As you know, I always try to provide a back story to the actual story that I'm telling you, for the sake of context you know. You may remember that in 2007, along with my friend Beatrice who instigated the idea, I was on exchange from RMIT to AMFI in Amsterdam. On one particular evening I came to learn that Bea's class were to go to Premiere Vision (Visjyon; slurrr your 'n' of course), but of course, the world's most exciting fabric fair, where some people are working on things that will adorn us in 4 years time, wow!
Anyway, to come 20,000kms and not to go to PV was simply out of the question, and with some gentle manoeuvring of my own lecturer I was given permission to skip a design class; of course I would have to catch up on working on my own collection, the horror haha. Et voila, off we set, on the good old Euro Bus, toilet on board and even a lunch stopover in Brussels, fabulous!
To get to the point, we decided to stay on the weekend after PV to do some of our own Paris exploring, which for me meant traipsing up and down the rues Honore (ay) and Av Montaigne, and the Palais Royale, amassing a large amount of fashion catalogues and lookbooks as I do. Luckily we were not flying as I would not have been allowed to board with all the weight! Came Saturday, which was also a double whammy with Yom Kippur, and as such the best thing to do was of course to wander around the Marais, where all the Jewish owned shops were wide open and welcoming...not... But never mind, we had one destination to get to on the Rue des Rosiers... Martin Grant's shop!
Wait! Back story to the back story! In 2005, the National Gallery of Victoria Ian Potter (Australian art space for those unaware), held a retrospective exhibition of Martin Grant's work, including images of his first fashion drawings from kindergarten, very triangular I recall, and of course his precision tailored garments as seen on Cate Blanchett and Naomi Campbell after he was championed by the larger than life Andre Leon Talley then of Vogue and his reputation grew in Paris and worldwide. Luckily for me, the day my family and I attended the exhibition, Martin himself chose to do so too! It was very exciting upon exiting the space to see him coming in!
PS I realise this calls for a photo from the exhibition, but by google I can't find any and I don't want a generic image, so do please do without! It would've been hard to sneaky with a big digital camera back then, more on lack of technology a bit further down...
OK, back back story done, but you know, let's make all the connections we can, things are meant to be!
Beatrice had visited before, and as we walked along the street, I blissfully unaware, Beatrice suddenly looked shocked and apalled; the shop was not there!
Now think, dear friends, 2007 was pre smart phones, in fact I, being somewhat of a laggard and deviate, oooo, only got my first iPod in 2008, I know others had them in 2003 or thereabouts, terrible I know! So what were we to do, two strangers in Paris looking for one of our own fellow Melbournian fashion icons. Ask at a gallery of course. A very literal Google search of 'Where has Martin Grant's shop in the Marais moved to...' did yield a successful result, Rue Charlot, which was just around the corner.
Off we set, to discover the 'Institut Martin Grant', beautifully appointed on the second floor of a gorgeous Parisian apartment building coming off a most wonderfully kept courtyard behind a large, looming and mysterious wooden door, such drama indeed!
The Institut, as I understand, functions as the shop, showroom and studio for Martin Grant. One can come up and see and purchase pieces and have a bona-fide Paris fashion experience. If only he did menswear! We had a wonderful viewing of the collection with one of the assistants and I even added a MG catalogue to my own collection! The only thing missing was Martin himself :(.
Now, fast forward 6 years!
On a hot summer's day as Maria and I covered every square inch of the Marais by foot, we reached the Rue Charlot and it all jigged back to me. I asked if she was ready to have a most fabulous fashion experience, and so we walked through the courtyard and up the flights of red carpeted stairs till we reached the closed door. A light buzz on the doorbell and a few footsteps later a young assistant opened the door and in we went.
Timing is everything folks, 5 minutes either way would've seen a vastly different scenario unfold result. As it turns out, and really as I should have remembered, Haute Couture fashion week was on, and of course many designers present their women's Spring pre-collection also as a hangover of men's fashion week having just finished, Martin Grant included.
Right then Martin Grant stepped out from the kitchen and started towards us, with great surprise on his face. Turns out we had arrived minutes before the appointment with his buyers. Thinking quickly on my feet or somehow or other I managed to get us from the doorway into the showroom, for a super quick preview of the upcoming 2014 collection. Now for discretion's sake I shan't reveal exactly what I saw, but lets just say it was mostly black, and technically and structurally it was some of the best I've ever seen of Martin's. DiiiiViiiiinnnneee!!!!!!
Not taken by me, thanks The Australian from 2 years ago! :)
A little chatter followed (and don't worry, I strategically neglected to mention my sighting at the exhibition 7 years earlier, but did speak to him of a recent event that I was at where he was discussed in reverence, relevance please haha), the swapping of business cards, and let's just hope the next time he is in town he will make an appearance for GnT's in Elwood, I think I sold it well haha!
And just like that we were in and out, and in fact we passed the next guests on our way down the stairs. What a rush indeed!
Now have a look at some pieces of Martin Grant that I have floating around right now. These must be seen in the flesh, and on the flesh, as this is when they really come alive and the immaculate construction shines brightest. Of course throughout Paris '99s existence many more have come and gone on to have homes in the most gorgeous wardrobes of the most gorgeous women. Will you be one soon too?? :) xxx
Here is the darkest of green satin, the shine is very muted and subtle. So is the allusion to both 40s drab utility and 30s slip like lingerie dresses. I see it on a woman who is serious and demure, strong yet feminine. Add a sparkly clutch and heels and off you go to the party. Throw a blazer over the top and it's the perfect work dress. A piece for all times, thanks Martin Grant :)
This is probably my favourite piece of Martin Grant at the moment. It is unusually patterned when much of his work is single coloured or blocked. The pleating and chevroning lends a strange asymmetry to the dress but this has been perfectly considered. For such a large amount of fabric it is amazingly sexy thanks to the absolute cinching of the waist with the belt. It's not a piece for grand gestures, once the belt is fastened the arms are restricted but this completely holds the poise of the wearer. The other trick is that it is actually rather misleadingly petite, as the horizontal cut bottom panel has no movement and therefore can only fit over a finite hip width. Wow I've written a lot about this dress, the rest I'll leave a mystery, come and see it for yourselves, perfect dress for the races I must say!
Black chiffon strappy tiered gathered dress with bodice ribbon to add structure. You can't see but the edge of the chiffon is left raw but crimped in a way that it doesn't fray, tis rather amazing!
This is such a stunning leather silhouette, tres 70s if I may say so. Soft lambskin zip up jacket and tiered skirt. Rather intense when worn together but jacket over a dress and skirt with a fitted top tucked in are pure elegance!Note! Just before going to press, the skirt found a happy happy home! Amazing! :)
Till next week, part 3b, an exhibition in Paris, stay tuned, come say hello! xx