Wonders of Paris
Sauce strong, Euro weak. Our new favorite designers, great food, popping vintage shops & more
Welcome to Blackbird Spyplane. And more to the point? Welcome to the wonders of Paris, because that’s where we recently touched down for a ~72-hour itinerary FESTOONED w/ cool shops, delicious restaurants, bussin’ street style, inspirational encounters with sick new designers, and amuse bouche tastes of popping nightlife…
When you see a “📀” below, that’s a DVD-ROM: Dope Vibey D*mn Recon Ordnance Marker. Let’s get to it —
Jonah & Erin
Solo in Paris for the day while Erin did professional things across the d*mn channel, I had a few hours to wander in a jetlagged stupor before I could check into my rental cribbo — located off the eternally vibey banks of the Canal Saint Martin and right around the corner from the 📀 GOAT 10eme arrondissement bakery Du Pain et Des Idées.
I hopped off the RER B from the airport and stowed my bags in the lockers at the Gare du Nord, because when yr boy’s in Europe I like to go “1995 Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy mode” & avail myself of trains when I’m not getting in these steps on the ancient picturesque mf cobblestones. Your little American 10k daily steps ?? That’s cute, but you will find me in the “step stratosphere” clocking 20k minimum sur les rues et boulevards, light work.
“D*mn Spyplane,” you might be asking, “you really travel like a 19-year-old Europass backpacker getting faded with these Czech hotties off Kronenbourg 1664 at hostels??” When it comes to train-riding & steps-getting, yes, but that’s where the similarities end, friends !
Bags stowed, body buzzing off a potent combination of no sleep and 2 double espressos, I hit the streets, flicking up several swagged-out flaneurs…
… a roster that included Spyfriend Walter Pearce, above left, who was in town ahead of fashion week to do model-casting. (And who had just copped a pair of cool Salomons at Marais institution 📀 The Broken Arm.)
I put on 📀 Alex G’s God Save the Animals — a weird, beautiful and complexly kindvibed new album about whether there is a future and what it might look like — and walked toward the Musee D’Orsay …
… and then, upon arrival, I bypassed the museum like a dripped-out philistine and entered the flagship store of the 📀 excellent “luxe minimalist” Paris label Casey Casey instead, which sits handsomely in the museum’s shadow:
Casey Casey clothes are my s**t right now — the colors are rich but subtle, the proportions are INSOUCIANTLY relaxed, and the textures are a pleasant mystery: very tightly woven cotton is treated to some wash and dye process the precise elements of which are a “trade secret,” so they come out crinkly and crisp, yet very, very soft. The effect shows through pretty well in the green pants & overshirt pictured above. (Neighbour, Nitty Gritty, and Rendez-Vous all have a nice assortment of Casey pieces.)
Put another way, the jawns come slightly pre-rumpled, so you don’t feel overly precious when you wear them. (Despite the princely sums they cost.) Case in point: last month I wore a Casey Casey shirt to the Bar Part Time anniversary party in Frisco, and spilled red wine all over myself on some butterfingers s**t because I was having a great time. I was ready to rock it with an enormous discoloration from there on out, because I believe in the wise truths of the “Life Well Lived Mindset,” and because Casey Casey makes expensive clothes that are meant to look actually lived-in —
— but then the stain came out with a hand wash that night, maybe owing to the simple fact that I am Recon Odysseus and Jawn Athena smiles upon & protects me on the “sauce battlefield”…
MEANWHILE CHECK THIS OUT —
I was wearing a couple Casey joints the next day when I met up with 📀 New Zealand-born, Paris-based Oliver Church, a fantastic young designer who personally cuts, sews and finishes every piece he sells, mostly by hand. I’d seen his work on IG, and it looked beautiful, but he graciously met up with me at a park in the Marais to show me some pieces in person and tell me about himself.
When I pulled up, Oliver remarked on the Casey Casey clothes — I was, like, “WTF, king, well spotted,” and he replied, “I used to design for them!” Jawn kismet …
Like many people I admire, Oliver is an obsessive — even / especially about very small details. A lot of bozos in the clothes game spew boilerplate hogwash about “making the very best possible product” regardless of what they make and how they make it, because they contain huckster energy and think that’s how a designer should talk in interviews.
Oliver doesn’t talk like that. Instead he got down to brass tacks: e.g., after leaving his design job at Casey Casey, and in the yearlong run-up to launching his namesake line, he experimented with hand-sewing “over 100 buttonholes” to determine which style he liked best and to get faster at making them (“now it takes me about 15 minutes to hand-sew a small one”). One is captured in a detail shot above right, next to an antique shell button...
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Oliver tends to source mad-old fabrics from Paris’s flea markets, especially the 📀 Puces des Vanves, “where professionals will go looking for bargains to then sell for ten times the price.” These old, deadstock textiles, like cotton, silk noil and linen — many of which were made for use in bygone French workwear contexts — have an ecological upside and a vibe upside: The resulting clothes bear the indelible effects of 👵TIME👵. “France produced so many cottons, linens, and hemps,” Oliver said. “You can still find it unused, and it might be 70, 100, even 250 years old in some cases, but still in very good condition.” So he’s able to “buy hand-woven cloths that you couldn’t make today without spending a lot of money.”
Oliver takes these fabrics & makes every garment himself in his Paris studio. (Sometimes he uses an industrial buttonhole machine, but not always.) He hand-repairs and hand-dyes fabrics, often using natural dyes, like madder and anthracite, and in some cases (like the striped coach jacket above), they’re hand-painted, too. It takes him about “10 hours” to hand-sew and -finish a shirt and about “3 days” for a coat, but dyeing, embroidery and appliqués add more time. He’s able to make this pace and volume work because of A) a baller customer base he saw firsthand at Casey Casey, who are willing to pay more for ingenious, hand-crafted clothes, and B) the social safety-net of the French state.
As far selling his clothes, Oliver prioritizes his stockists but keeps a sporadic number of pieces available on hand for direct sale — you can follow & contact him on IG here, and in North America the Oliver Church plug is Vancouver’s always-excellent Neighbour, who have several great OC pieces.
Oliver told me has very little desire to “scale,” because that would require concessions that he doesn’t want to make, relating to environmental costs and labor exploitation, and also to creativity. “There are things that I loved about making clothes back when I was a student that you realize aren’t possible once you’re working with factories” — by which time, that is, you’ve industrialized most such quirks out of the creative process in the name of efficiency and margins.
Before we split up, he showed me the silk-cotton lining to an in-progress hand-dyed prototype overcoat. The lining would be eventually secured to the body of the coat via an unseen “fine hand-braided cotton,” tied through a loop at one end and a French seam at the other. “If that coat was made in a factory it would probably just be a herringbone tape tacked on by a sewing machine — a less elegant solution,” Oliver explained. His point was that, at a certain volume of production, it gets harder, verging on impossible, to approach clothes-making in the time-consuming yet creatively idiosyncratic ways he likes. This was some inspiring, extremely Spyplaney s**t and it has lingered with me since !!
Let’s go lightning-round Spyplane Paris Recon Mode.
When Erin arrived from London we hit the streets together in search of good food, slapping stores, and other Parisian delights — and O baby did we find many, compiling a bundle of intel that we will now share with our “beautiful & blessed” readers out there with Spyplane Cla$$ified-Tier $ecurity Clearance: