BEST OF 2015: Pigalle’s founder Stéphane Ashpool
The ANDAM grand prix laureate for 2015, Pigalle’s founder, Stéphane Ashpool sits with Numéro.
Rendez vous with Stéphane Ashpool, the man behind Pigalle and laureate of the ANDAM Grand Prix 2015.
Numéro: Everyone’s familiar with your “Pigalle” branded t-shirts, but not everyone necessarily knows the ready-to-wear menswear label that created them. How did Pigalle come about?
Stéphane Ashpool: I got into fashion in 2008, by opening a small multi-brand store selling brands like Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh as well as more specialist designers such as Phenomenon, from Tokyo. Initially, I had intended to open a hat shop but I soon realised that it wouldn’t be enough. So, I opened this store and eight months later staged my first show in the adjacent square. I had a gypsy orchestra play… it was my first show; I wanted to show off my hats and I didn’t know how to make clothes. But I’d spent a lot of time in the Parisian ateliers. I was told to begin with one fabric, and so I began with cotton. For the second show, I used cotton and wool, then for the third there was mohair and silk…The t-shirts came after the first show. Celebrities like A$AP Rocky have worn my hats, but never the t-shirts. Instead of capitalising on the gold-rush that the t-shirts could have been, I stopped selling them in order to concentrate on what truly interested me from the outset: the combination of sportswear ad couture in the tradition of the designers I had been selling. It’s now two to three years since I’ve been selling my clothes in my store, and I’m already on my tenth show.
Numéro: Where did your love for fashion come from? And where did you pick up your technical skills?
Stéphane Ashpool: My parents were artists. My father made dance costumes, often for my mother, who was herself a dancer. Theatre was a heavy influence on my childhood. I grew up surrounded by eccentric characters who dressed with discernment. At the age of 7 I was already exhibiting a taste for outfits, for ethnic garb…I was quite shy, but I had a good eye. I’m mainly self-taught; I spent a youth in observation because I wasn’t particularly academic. Then, I’ve a strong work ethic and I’m very meticulous, so I was able to pick up the necessary skills by observing others and following their advice. Which worked out well ultimately, as it means I’ve managed to avoid the usual pigeonholes. I’m delighted to be a finalist for the ANDAM prize, given the path I’ve travelled to get here. Now, I’m moving forward in pursuit of a universe that’s colourful, diverse and multidimensional. And I’m so grateful that today I can present my work to fashion industry professionals who really know their craft.
Numéro: Personally, you are very much anchored in Paris, all the while assembling a mixture of sportswear and sophisticated garments, sometimes in silk, the likes of which we’ve hitherto seen only on the London podiums. How do you feel about this dichotomy?
Stéphane Ashpool: I’m in love with Paris, and the Pigalle customer isn’t an easy one to define. I dress the fashion crowd as often as the boys off the street, and feel equally comfortable with both. It feels good to see that my fashion can appeal to such diverse profiles. And you see that diversity walking into the fitting rooms; it’s tangible in the store. Our key pieces are produced in Paris, the silks in Lyon, the hats in the South, the knits are from Italy, and certain jersey fabrics come from Japan: diversity permeates my work processes too. I like to feel at ease in my clothes, spontaneously mixing sportswear with other, chicer pieces for my everyday look. My brand’s style aims to capture this attitude.
I’ve distilled elements of the Parisian fashion culture, its exacting standards in fabrics and finishes, and its present-day youth culture. I make elegant, Parisian sportswear. Using an old technique like bias bindings on mohair makes for something that ends up being contemporary. In my last runway show I paid homage to the kids whose basketball team I coach. It was an important moment for me, because the year spent with them was a powerful one. I took them to the Philippines. My shows are about more than just a wardrobe: the people I cast are all close to me. As with the Opera Garnier show last season, I explain who I am by explaining who surrounds me. It’s a way of anchoring my craft in a concrete reality.
Interviewed by Delphine Roche