4106IMG_4095IMG_4100IMG_4094

Tristesse exquise.

img_0502

When I was a teenager, twelve or thirteen, my father gave me a book called “Der Gentleman”, a reprint of a gentleman’s guide from the 1920s, full of wonderful illustrations of snobby men of leisure, spending their afternoons choosing the silk for their ties and cigarette cases, accompanied by lavish ladies with an equal amount of free time on their hands, warning its readers of the Berliner Chic, which meant anything loud and overdaringly flamboyant, what Berliners, long before JFK claimed to be one, were supposed to appall people with.
I never got that. Germany’s most stunning city, how could its style be of the wrong kind? Düsseldorf, okay, but Berlin? This city is just gorgeous. Its architecture is flawless, that I can assure you, even when I last visited the town last Friday on business, on a winter’s day, when the sky was grey, tiny snowflakes covering my Balmain jacket and extinguishing my freshly lit cigarette, with building sites everywhere, it offered nothing but splendour, grace and style. If that’s “Berliner Chic”, I gladly subscribe to it.

img_0469img_0483img_0507img_0516

 

Mykonos revisited.

image

When you travel, you have to have the right shoes with you. Shoes you can walk in. I don’t know what Tom Ford had in mind when he designed these thongs for Gucci in 2002, but surely the ability to walk wasn’t on the list. Why I kept them at all, I cannot tell you. Some kind of memento mori perhaps. I only wore them once in Mykonos, for, let’s be generous here, twenty minutes. Then I had to return to my hotel because of the pain they were causing. These ever so carefully designed straps were cutting into my flesh. And the tortured expression on my face obviously was giving them away. “Is everything all right?”, I was asked by the concierge when I entered the lobby. “Tom Ford hates feet.”, I replied. My loyalty, of which I am so very proud, I had to leave to the others.

Later that day, I looked less dressed up with my comfy Nike sneakers, but I could walk again. Comfortably. Even smile. Something quite important when cruising.

Nude.

image

Sunday mornings are best spent in bed. No fuss, no stress. Just relaxing. With some hot coffee and croissants, that is. But how to get those croissants as quickly as possible? Without any fuss? By jumping out of bed and into your navy Balmain biker style sweatpants, putting on a white t-shirt and black flip-flops, and rushing semi-nude to your baker round the corner. No one could call you improperly dressed; you’re wearing an haute couture label for crying out loud. And when you’re back, you just take them off and crawl naked under your linen sheets again. Easy going.

Beware of snow.

image

In September, 2013, I moved to Zurich and was expecting a winter quite different from the ones in Hamburg. I had moved to Switzerland; I was expecting snow. So, when at Hermès looking for a treat, this cashmere cap seemed to be just the right thing to protect my head from all these upcoming icy flakes. I put it on, and was transformed into some kind of liftboy. The cap they had on display at the store was much too small for my head, it just sat on top of it, with no visor at all, a little to the side, quite perky, just like a liftboy’s pillbox cap. A liftboy. I looked like a liftboy. And that meant, I looked like Felix Krull, German literature’s most stunning creature. The sales woman of course showed up immediately with the right size, but it just made me look like an ordinary guy with an ordinary cap on his head. My mind was made up. I wanted to look like Thomas Mann’s wet dream.

Taking home the cap and my first Hermès hat box, I was so happy. If only I had known there would be no snow at all in Zurich that winter, and none in the following years either for that matter.

Comme des iconoclastes.

image

In February, 2013, Comme des Garçons and Hermès were set to release the first part of their collaborative “Comme des Carrés” project. The collection came in the form of five scarves, each printed with a mixture of Hermès’ equine iconography and Comme des Garçons’ artwork, and was released in a limited edition, available only at Comme des Garçons retail locations in Paris, New York and Tokyo, as well as Dover Street Market Ginza and London. I was amazed. Their version of “Couvertures et Tenues de Jour” looked as if if had some freedom fighter like Che Guevara or Daniel Cohn-Bendit as a designer, as if it had been upgraded by political iconoclasm, even the iconic box wasn’t left alone by Comme des Garçons’ jolly impiety, it came with big black dots, and all this beautiful mess seemed to have a tiny fringe group of the jeunesse dorée, still into May 1968 and its spirit of revolution, as the main target group. Not having it in my possession made me quite nervous, I was about to either go cold turkey or to Paris first thing in the morning when German Vogue, where I had just learned all about it, ever so debonairly, gave me Dover Street Market’s online shop web address. A few seconds later, freedom was on its way to me, and I was at ease again. No wonder I had almost gone cold turkey; I was born in May, 1968.

image

 

Vol de nuit.

image

With all mysteries gone in our world, every place on earth reachable in just a few hours, the experience of a trip reduced to the choice of our luggage purveyor, Goyard, Louis Vuitton or Mandarina Duck, we cannot call ourselves travelers anymore. On planes, we don’t feel the climate changing, the horizon adapting to the geography, the food getting spicier, architecture and customs turning foreign, and the people altering their features and the style of their clothes, all the things that voyagers like W.Somerset Maugham or Alexander von Humboldt experienced while approaching their distant destination old school style. We just beam ourselves up.

But I do call myself a traveler when I light my scented candle by Guerlain on this late summer’s night, I leave my natural habitat within seconds, it fills the air with foreign woody spices, transporting me to les Indes and I can’t even trust my taste buds anymore, this Rioja seems to have changed its character, it tastes oddly oriental all of a sudden.