Paris Fashion Week: Final Day

“Mike Abu, are you awake?”

I guess the fact that I heard her means I was, but my body didn’t necessarily agree. I was still drunk from the night before and confused by everything. Where was I? New Mexico? At the hotel? Okay… how did we get home again?

“Do you still want to go interview Jim?” Hayley asked. “I don’t think I’m up for it, but you should go if you want.”

“Yeah,” I said, “I want to.”

Hayley powered through her exhaustion and put together an itinerary for me, one that included a map, money, train tickets and instructions on how to get to Jim’s house from the Alsace train stop. Hayley brought a lot to our team just through sheer personality and talent, but when it came to organization, I know I would have been lost without her. In the week we’d been in Paris, she’d become more than a producer to me, alternating between friend and mother.

[Kanye West’s party]( had absolutely destroyed me, but something made me want to go visit Jim Haynes, something personal. The train ride passed in a fury, and next thing I knew I was skateboarding down the street, once again passing through the nonchalant gates and entering his home. Workers were replacing a cracked window as Jim drank coffee and answered emails. Apparently the New York Times had printed an interview with him two days before I showed up, and his email account was blowing up. We sat down on the couch and started talking.

“I’ve never seen so many people want to come to Paris for my dinners,” he said. “There’s always at least two, and sometimes four, six together, oh my god…”

There was no question in my mind that Jim could handle it. He always responded personally to every individual email, making his day to day existence a mixture of work, and as he called it, “tomfoolery.” A sign on his bookshelf said, “Stay at home and get paid.” It made me think about how I was broke and homeless. Needless to say, Jim was inspiring.

We talked about everything. He told me about

“How are you getting around on your skateboard in Paris?” he asked.

“It’s kind of been the one thing that’s kept me sane through all of it,” I responded honestly.

“Where are you based?”

“I guess I’m loosely based out of Brooklyn, though I’m not really sure where I’m at right now… I guess I live when I am.”

“My son Jesper lives in Brooklyn—for a long time he lived on the corner of 1st and St. Mark in the Lower East Side—well, he skateboards. I think he moved to a bike since he moved to Brooklyn,” Jim told me. “He’s a photographer…he made a book about the twenty years he lived there,” he added, showing me his son’s black & white photo book. I flipped through it as we talked, occasionally getting distracted by the images his son had captured. I made a note to myself to try and find Jesper when I got back stateside.

Our conversation moved to gentrification and Oakland, random experiences and living life on your own terms. It might sound dumb to some people, but I found myself looking up to Jim. I guess I saw him as a new mentor. Hearing about all the crazy things he’d done in his life made me want to be a master of my own universe.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to leave, but I didn’t have a choice. I had a runway show to be to, and even if I didn’t give a fuck about fashion by this point, I couldn’t disappoint Hayley and Amanda. I made a promise to myself to focus on creating—on being—and bid adieu to my new friend.

Jim’s roommate recommended I take the number 68 bus to the Jardin des Tuileries, where the show was scheduled to take place. I showed up a few minutes early and stood around by a fountain in the pouring rain, waiting for the ladies to show up. They showed up on time and Amanda went straight to work, leaving Hayley and I with an hour and change to kill. We decided to cross the Seine over to the Left Bank, where we found a cute little Parisian café to dine at. French waiters hovered to and fro as we swapped stories about our upbringings, relationships, and vague goals for life. I suddenly was struck by how one of the coolest things that happened to me in Paris involved getting to know a girl from Utah. It’s weird how some things come full circle at the least expected times.

We made it back just in time for Elle Saab’s runway presentation, which turned out to be the most cohesive fashion display I’d seen in Paris. It was like watching a transparent Swiss clock at work, where the precision and perfection of interworking gears ticked on display.

In the weirdest way, Elie Saab’s show gave me a higher appreciation for the fashion world. Hayley and I watched the show side by side, and I kept asking her if what I thought about the clothing was correct. I’d say stuff like, “those are very clean lines on the blouses,” and Hayley would smile and say, “you’re right,” like I was a little kid who just spelled the word apple for the first time.

After the show ended, I decided to skateboard down the runway. It was raining outside and I wanted to skate, plus I couldn’t think of better place to debut my Proenza Schuler deck. Nobody seemed to mind as I weaved my way in and out of fashion traffic, no one, that is, except for Amanda, who had reached a point of starvation that I know as being “hangry,” a hunger induced angry. Knowing I could only torture my new found little sister so long without ultimately giving her every opportunity to torture me, I agreed that we needed to find food, stat.

Our journey led us through a corner café and into a designer store called Collette’s, a place that didn’t have much in the way of food but did have a bunch of accessories I could buy for my sister. I walked in and found nothing of use, but I did notice a creepy guy with snow-white hair and dark shades checking out the electronics section. I looked at him, his fingerless leather gloves and bracelets, and his overall Skinny Puppy meets Dracula style. He was too weird not to be kfashion.

“Hey Amanda,” I said, tracking her down and pointing at the anomaly. “Isn’t that guy somebody?”

“Who?” she asked, scanning the crowd.

“That guy,” I said, pointing more directionally. “Is that guy Karl Lagenfield or something?”

“Oh my God,” Amanda whispered excitedly, “we’ve got to find Hayley!”

Both the girls were super excited, which I found to be only slightly more hilarious than the fact I’d managed to call out a fashion icon. One week in Paris…

We finally left Colette’s and made our way to dinner, meeting our friends Kelly and Sebastian one last time. Our flight was mere hours away and the girls were more than ready to return to home to their loved ones, two things I didn’t have. They both packed their bags that night and fell asleep, leaving me with little option than to skateboard through the streets of Paris one last time, looking for cigarettes and saying goodbye.

Had the trip changed me? In some respects, yes. A unique bond had formed between our team, giving us a chance to become better friends under strange circumstances. I’d met some amazing people and seen some amazing things, experienced Paris on my own terms and had moved beyond worrying about some random girl. Well, moved further away from worrying.

What would happen next? I didn’t know beyond catching a flight back to the States and trying to find a job and a place to stay. I certainly didn’t expect to spend the weekend locked up in a Manhattan jail, serving a warrant for an open container ticket, making my last Paris post a couple days late. But as I now could sum up in a somewhat cliché phrase, “c’est la vie! There is nothing we can do…”

Mike Abu

–Photos by Amanda Hakan

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