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Explain to me how you got the job at Revillon.
They asked for a meeting. It was such a small company with no hierarchy. There were like three people running it. I felt I could build it from scratch my way. The company is from 1723, so it's the oldest luxury house in Paris. Most designers take these kinds of jobs for the extra income to support their own companies, but my company was actually bigger than Revillon. Taking the job was more of a prestige thing for me. It was kind of thrilling to be in contact with something that old, such a part of Parisian culture. And I like fur, I've always worked with fur. But these furs are major.
What's the most incredible fur you've worked with?
Last spring's collection was all about swans and snakes because I've always been inspired by Marlene Dietrich's famous swansdown coat. I was able to get swansdown from Caron, the French parfumier that's the only place that still makes swansdown powderpuffs. When you touch it, your hand kind of goes numb because it's so soft. We also made a hand-embossed mousseline handpainted with scales to simulate shed snakeskin. I would love to work with mouse skin. I think someone did it recently. I haven't done it because Revillon would never, but Rick Owens might.
Have you gotten flack from anti-furists?
No, and I'm so disappointed. I expected more. At the last show we did have some demonstrators covered in blood laying on the street in front of the venue. But there weren't even that many, I was told.
No cream pies in the face?
I'm waiting. It'll be interesting to see how I react. I never think about it. I've gone through worse than that.
Like whatever crack neighborhoods I lived in when I was in L.A. Who cares about some silly woman with a pie?
I hear munching. What are you eating?
I'm eating ladyfingers as I leisurely watch white peacocks walk across my lawn (laughs). No, Revillon's a good gig. It's a pleasure to work there, and it's retailing well. In fact, we're in the middle of sales right now. Sales are done here at my house.
Tell me about your house.
I just bought it, but Michelle found it. It's such a coup. It's in this square in the 7th, Place du Palaise Bourbon, a block away from Place Concorde and across from the American Vogue offices. It was for rent for a long time, but we just kind of forced them to sell it to us. It's five floors. We do sales in the showroom on the first floor, my office is on the second, the studio is on the third, and we live on the fourth and fifth. It's so private and quiet, and we have a terrace that overlooks the gardens of the Ministry of Defense. It's probably a little big. I could have done with something a little more modest, but it's so fulfilling to see the look on all those Frenchies' faces when they hear where I live. They don't think I could possibly deserve it.
Do I sense friction?
No. Paris received me with open arms, but I'm not grafted to its bosom either. I love it here, but I have this deliciously adolescent sense of alienation.
Okay, in wrapping up, what do you think your life will be like in five years' time?
I don't really know. There was a minute there when I almost sold my company to a big conglomerate. Negotiations lasted a year. To expand like I wanted, I knew I'd have to be partners with somebody, which I'd never done before, and I knew I'd have to concede a lot. Everyone was telling me I shouldn't compromise my integrity, though, but people don't know I've been doing this for ten years. In L.A., I used to drive my stuff to the sweatshops and ship them myself. So I though maybe it's time to sell out. I also wanted to buy a house and settle down. Mostly I wanted to be able to open stores. I don't know of any independent designers who can do that without backing. So I talked myself into it.
I told the various people I had been working with that I was leaving, but only because I had to think about my future, to take the chance. They kind of did a huddle and came to me with a better offer. Now I'm partners with my manufacturer. It doesn't include store extensions, so that was my compromise, but I was able to buy my house and have some security, and I'm able to still shape the maison and stay in touch with everything. I'm still independent, which is an amazing thing.
Everything about you is amazing, Rick.
No, it's appalling. (laughs)