Designer Paula Gerbase: ‘My thimble is such a reminder of what’s important’
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My personal style signifier is probably my fringe, which I have worn the same way since I was five years old. I have cut my own hair since 2009 because I got tired of trying to brief other people when I knew exactly what I wanted. I bought some hair-cutting scissors from Muji and I chop away when it gets to the point where I can’t see any more. £11, muji.eu
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field in New Mexico, a piece of land art. Only six people can visit at a time: you sleep in a cabin, it’s only open from May to October and you stay for 24 hours, walking around exploring the art and the silence. I had to apply for tickets months beforehand and it took 36 hours to get there from London, but it was one of the most special things I’ve ever done. diaart.org
And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is the Amandes fleur de sel et caramel from David Pasquiet, an artisan chocolatier who has a little shop in Switzerland’s Crans-Montana, where we have a chalet. It’s always our last stop before leaving and I can’t recommend it enough. £11.50 for 140g; David, L’Instant Chocolat, Avenue de la Gare 6, 3693 Crans-Montana (+412-7481 4512; instant-chocolat.ch)
The best gift I’ve received recently was from my boyfriend Kim, who gave me a record player, a Rega with a beautiful wooden base. I like records because it means I experience a whole album from start to finish rather than skipping around with iTunes – although I do that too. rega.co.uk
The last meal that truly impressed me was at Shu, a Japanese restaurant in Paris. You enter through a secret little door, which you have to crouch down for to pass through. The restaurant is intimate and calm, with the best seats on the wraparound counter. There are just three set menus and ours included kushiage, delicate little skewers of fish, meat and vegetables, fried in breadcrumbs. What I always really look forward to is the ochazuké (green tea rice soup), a simple but beautifully balanced dish. 8 Rue Suger, Paris 75006 (+331-4634 2588; restaurant-shu.com)
The last music I bought was 11 de Novembre by Sílvia Pérez Cruz, Steve Reich’s Triple Quartet and Yuko Ikoma’s Suite for Fragile Chamber Orchestra – all bought at the only place I buy physical records, a great little shop called Otonomad in Tokyo. 1F, 3-2 6-4 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 155 (+813-3485 3946; otonomad.com)
The last items of clothing I added to my wardrobe were some Sunspel Sea Island white cotton T-shirts. The cotton is wonderful quality: they don’t change shape with wear or washing, and last for years. £60; sunspel.com
An indulgence I would never forgo is my Hermès Globe-Trotter. I write most of my notes when I travel and will sketch and annotate ideas for future collections and current work in progress; there is something beautiful about how the older the leather gets, the better it is. £475 (refills from £35); hermes.com
The grooming staples I’m never without are the Hair Serum #DM027 from David Mallett – I always take it with me when I travel to smooth my hair – along with Crème de la Mer’s The Renewal Oil, which is lightweight but nourishing for my skin. Hair Serum #DM027, £50 for 50ml, david-mallett.com. The Renewal Oil, £160 for 30ml, cremedelamer.co.uk
My favourite websites are DonlonBooks.com for art and photography books and AbeBooks.com for secondhand and first editions, where I spend more money than I’d like to admit. I also love to look at the Victoria & Albert Museum’s online archives. vam.ac.uk
A recent “find” is Arber & Sons Editions, a publishing and printing house in Marfa, Texas, which invites artists-in-residence at The Chinati Foundation art gallery there to express themselves in a series of works made to particular dimensions – 30cm x 30cm. 128 E El Paso Street, Marfa, TX 79843 (+143-2729 3981; 30x30cmproject.com)
My style icon is the fictional character Eszter Balint in Jim Jarmusch’s 1984 film Stranger Than Paradise. She’s a woman in men’s clothing wearing pleat-fronted trousers, oversized shirts and tailored coats accompanied by dishevelled hair and an unimpressed scowl that defines cool. She’s the woman I want to be.
The last thing I bought and loved was a trio of framed beetles I have on my desk. The frame is clear at the back so you can see the front and the back of the beetle; often there is a white background to these frames, which ignores the fact that animals are three-dimensional. Claude Nature, 32 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75005 Paris (+331-4407 3079; claudenature.com)
The thing I’m eyeing next is a first edition of Michael Heizer’s Double Negative: Sculpture in the Land, a book documenting one of the most important works in the land art movement, his Mormon Mesa creation in the Nevada Desert. Amazon currently has a copy for £968, which is probably why I haven’t bought it yet.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose the Left Bank in Paris. I love Wax Flower, where I always buy new succulents, and down the road is Coutellerie Ceccaldi, where knives are crafted in the Corsican tradition, as beautiful as they are functional. Isabelle Subra Woolworth on Rue de Seine never disappoints with her selection of decorative and surprising jewellery, and I love dinner at La Closerie Des Lilas, a classic brasserie that attracts local arty and intellectual types. The real draw for me is the terrace, which opens past midnight to allow for long, lingering dinners. I usually order six Belon No 0 oysters and beef carpaccio comme en Riviera [with Parmesan and rocket]. Coutellerie Ceccaldi, 15 Rue Racine (+331-4633 8720; couteaux-ceccaldi.com). Isabelle Subra Woolworth, 51 Rue de Seine (+331-4354 5765). La Closerie Des Lilas, 171 Boulevard du Montparnasse (+331-4051 3450; closeriedeslilas.fr). Wax Flower, 14 Rue Bernard Palissy (+331-4222 0310; waxflower-paris.com)
The best gift I’ve given recently was some stems of bluebells, which I picked on a walk through Dartmoor in Devon, took back to London and pressed inside a book for three weeks, then mounted in Plexiglas. I gave it to my boyfriend, who is also my business partner, just to say thank you for putting up with me dragging him to all these crazy places.
In my fridge you’ll always find San Pellegrino, a bottle of 2015 Vinho Verde from Adega de Monção and a variety of cheeses from La Fromagerie in Marylebone. And I keep red grapes in the freezer, to eat like mini ice pops. adegademoncao.pt. lafromagerie.co.uk. thewinesociety.com
The site that inspires me is the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, where I went trekking for a week surrounded by the red earth in intense dry heat. It inspired my spring/summer collection, which was about lightness and movement and garments that get better with age.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Agnes Martin – my spring 2015 collection was based on her work. I have admired her work from a very young age and would love to live in spaces framed by her grid paintings that feature her light touch.
My favourite room in my house is the garden room on the ground floor. I have been accumulating arid plants for a few years because I like the architectural qualities and green tones. It’s a space with a glass roof and indirect sunlight and is where I spend the most time when I’m at home, often with a book.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier. I have been collecting artist manifestos for some time and this particular collection of essays reads like a revolutionary manifesto for an uncompromising, purist way of life beyond architecture.
An object I would never part with is a beautiful antique thimble in gold and enamel that my father gave me, which I carry in my pocket. About 10 years ago at Christmas we had a fire at our house in Geneva and just after he gave me this thimble, the living room essentially exploded and we lost pretty much everything. I keep the thimble because it is such a reminder of what’s important.
If I didn’t live in London, I would live in Marfa in west Texas. I love the quality of light and expansive horizons and until I – one day, I hope – buy a ranch, I stay at the new, minimalist Hotel Saint George on the site of the original hotel built in 1886; the bar is perfect for a cool cocktail after a long, hot day exploring the town. The best place to eat is Marfa Burrito; behind a humble counter in a private home, Ramona makes the world’s best carne asada burrito. But for a more refined dining experience I love Cochineal, with everything from traditional Pueblan casserole to prime rib Texan steak. Ballroom Marfa has live music, film and a stunning exhibition space; and a lunchtime grilled cheese sandwich in the open air from the Food Shark truck is a Marfa classic. Ballroom Marfa, 108 E San Antonio Street (+143-2729 3600; ballroommarfa.org). Food Shark, 909 W San Antonio Street / Highway 90 (foodsharkmarfa.com). Hotel Saint George, 105 South Highland Avenue (+143-2729 3700; marfasaintgeorge.com). Marfa Burrito, 104 E Waco Street. Cochineal, 107 W San Antonio Street (+143-2729 3300; cochinealmarfa.com).
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be an architect. We inhabit architecture much as we inhabit clothes, only in different ways. The search for balance of form and function is present in both fields, and the built environment inspires me daily.