PARIS FASHION WEEK : DAY 4, Paris at Night

We walked through rain along tightly packed streets, passing tarnacs, Le Centre Pompidou and French-Chinese restaurants. Our walk led us to the Marais again, this to time on a visit to meet Ingvar Helgason, half of the design team Ostwald Helgason. The young company has only been around for about five seasons, and their first presentation was given during the last MADE Fashion Week at Milk, which is where Hayley had first met Helgason.

From the start, I liked Ingvar. He was wearing a John Steinbeck sweatshirt, and for whatever reason, that made me trust him. Amanda started taking some photos as Hayley talked fashion with the designer, leaving me to sit back, listen and take notes.

Their collection was awesome. As Amanda said, “It was sooo amazing!” Hayley loved the delicate knitting on his sweaters while I was interested in the textures of the fabrics, each one compelling me to touch them a second time. Girls probably shouldn’t wear those kinds of fabrics around me. He used luscious Austrian mole hair on one, a silk & polyester mesh on another, the second feeling like a luxurious neoprene. There was a tinge of fantastic imagery silkscreened on the sweatshirts that were particularly eye catching, and we found the collection moved well from color scheme to color scheme, with a variety of different patterns put together perfectly.

I noticed some little square purses that looked like a folded paper fortuneteller, the kinds girls would use to predict their husbands back in grade school. Ingvard told us that they were made from one piece of fabric folded into origami cubes.

Ostwald Helgason’s strength lays in the attention to details. The collection was much larger than what Hayley had seen at the presentation back at Milk because of the layered styling. Individualized and on display, there were an incredible amount of wearable pieces with a lasting quality.

“I love sweaters,” Ingvar said, “That’s all I wear when I’m in Paris.”

Ingvar works alongside his partner/girlfriend of 8 years, Susanne Ostwald. making this day all about fashion power couples. Susanne lays the groundwork by selecting the colors and images, then they figure out the shapes together, and finally Ingvar acts as the editor, making sure it all comes together.

We were all enjoying the free flowing conversation and decided to relocate to a nearby corner bistro. We walked to the end of the block, ordered food and resumed our discussion. I was surprised at how much Ingvar and I had in common. It seems our paths had crossed a number of times, making the conversation full of, “you were there too?” moments.

He’d been at the This is New York party the night before, and had ended up staying much longer than we had, which meant his stories got a lot better.

“I left as soon as I heard that Rhianna song for the fourth time,” he said. “The place was like a sauna you could smoke in—it was literally raining sweat. I thought that party was going to die down, but when I left there was still a line to get in outside, a whole new wave of party goers.”

“People were telling us that they don’t usually play music like that at parties in Paris,” Hayley said.

“I heard the music’s usually awful,” I said. “At the very least, the music at Maxim’s was terrible.”

“You were there on Saturday?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said and turned to Hayley. “Was the other night Saturday night?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Then yes, I was there on Saturday.”

“I was there too,” Ingvar told me. “It was a lot of the same music. It was terrible”

Later I found out he’d watched me play ice hockey back in New York, when the Milk Studios team kicked the living shit out of The Standard Hotel (wink wink).

“I was telling all my friends back in London, it was the craziest end to fashion week. Of all things, ice hockey? I told them there were people with black eyes and everything.”

“That was me!” I screamed. “I got kicked out after my second fight! Shit was fucked up…”

Hayley had heard Ingvar had eaten a live squid in a restaurant in Queens, and Ingvar not only confirmed the story but pulled out a video on his phone to prove it. We watched as he showed us a dinner plate covered in squirming purple tentacles topped with toasted sesame seeds and a side of seaweed salad. Apparently, the suckers on the tentacles would stick to your tongue and inside of your mouth as you chewed them up. We took his word for it.

The bistro started slowing down and it was clear the girls were spent, so we decided it was best to head back to the hotel. We bid adieu to Ingvar and caught the number 3 train back to Wagram, the stop near our temporary home. The elevator there was barely large enough to fit two people; trying to fit three would be like seeing how many people you could stuff in a phone booth. As per usual, I took the staircase, a spiral wound tight and covered with a particular squiggly pattern and color scheme that made me feel like I was climbing up a kaleidoscope.

I couldn’t blame the girls for being tired. We’d all been working our asses off nonstop for days, and there wasn’t a single one of us who wasn’t worn out. Still, I didn’t feel ready to fall asleep. I kept pacing back and forth to the window, looking at the ground and making comments about how much I wanted to skateboard and how moisture was bad for wheel bearings.

Finally Hayley said, “Just go for it. You look like a dog that’s been inside all day and needs to go on a walk. Go have fun.”

In a second I was out the door and in the street, tearing off in whatever direction I was facing. It was one of those nights where nothing mattered. I couldn’t control if a girl would email me back or not, I had no idea where I was going to live or what I was going to do with the rest of my life, but I didn’t care, it didn’t matter, nothing mattered. It was just me and my skateboard.

I wasn’t afraid of getting lost, because the worst that could happen would be finding my way back.

My late night adventures introduced me to the city on a whole different level. I saw the wretched and refused, huddled up against walls, trying to find protection from the relentless cold. I saw the drunks, addicts and pimps, each looking for their own individual prostitutes for satisfaction. I learned the difference between the bustling taxicab highways and the side streets in their deafening silence. I saw my shadow glide along a wall like a specter. I passed an empty Arc de Triomphe, passed the old city walls of Victor Hugo’s youth, passed countless churches, cathedrals and examples of architecture from a time so distant that it in itself felt foreign. I traveled in lines and in circles, any direction I wanted to go, past parks, factories, sculptures and smokestacks. The streets glistened with the reflection of warm amber streetlights, illuminating the boulevard around me as if it were my own personal runway. I was the designer and the audience. For a moment, I was free.

But I knew it couldn’t last. I eventually had to make my way back to the Hotel Mercedes, where I had a conversation in broken French with the desk attendant about his love for razor scooters. I told him we’d talk more about it tomorrow. I went upstairs, laid down on the floor, and pleaded with myself to fall asleep.

Mike Abu

Photos by Amanda Hakan

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