Some years ago, I ordered a pair of jeans on an haute couture house’s website: the fancy house of Balmain with its must-have-biker-jeans had caught my attention, and due to my disposition as a wannabe fashion victim, I was easily sold. I first wore them at the premiere of Borodin’s opera Prince Igor at Hamburg’s Staatsoper, with a matching dinner jacket—matching, because it was also designed by Olivier Rousteing (although I had ordered that one at Mr Porter). Anyway, when you order a pair of trousers online you can never be quite sure if they fit at all, and my 32-inches-waistline wasn’t met at all by Balmain’s idea of 32 inches, not in the very least, as a matter of fact, this pair of jeans almost dropped when I wore them that night. During intermission, I was forced to stand still at the bar, my facial expression frozen with fear they might turn me into an exhibitionist, and I really hate causing any kind of commotion. So, after their first night out, this pair of jeans was put into my wardrobe and since then, it has spent some years in the closet like any other misfit. This year, however, I kind of ran out of trousers as I had put on a little weight. And so, after all this time, I tried them on once again, still expecting a loose fit, of course, just not one loose enough to put me in distress—but that’s just what they did! They almost cut off my circulation! Obviously, I had put on much more weight than I ever expected. Horrid sensation! What a humiliation! The morale of the story? Beware of Balmain.
One stormy night in Zurich, I couldn’t sleep, storms make me nervous and expect the worst, floods, fire and being smashed to death by branches, like Ödön von Horvàth was on the Champs-Élysées, I, however, would be smashed to death in some way more modest street, completely unknown to the rest of the world, and nobody would ever quote my way of being one of mother earth’s lesser loved children, one of those that made it on her list of people to be made extinct by bad weather, or, if I should survive this storm, one of the ones that made it on the list of people to be made cranky by severe sleep deprivation. To put it in a nutshell: I was wide awake that night, went online, visited Mr Porter and ordered a shawl by Balmain, the very last they had in stock, object permanence does not occur reliably at Mr Porter, a black and white and, well, mostly grey, cashmere and silk mixture, made in Nepal or Tibet, showing some sort of dragon, which would protect me against all these formerly specified odds of dying in bad weather. How ironic that mother nature made sure I would get that last shawl, maybe she does like me after all…
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.
This February, Mousey and I went to Paris, I in my Balmain caban, he in his Sonia Rykiel-ish outfit, stuck somewhere inside, not compromising my military allure, representing the Swiss battalion of the Balmain Army, we went goose-stepping through the streets of my favourite town, starting in the Marais, ignoring the cold and the endless drizzle, but rather enjoying emptied side-walks, no bumping into tourists when they suddenly stop to take selfies, just some slim silhouettes of Parisians, slim as their black umbrellas, crossing the river to get via Île St.Louis to Saint-Germain, and crossing it again to get to the Tuileries, admiring their elegant tristesse on such a day, void of flowers, colours and people, the Louvre’s glorious façades and rooftops just in front of you, the Musée d’Orsay on your right, on the other bank of the Seine, an architectural ensemble you find nowhere else in the world, breathing it all in while stepping over puddle after puddle, to get to Galignani’s on rue de Rivoli, the best bookstore in the world.
One thing, however, I took no account of. My lactose intolerance. After all those cafés au lait I had to warm up from the cold, my stomach became bloated. All of a sudden, I was nine months pregnant. The military shape of my jacket was gone, not only did I look like I had no self-control, I lost one of my buttons, it just popped off my jacket, the one moment I forgot to tuck my belly in when admiring Goyard’s window display. But hell, it was worth it. The French know how to make a good coffee.
I just saw a clip on Nick Knight’s Instagram account, giving me Olivier Rousteing talking about people forgetting the quality of his designs over all his fame on Instagram, and his good looks. I looked to my left, and over my chair I saw what I was wearing yesterday, a pair of jeans, biker style, with the iconic zipper fly that practically screams Balmain, you don’t need a logo to recognize the brand’s signature style, only few designers have achieved that, and a blue t-shirt with a serigraphy on it, an almost abstract screen printing of a lion’s head, some years old, still in shape, as back all those years ago it was beautifully made in France, imagine that, a t-shirt made in France, not in China or Malaysia, no, fabrication haut de gamme, delivered by grown up people, not by underpaid workers or even worse, by children, politically correct craftsmenship worthy of the old haute couture label, although looking quite hippiesque, meaning inexpensive, at least when you don’t give it a second look or thought. The moment Mr Porter delivered the first one, in a tiny flat white box, I ordered another one, in another tiny flat white box. The most beautiful and most expensive t-shirt I ever purchased twice, so no, Monsieur Rousteing, I always think of you as a good designer, even when I have to look at Kanye West.
Mr Porter and I meet mostly at night. Actually, I cannot recall having met him in broad daylight. Not ever. He seems very nice. Very reliable. And he’s got such nice mates. Ms Sander and Mr Balmain for instance. Perfectly suitable company for a gentleman. But truth be told, he’s not a good friend at all. On the contrary. He steals my money, really, he does it each time we meet, he just grabs it out of my pockets, right after putting me off guard with some smooth fashion talk, taking advantage of my vanity, it’s an easy task actually, he just has to wait until my defences are down, he’s waiting for me when I come home after working long hours, he’s right there, in his little stylish app on my home screen, and the very moment my frustrations set in, caused by deadlines, cranky clients and even crankier creative directors, when the alcohol starts to work, these soothing 13.5 vol. of a good Château Whatever, when I’m ready to be distracted, ready to think a pair of trousers might change it all, that’s when he strikes, that’s the moment when he’s hitting me and my bank account, leaving me with nothing but another pair of trousers. But there’s no way of getting rid of him. I wonder if you know him, too. I cannot be his only victim, can I?
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.