If you peruse the online street style pics from fashion weeks, you’ve probably noticed Jean-Paul Paula, perhaps rocking a Grace Kelly outfit (including high heels), or a mini skirt with flip-flops, all of them with a breathtaking ease. But he’s way more than a fashion animal, he’s a very talented stylist, too. He worked with edgy magazines including Les Inrocks, WAD, and Fucking Young as well as artists like FKA Twigs, Mikky Blanco and Little Dragon. We caught up with Jean-Paul and talked about fashion and Paris. – by Gino Delmas
(C) How did you fall into fashion ?
JPP: In the beginning I studied business, I always knew I could adapt into fashion. I began by modeling at 19. The first time, it was for my best friend, an editor for Blend magazine, 10 years ago. I knew I was too short to become a professional model, but I liked the energy of it. I applied to art school in Arnhem, at (ArtEZ), and did not pass. I began styling by assisting friends of mine. I still remember my first work. I had to recreate erections in denim for the photographer Erwin Olaf. I played with dildos and we make some pretty nice pictures. Four years ago I moved to France, and became fashion editor of WAD Magazine. It took me some time to feel legitimate in what I was doing.
(C) How would you define your job(s)?
JPP: Right now I’m freelance styling. I wake up every morning and work via email. I quit my job at WAD and came back to Amsterdam for what I thought would be a few days. But 7 months later I’m still here. I have my house here and it’s pleasant to work from here, too. WAD was an amazing experience, where I learned a lot. I’m very passionate about my work and I believe in creativity, so each struggle is a good thing to overcome. I was fashion editor at the magazine but still freelancing (their choice), so I was working for other magazines, like Les Inrocks and Fucking Young. I worked with artists like FKA Twigs, Mikky Blanco & Little Dragon. I mostly style them for concerts.
(C) How would you define your style ?
JPP: I’m in constant evolution, but if I had to find a common link, I’d say I like to put the emphasis on subculture. I try to take my distance toward what fashion dictates. Of course I have an eye on the past but I always try not to make something that hasn’t been already done. These days my style focuses more on concept.
(C) What are you working on currently ?
JPP: I’m working with my boyfriend who is an audio-visual artist. We are building a project together, art videos. I can’t say more for now but I hope that it will be finished next year.
(C) What is inspiring you ?
JPP: Right now for instance, I’m really obsessed by skinhead culture. It’s been a a while since I discovered the origins of skinhead culture in Jamaican rude boys. I was born in the 80’s and grew up in the 90’s, so I have been very exposed to the big names of fashion, the Chanel, Vuitton, Balmain, that have already been very played out. I find it very boring to create with these brands. I prefer to focus on other brands, that change the norm to define a new twist on it. It is very connected to my generation. A brand like Vetements, for example, is working from recycled clothes and subcultures.
(C) What are the brands that you find interesting right now?
JPP: I think Juun-J is very underrated, I’m a huge fan. I like Sacai, who grew a lot, I love this Korean style, an Asian interpretation of European fashion. Vetements, as I said. Y-projects which has a universe close to Vetements’. I like their choice of material, and their silhouettes for men. I’m absolutely a fan of Nicolas Ghesquiere’s work at Vuitton. I am a bit uncomfortable regarding many British designers that do not respect longevity of their brand enough. The price tag of brands like Gosha Rubchinskiy for example is too high, it’s going a bit far when you sell a track pant for 600 euros. Rather food or rent it is way too much. I like the fact that brands like Kenzo took this into consideration and adapted their price range.
(C) How would you characterize the influence of French fashion today ?
JPP: It’s money. The bigger brands have to be here if they want to exist. The idea of Paris without fashion doesn’t exist. But it is kind of hard to grow in fashion when you are very young here. Everywhere else, it does not matter how old you are, if you try, people will respect you. Vetements or Pigalle started selling outside of France. At the end of the day what is worn in the streets from Pigalle collection here is tee-shirts and hoodies. After their second show, Vetements was used in a huge photo shoot with i-D in England, it took a bit longer in France. It’s different for brands like Jacquemus or Anthony Vacarello and Ami which might be the only brands young and promoted these past season, except Pigalle and Vetements. Fashion here does not go and source out people of schools like it is done in England.
(C) What is the prevailing look on the streets of Paris ?
JPP: There is a divide between street and high-end people who dress from head to toe in big brands will see an army of others doing the same because fashion has become to accessible. The streets of Paris will show you a multitude of people who want to be attractive and therefore fit into a norm of street culture or whatever adaptation of whatever version of upper or higher class they fit in. French celebrities on TV often don’t get help from the industry unless they are internationally known. The way you look in this city doesn’t mean as much as people think it does because if you have money it doesn’t matter. There are groups for every scene, be it street, middle class or upper class and codes that people stick to. If you live in Paris and you look around your group of friends you will either find yourself surrounded by people who look, talk, and dress like you and work in the same “type of job”. It is because everyone in this city works to live there. And then there is the huge group of people who keep the actual city going -- the suits and the poor. Poverty is a huge problem in Paris.
(C) What makes Paris so special ?
JPP: Good or bad it’s like a fairy tale, City of Light. My first week here, I remember partying at a Wooded showcase at la Tour Eiffel, then going to the Prada Party. The city allows the things to happen. Energy is still here, in a romantic notion that I liked very much.