Irresistible horses.

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Picture it, The Hague, summer of 1982. Of a holiday that my family and I spent mostly on the nearby beach in Scheveningen, I just recall one particular day, the day we went to The Hague to see architecture for a change, shops, museums, I guess, and restaurants with dressed people, this I recall intensely, I like dressed people, anyway, The Hague has a lot of beautiful places, we had tea and sandwiches at the most stylish café, Germany had absolutely nothing of the kind these years, I really like The Hague, I actually prefer it to Amsterdam, but don’t ask me why, anyway, on this day we passed, quite by chance, The Hague’s Hermès boutique, and as nobody in my family was particularly interested in their display, I was left behind in front of one of its windows, a window in which there was an ashtray, an ashtray, yes, the most beautiful ashtray with a horse in some sort of gala outfit, and no, I did not smoke at this age, I didn’t smoke for five more years, I was a late bloomer, anyway, this ashtray was so beautiful that I didn’t get it out of my mind, a few hours later I would schlepp my mother back to the store just to show her that ashtray, my mother going once again “What?” as she did not get the beauty of the depicted horse in that or any other ashtrays, hers were purer, simpler, but she can’t ride either, I can, very well even, and so, as my monthly allowance didn’t cover an Hermès ashtray at that time, I had to go without – until I moved to Zurich some years ago. There they had almost the same ashtray, and at the age of fortysomething my cash flow was almost positive, and I even was allowed to smoke, I was in heaven – needless to say, I bought it right away – and a new pack of Dunhills to go with it. The only thing that bothers me, it doesn’t look good with ash in it. Maybe I should quit.

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Moving & Decorating Frenzy.

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So, I moved to Berlin. As a consequence, I found myself living with misplaced pieces of furniture and boxes, boxes, and boxes. Big boxes, small boxes, boxes containing other boxes, heavy boxes, really heavy boxes, and light boxes, boxes filled with books, lots of books, all of them to be alphabetised, I warn you, there are more authors with M than you might think, which you only realise when you’ve just successfully decorated the space between N and O, Neruda and O’Casey, and then you’re handed a box with more Mann, you had forgotten all about Thomas Mann’s letters, all of them, three big volumes, and hey, there is Golo Mann and Heinrich Mann and Klaus Mann, too, what did this family ever do besides writing, and if this wasn’t enough, all kinds of wrapped stuff was hindering my way to the bathroom, to the kitchen, to the front door, to the bedroom, to the washing machine, to the balcony and off the balcony, I was going mad. Really. It took a lot of soothing Niederegger Marzipan and Lenôtre cakes from KaDeWe, Berlin’s fanciest department store, to survive it. You see, little did I know that unpacking these boxes would cause even more chaos. What to do with all this stuff you strangely acquired over the years? Where to put it? And why do you have to dust things you’ve just unpacked? And why is there always more of it? More things, more dust. But somehow I managed. My kitchen cabinets were very welcoming. But mostly because my 75-year old mother helped me. She’s a great organiser. She would have made it big in the military, she would have been made general in a week or so. Now, she’s gone home, advising her gardeners on how to garden her garden. And I am living in an apartment that almost looks like one. Thanks, Mummy!

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Summertime and the shopping is easy.

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The living is easy in summer, so sings Ella Fitzgerald so very inspirational, and although no fish are jumping in Berlin, nor is any cotton high, but my daddy’s (almost) rich and my ma is definitely good looking, so I am in the good mood I’m supposed to be in. And what do (almost) rich father’s sons do on such a day in Berlin? They go shopping on Kurfürstendamm. There is no better time to shop in summer than in the morning, when the temperatures are still low, when the morning dew has just disappeared, leaving the air soft, when hopes are still high (just like that Southern cotton) that this day may turn out just fantastic. Kurfürstendamm is just a short walk from my place in Charlottenburg, and so I strolled through streets that Christopher Isherwood might have taken too when he lived here in the 1920s, enjoying the architecture, watching people on their way to the office and goods being delivered, and decided to have a long coffee first, as I was very well aware that no fancy store opens before 10 a.m. I was the only one who took a seat at Reinhard’s at Berlin’s Hotel Kempinski, the one that Romy Schneider was staying in when she visited the town, I still wonder why, why would you miss all the delights of this time of day in the city, the plays of light and shadow, enchanting patterns on the facades, the volatile splendour of reflections on Saint Laurent’s logo, it will be long gone in afternoon, carpe diem, folks, I want to call out – but the only guy who seems to enjoy this place at this hour was the postman at Chanel. Oh well. They have no clients, but at least they’ve got mail.

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Eyes wide open.

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Paris is full of marvels. Numerous big and fatty ones like the Arc de Triomphe and croissants, and smaller ones, like the elephant who is welcoming customers at Paul’s on Boulevard Haussmann, a bakery where you get those fatty croissants (and more importantly, although equally fat, Paul’s highly recommendable pains au chocolat, I just can’t get enough of them, so yummy), but you have to open your eyes, I know what I’m talking about, as I’ve been plenty of times to this shop without ever noticing its beautiful entrance, so I decided to keep my eyes open and discovered even more stunning attractions off Baedeker. A dachshund at Hermès, totally distracting me from all these fine leather goods, not for sale of course, otherwise he’d be sold out, I’m sure, an endearing sloth at Deyrolle, I’ve had a thing for taxidermy ever since I saw Hitchcock’s “The Man who knew too much”, but this guy was really adorable despite his being dead, I might be the only one who discovered a stunning detail in one of Cy Twombly’s paintings at the Centre Pompidou, maybe I was the only one who lingered long enough in front of it, and although I always wanted to steal a painting like Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole once did in Paris, I had to give up that sudden urge as all of my favourite Cy Twomblys are way too expansive to do it just as elegantly, meaning “to do it at all”, I stood in front of Marcel Proust’s old dwelling, (another dead guy, why are they all dead?), and was amazed that he lived almost next door to my favourite Starbucks where I had a Soy Caffè Latte Venti (I’m sorry, I know it’s not what you are expected to have in Paris, but try ordering soy milk with your café au lait) and in the end of this open eye excursion I was almost thrown out after entering an intriguing building on Boulevard Haussmann where I saw the most beautiful elevator I’ve ever seen. Totally worth it.

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My gourmet restaurant.

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I love insects. Dragonflies for example. Beautiful creatures. Fascinating even, some kind of chinoiserie helicopters in turbulence, caused by tropical summer heat, with a pilot who has had one too many whisky sours, until they’re suddenly disappearing in your garden’s Bermuda triangle while you’re having tea. Moths, however, I disapprove of, I despise them from the bottom of my heart. I’ve killed generations of moths over the years, or at least, I’ve made their lives miserable with moth paper, vast amounts of moth paper, placed everywhere, in my bedroom’s wardrobe, in the other wardrobe in the hall, in every fucking drawer, between pullovers, next to pullovers, on top of pullovers, layers everywhere, hysterical layers of moth paper, but these beasts are smarter than I thought. They discovered that one loophole in my meticulous precautions: my Hermès pillows. The other day, when I just wanted to rest my head after over-ordering at Mr Porter’s, nothing of importance actually, just underwear and socks, I discovered the holes they’ve left behind. Not even tiny ones, no, very gourmand ones. They had quite an appetite. I am still under shock. Who would think of moths attacking Avalon?

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Pulling a Comus Bassington.

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In November, 2002, I was severely broke. Actually, that’s nothing worth mentioning as I am usually broke, I have Saki’s Comus Bassington as a role model, and he drove his poor mother Francesca mad with his overly extravagant Edwardian lifestyle, mostly because she had to pay this extravagance’s bills, all of them, until she’d had enough of it and sent him to the colonies, to some God forsaken place really far away, I’m panic-fuelled when I think of it. Anyway, as I said, I was really broke, too, that month. Hermès, however, its Hamburg flagship store beautifully situated on my way home from work, didn’t care about that at all, and put a ring in their windows that made me stare at it for some twenty minutes, time enough for reevaluating if food was actually necessary, it seems to be causing all kind of diseases anyway, obesity, at the worst, and I had already given up all Châteaux that call themselves Grand Cru Classé en 1855, and switched to some of these Cru Bourgeois, they are quite drinkable actually, especially when you can’t distinguish a St.Émilion from a Côtes du Rhône, happened to me once, true story, when I decided to pull a Comus Bassington, meaning, I convinced my poor mother I couldn’t live without that ring. And so my poor mother paid the bill, I still have it. It’s a lovely memory. And I am still wearing that ring, in fact, I have never not worn it since November, 20, 2002. And most importantly, I am still waiting to be sent to some God forsaken colony far away by my poor mother …

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Beware of snow.

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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.

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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.

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