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words and photography SHINI PARK guest of CHANEL & BARRIE
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In what I can only describe as fickle (AF. Excuse my French) and fundamentally confusing times that is managing to spur a notoriously apathetic generation and an ENTIRE GENDER to be hot and bothered, my visit to Barrie Knitwear in Hawick, Scotland comes as a balm.
There is an air of enduring timelessness to Barrie, suppliers of Chanel knitwear: a distinct lack of fuss or noise, save for the gentle whirring of machines and crisp snip-snaps from thread cutters sprinkled across a well-lit assembly hall. The main objective: the craft. It’s a no-brainer. It’s evident in the sculptural jumper worn by my guide (whom I end up awkwardly hugging/petting in the end, because CASHMEEEERE), in the knitted brows (see what I did there) of the men and women mounting the rib panel stitch-by-stitch, and the multiple quality control stations that punctuate the entire process.

It has been quite a journey to reach this point, my guide tells me, however. In 2012, Barrie’s holding company had hit a financial bind and was forced into administration, which is when Chanel’s subsidiary company Paraffection (meaning “for love”) had given a hand in the name of savoir-faire. This poignant purchase has since aided the mill in securing scores of jobs, serving the Hawick community, and resuming some 140-year heritage and expertise. In a sense, arguably it’d been a natural acquisition, given that Chanel had been working with Barrie for thirty years’ prior on producing twin-sets and the perennial two-tone cardigans that is still a staple of the brand. No stitch was to be dropped (aren’t I just full of puns today) in Barrie’s cause for highly finessed knitwear production.

Photos – Shini Park

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…filled with the cosmopolitan, high-rolling glitterati that famously adorned the Ritz.

Chanel’s Metiers D’Art returns to Paris for the brand’s sixth and final collection of 2016, right back to the hallowed lobby of the recently renovated Ritz, where Coco Chanel famously lived from 1937 throughout World War II, and died in 1971. While a centre-piece of French pastries and cookies needs no excuse, the show – served up in three sittings at lunch, tea and dinnertime, was filled with the cosmopolitan, high-rolling glitterati that would have visited the Ritz in its heydays.

Weaving in between the tables, dancing with the occasional ‘stranger’ (who turns out was a dance duro), the models wore midi-skirts with deep V-neck tops to match, bubble-capes and hair veils decorated with roses. As look number 42 sauntered by, I recognised the golden tunic that was merely a sketch and a swatch panel when I’d visited Barrie just two weeks past.

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Catwalk Photos: Chanel

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State-of-the-art knitting machines are used to achieve precise and complex designs

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A stitch-by-stitch pattern is constructed based on sketches from Paris.

While final design input is made by Chanel, Barrie’s technical know-how is trusted in composing the best creation method.

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An artisan scores a clean-cut button hole on a Chanel two-tone cardigan

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Below: Once knitted, the panels are washed and softened – but no chemical products are used (Only the water from Teviot river is to to praise!) This process is not operated by a timer, but by an experienced technician who determines the doneness with his hand.

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Rib panels are mounted onto the needles, stitchby stitch, which requires precision and experienced hands to ensure the quality of knit meets Chanel’s exacting demands.

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All Chanel knitwear is made in the ‘fully fashioned method’, which results in neater seams.

Above: a steady hand boldy shears through a cardigan in its final stages.

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In the design room, I make a bee-line to a wall tiled with Karl’s sketches (I tend to dart off the leash at Chanel factories…), feeling a little naughty as I glean hints of the upcoming Metiers D’Art collection. The nonchalant hand-written annotations by the Chanel design team illustrate how the production process is a well-versed collaboration between the two studios. These rough sketches are then used by Barrie technicians to construct the pattern, stitch-by-stitch, using a highly mathematical application that look like impossible pixel-art to me. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that there can be as many as four Chanel collections, in varying technical complexities, in development and production at any given time. I can’t even do my laundry while the water is boiling.

It’s a gruelling process. Assembling one piece can take up to 40 steps, involving state-of-the-art Shima Seiki machines from Japan, as well as some near-extinct industrial beasts from the 70’s. But the star of the process is the hands, and that’s ultimately what the Chanel customer pays for: the meticulous and rigorous care of highly-skilled artisans.

As a parent-company, Chanel endorses the pursuit for the ‘best’, and this resonates through Barrie as every trainee, technician, craftsman, work towards indisputable quality and quiet over-achievements. And this, especially in a landscape of dubious origins and sub-par quality products (and politicians), is something sure worth paying for.

Dress – Razan Alazzouni. Blouse – Goat. Bag – Celine.

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Matsuhisa Paris
Le Royal Monceau | raffles.com

Having grown up in all the international schools Poland could throw at us, this fact I’m pretty certain of: mixed-race kids are sick of hearing other children ask ‘what are you?’ (‘a potato.’). And hence, I must offer my sincerest apologies – to my Albacore Tuna Sashimi with Jalapeno Pepper, at the newly opened Matsuhisa Paris – for asking WHAT ARE YOU AND WHY DO YOU TASTE LIKE A UNICORN. Because hot damn, guys – Peruvian and Japanese make a handsome blend.

Rewind to Paris a few Wednesdays ago, back in April. It would seem that we brought one small Samsonite on the Eurostar, as well as one order of soggy blanket of rainclouds that followed us from King’s Cross to perch at the edge of the Arc de Triomphe, which was but a stone’s throw away from the entrance of The Royal Monceau Raffles. As suspicions would have it – moments after check-in, the sky opened up over the 8th arrondissement. Sleepily, we abandoned Paris and fell into the Philippe Starck rabbit hole, perusing the design and contemporary art, so nonchalantly hanging about and forming a sort a hypnotic, surreal landscape – a live-in gallery of sorts… then eventually retired into the comfort of our suite, and counted reflections on the panelled mirrors in the bathroom for the rest of the afternoon. Peering from our second-floor suite balcony as the rain soaked the red carpet outside, the sound of Japanese Taiko drums thundered through the hallways as guests arrived for the launch of Matsuhisa Paris.

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Shoes – Ganor Dominic. Jeans – Filippa K. Bag – Cekline. Sweater – Zara.

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Chef Nobu has a sort of sunny disposition about him always – perhaps a memento from his many years in Lima – he bounces in and asks everyone at our table where we are from. He has stories for each – for Janni, who lives in Monaco, his favourite restaurant in the French Mediterranean coastline; my background confuses him slightly but he ends up telling the romance around the opening of Nobu in Green Park – his first European venture. He has the unquestionable charisma of the Japanese brand, a somewhat unicorn dish himself, emphasized even more as he stands under under the Stéphane Calais – Un Jardin à la Française ceiling mural in Le Royal Monceau.

Park & Cube was a guest of Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris

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Silk slip – Hesper Fox..

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Glasses – Ray-Ban. Silk slip – Hesper Fox.

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#SPARKYxPARIS
How to be a
Parisian
when you quite like the look of your face under a good, strong, elaborate layer of makeup…

I’ve googled it, I possibly even own an illustrated book or two about it*, and if my google search history is any indication I may even have a phD on it the same way my husband is an expert on all things Dungeons and Dragons. HOW DOES ONE BECOME A PARISIAN? The answer is not so apparent, apparently, even when you’re in the thick of it – slurping down a café allongé with a Coach leather coat caped over your shoulders in the middle of Rue Montorgueil, while the cute waiter periodically pops his head out the door and asks Avez-vous terminee? No, mon cher, it’s not terminal – although given that I am on Page 3 of the search results in pursuit of a self-applicable answer it may as well be. I am done with my coffee though; may I have a glass of rosé?

What does being a Parisian even mean? See, if you have a council tax bill under your name from the London Borough of Anywhere, and accepted the local Turkish joint to be at least one of of your weekly meals, then one can generously consider oneself a Londoner – regardless of duration of residence. There is no gait, no 5-piece wardrobe that would allow you to single out a Londoner from a throng. That odd (borderline creepy) obsession to a pub perhaps can be used for an inkling, but then we invite anyone north of Birmingham to this equation.

*this is what happens when you say yes to one too many goody-bags

This is the Airbnb you need to stay at in Paris

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top: suit PAUL & JOE pleated dress COACH SS16 boots SAM EDELMAN. bottom: coat and bag COACH SS16 trousers NEXT

You can however, pick out the Parisienne out of a crowd. The rule-book (illustrated in colour or not) says she is probably blonde, smoking, and most likely also not wearing a smidgen of makeup, but so far my attempts at following this has only led to being shunned from the high street and offered loose change. And that’s where it hits me: we are dealing with the number of f*cks here. Not the optimal heel height, rituals of lovers vs. boyfriends, nor the percentage of black/navy in the wardrobe. French women simply give less f*cks. Whereas English women, my goodness, KOREAN WOMEN are one (face-contour) beauty product too many f*cks to even contend (why do we care so much?). I’m stereotyping here, of course, but it’s an important lesson. Be Spiderman. Be you. Give less f*cks about what people think and layer that dress over the pant-suit. Do it with confidence, because that’s really what being a Parisian is about, n’est-ce pas?

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Paris
Dice
    Kayek

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who DICE KAYEK what HAUTE COUTURE FASHION WEEK PARIS when JANUARY 2016

I’m going to let you in on a secret: next time you draw up a bubble bath, take a box of walnut baklavas (from that Turkish café on the high street you’ve always been eyeing) in with you*. It’s a match made in heaven – just like Dice Kayek Haute Couture and that one January morning in Paris. Those that are familiar with the label might know the founders Ayşe and Ece Ege’s wild love/yearning for Istanbul: from the intricate grandeur of the city and the allure of old Constantinople, to delicate shapes taken from the Botany tulips that grow in the palace gardens, and the gentle swirls of silk in the markets.

This season a fairy tale is woven. Ece Ege is adamant in dreaming up a new world – expertly crafted with the Dice Kayek stamp of technical know-how for precision sculpting and the ever-defying of gravity in voluminous silhouettes. I came by the atelier on the eve of the show for a glimpse at before my fitting and had to stifle my surprise on how calm the mood was. Of course, a back-cover snippet all but tells the full story, but from what I caught it looked to be a page-turner.

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Smooth sailing, 15 hours before the show and not an ounce of panic.

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Morning of: wearing a ballooney top means more space for croissants in my bra.

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Top – Dice Kayek. Trousers – Filippa K. Heels – Sarah Flint. Bag – Chloe.

The day of the show was particularly frosty; I arrived just about fending off a migraine that had sprouted out of nowhere that very morning, but the collection came as a balm. Dark, and even Gothic in setting, the looks came floating out like foam. An Audrey Hepburn-French count cross-breed sauntered out, followed by a Little Red Riding Hood cake icing… the caped jackets and belled sleeves seemed almost ceremonial if not cinematic. Eye-makeup resembled something that a court jester might don. It all reminded me of that part in the childhood fable The Lion, the Witch, and the Lion where the White Witch offers a Turkish delight: that altogether curious, healing, warming sensation brought on by a new idea or encounter. And what better setting for a fairytale, if not Paris?

*The syrup has a tendency to seep out, at which point all you have to do is lick it off your hand before it hits the water.

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flaneur
Stroller, lounger, saunterer, or loafer; the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street.

“Flattery? Flannel…? Sorry, I don’t think I know this word”, I blubbered, pausing Pauline mid-sentence as she began to explain the inseparable nature of Hermès and the art of flânerie over one eggy breakfast at Berners Tavern. What a funny word. Turns out it’s one of those untranslatable foreign words that mean a multitude of things in English yet is so satisfyingly encompassing when you finally understand exactly what it is. A complex word, like love, or sort of like when girls say ‘fine’ to their boyfriends during a quarrel.

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I’d like to think that I’ve had my own versions of that word before learning of it. Maybe that time when I was 12 and obsessed with aimlessly rollerblading around the neighbourhood alone, imaginings different lives in the houses I passed by – that was called ‘mum I’m going out with friends’ (usually met by ‘what friends? you don’t have any friends’). In uni I befriended Ellen, a fellow flâneur – and it’d take one of us to simply cock a head towards a back street and that was code for ‘we’re not going home anytime soon’. We ambled, wandered and strolled the streets of London, unconsciously categorising quirks and novelties of the city as we happened on them.

Fast forward to now, in the city that birthed the very word – Paris. It was much the same but a different enjoyment, learning the art of being a flâneur with the true master in its art, Hermès. We, along with Susie Bubble, set out from Palais Royal and meandered through time-worn galleries and under ornate, covered passageways from the 18th century; from 1st Arrondissement to the 9th, losing all sense of time and rejoicing in the lack of an objective. Or at least until our stomachs started a to-do list and put itself at the very top, which we promptly ticked off at Caffe Stern, an engraving-shop-turned-Venetian-restaurant (by David Lanher and designed by Philippe Starck).

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While I do attest to the fact that digital ‘wandering’ so totally can be a thing, and unearthing a good cat video as rewarding as finding a peculiar object off the street, true flanerie is defined by disconnecting oneself from the usual pace, and occupying with time, child-like curiosity and a discerning eye – all-in-all a luxury to be earned, even saved-up for. These values define Hermès, and therefore a perfect fit for the theme of the year and annual exhibition*. As we joined up with the bustle of the real world at the end of Passage Verdeau, a rather special treat awaited… stay tuned for part 2!

*Hermès Wanderland exhibition; 9th April to 2nd May; Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London, SW3 4RY. Open 10am-6pm daily. Free entrance.

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Coat – Dagmar. Bag – Monsieur Gavriel. Trousers – Zara. Shoes – Acne ‘Jensen’

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