My first time at S.T.A.R.S. 丝头爱染色 was last April, when I interviewed Janine Grosche from Path (you can peek at her story here). Back then, I totally fell in love with this very special concept store in the heart of Beijing. Behind that red door is a corner of Paris populated by beautiful dresses, scented candles, hand-picked accessories and lots of passion.
去年4月，我把采访设计师Janine Grosche（她是德国时尚品牌PATH的设计师，点这儿您可以看到我对她的整篇采访）的地点选在了S.T.A.R.S。推开S.T.A.R.S豆角胡同的红色大门看到的确是巴黎一景： 挂在架子上的设计师礼服、随处摆放的香薰蜡烛以及时尚的手工饰品，这里是热爱艺术和时尚人士的梦幻岛。
And I knew for sure that there has to be a special someone taking care of this hidden gem set in the hutongs: a place like this needs constant attention, dedication, daily care and tons of love. This unique love towards his ‘creature’ is what I discussed with Michel Alarcon, French buyer, creative director and all-around at S.T.A.R.S. since its very beginning in 2012.
He offered me coffee on S.T.A.R.S. sunny rooftop, and he told me that his job here is more than a job, that the shop is his second home and that he is determined upon doing his best to make it better every single day. And he also told me how it all started at the very beginning, when he was a teenager, wearing Jean Paul Gautier in his hometown in France and dreaming about a career in fashion.
Michel has always been attracted by Asia (and fashion and video games), since he was a young kid. Early in his twenties he was studying biology at the local university. At 23 he had realised that a career in biology was not his cup of tea and moved his first steps in fashion in Paris, working as a sales assistant in various high-end shops until landing a job at Colette, probably the most exciting joint in town. There he got the opportunity to gain experience in sales and visual merchandising, and to broaden his fashion horizon, still without knowing exactly what he wanted to do, and where.
In 2006 a Japanese buyer came all the way to rescue him: she had just become the agent responsible for Givenchy‘s entrance in Japan, and needed someone French-speaking and fashion-passionate to help her make it happen. To Michel it was the perfect opportunity – it took him no time to pack his stuff and take off to Tokyo.
He loved everything over there: the food, the glossy environment, the hard-working people. And the freedom of expression he was granted, with his activities ranging from buying to visual merchandising to communication & PR. Then in 2011 the horrible Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster happened and he was invited by French government, together with his fellow countrymen in Japan, to leave the country.
He then went back to Paris, with the feeling that his Japanese experience was not over yet. To get it over with, he came back to Tokyo after three months, looking for a new job and for a new life challenge. This is when he got the call from his long-time friend Sifan Shao, who would bring him to Beijing, involve him with S.T.A.R.S. and change his life for good.
Sifan Shao is a comedy director from France who had just come back to Beijing in 2010. “He is a very talented and creative art expert with a special business flair” Michel told me. This is why when Sifan contacted him to be in charge of a brand-new concept store where fashion, culture and art where on exhibition, he didn’t think about it twice: after a couple of meetings halfway in Seoul to define details, Michel moved to Beijing, to help Sifan find the right location and run the first operations. In January 2012 they found the current traditional house where the shop is hosted today and in October 2012 it opened its red doors.
‘Since then – Michel told me – the shop has grown very well, we have our loyal customers and media recognise our role in Beijing fashion scene. But every day there is lots of work to do”. And Michel is always here, from the opening to the closing time, to make sure that ‘when a client enters the door, they found me and they can hear our story, and the story behind every single piece we sell, directly from me.’. He feels he his the face of S.T.A.R.S., and it’s his mission to make it better and better day by day, also by selecting the designers to work with one by one, according to their creations, but also their story and distinctive traits. At the moment, the store stocks, among the others, Path, Rechenberg, Lucien Wang (interviews to the last two coming soon! #staytuned!).
This motivation, and the sparkle in his eyes when he recalls the different adventures Sifan and himself went through to build a new fashion concept, can only come from an unconditional love toward S.T.A.R.S. and to what it has come to mean in the Chinese panorama and in his life. And Michel is sure about it: ‘S.T.A.R.S. has just start to express its potential, we have a long way to go. For me there is no deadline here’.
Michel is a very passionate fashion professional, who is devoting himself to a completely new fashion approach. And I’m so deeply grateful for his efforts. Thanks, Michel!
Incontrare Michel Alarcon sulla terrazza di S.T.A.R.S. per due chiacchiere e un caffe’ e’ stato un vero piacere. Michel, buyer e creative director per il leggendario concept store pechinese, si prende cura dei clienti, accogliendoli personalmente e presentando i vari designers esposti. Inoltre, seleziona con cura ed attenzione tutti i capi che andranno a far parte della collezione in vendita. Lavorare per il suo amico di lunga data Sifan Shao e’ per Michel una missione senza deadline: lui e’ determinato a fare del suo meglio perché questo nuovo concept di spazio multifunzionale e relativo ad arte, cultura e moda si affermi a Pechino e in tutta la Cina.
For the chat with Michel Alarcon at S.T.A.R.S. I was delighted to wear:
Floral silk dress 碎花裙: Sandro
Sandals 凉鞋: Fausto Santini
Crystal ring 戒指: Swarovski
Sunglasses 太阳镜: Dior
Lipstick 唇膏: Chanel Rouge Coco #16 Taffetas Rose
Yellow notebook: Moleskine
Dotted pen: Campo Marzio
Most of the pictures at S.T.A.R.S. were taken with my white Sony NEX-5T.
For pictures #1, #5, #11, special thanks to S.T.A.R.S. team.
Chinese translation by Jasmine Wang.[map id=”75″]