Fashion designer Pierre Mahéo talks taste
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
My personal style signifier is colour matching, in my work and personal life. If I’m wearing navy pants, I have to have a navy sweater that matches perfectly. I’ve been dressing like this forever; it’s a kind of freedom for me, because I don’t have to think about what to wear in the morning. And I always wear a vintage watch – a 1979 Cartier Tank Chinoise, which is a pretty rare model.
The last things I bought and loved were two artworks by Michael Schouflikir, compositions made of recycled pieces of wood and metal, built on vintage frames. They are from a gallery I love in Saint-Germain-des-Prés called Tourrette, run by Carole Korngold, that shows a new artist every month; they’ve had Laurent Jaffrennou’s work on paper, Thomas Junghans’s sculptures and Mirco Marchelli paintings.
The place that means a lot to me is Ibiza, where I have a holiday home. When I first went there I didn’t connect with it, but I think it’s a place that you have to discover. Now my wife and I have a house in the centre of the island with a beautiful view of the countryside; it’s absolutely charming. The house is a mix of an old finca and Bauhaus style so it has very interesting shapes. I do the opposite of what most visitors do on the island: I wake up at 6.30am, get a coffee from the village, and later have dinner with some friends.
And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is a sculpture of a man’s head that I got at Noordermarkt flea market in Amsterdam. We were supposed to be buying it for one of our stores, which always have secondhand objects and furniture in them, but I felt a connection with it and wanted to keep it at home.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is La Vie Mode d’Emploi by Georges Perec. I first tried to read it when I was at school but I couldn’t keep up with it. Now I find the way he built it to be exceptional – it’s almost mathematical in its construction. It’s 99 chapters and it’s filled with a lot of different stories about the people who live – or used to live – in a building.
My style icons are Roger Vadim and Marcello Mastroianni who, for me, represent the golden era of the ’60s and ’70s and this dressed-down attitude where they didn’t care what they were wearing. It was more about the way they were walking and gesturing – not the clothes. They mastered that nonchalance and elegance that was truly personal, and they basically dressed the same way their whole lives, which I love.
My favourite room in my house is the kitchen, because that’s where we sit, eat and talk the most. It’s also where I started my label, Officine Générale, writing and drawing stuff on the vintage table there. It’s not a big kitchen, but I like the balance and that it’s where people connect.
The last music I downloaded was by Phoenix, the album Alpha Zulu, which was recorded in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. I have been listening to it slowly – what I don’t like about the way we consume music at the moment is how we get through it too quickly, listening in the car and skipping through the songs. I think I’m going to go back to vinyl at home, where you can’t swipe.
The best gift I’ve received recently is a vintage Land Rover Defender 110 convertible that my wife, Nina, bought for me. I am a minor car collector, and this was one I have always wanted to own. I restored it, giving it very dark navy body paint, with black leather seats and silver trims. I love the idea of recycling an old car into something new.
And the best gift I’ve given is a vintage Cartier Tank Française, from the ’60s, which I gave to my wife for no particular occasion. I bought it from online vintage dealer Collector Square.
My favourite building is the Palais Royal in Paris. I love the garden there, the arches where the stores are, and how strict they have been with the treatment of the façade, with the colours and signage. That’s a big problem we have in Paris, where not all the brands have been able to maintain their shopfronts in the same style as the buildings, so you have some really ugly ones underneath a beautiful building.
I have a collection of chairs from many different eras. Some are made with very traditional workmanship – techniques used in the middle of France on a farm – or I have some brutalist chairs from Holland, which have old leather cushions with beautiful patinas. Recently I bought some chairs from a Paris flea market that are carved out of one tree, without screws or anything. They are more like sculptures.
In my fridge you’ll always find Parma ham and burrata. For a French guy, I am crazy about Italian food. In the summer this is usually what I eat for breakfast and lunch, along with fresh fruit, which I try to buy seasonally, olive oil and Himalayan sea salt.
I’ve recently rediscovered the French Riviera. Some friends who own a gallery in Paris have a house in Villefranche-sur-Mer, and I was amazed by what I saw. I went in the off-season, in October, and the light was gorgeous, everything was golden, and the little beach there was absolutely charming.
An indulgence I would never forgo is swimming in the sea. I was born in Brittany, which is not known for being tropical, but I always used to swim in the invigorating water there. My favourite beach, though, is called Plage des Salines, in St Barths, which is a long, quiet beach surrounded by hills.
The last items of clothing I added to my wardrobe are half a dozen white tees from our Daily Classics line. It sounds stupid but it took us nine months to develop that T-shirt, and I’m very happy with the product now. It’s in a recycled and organic cotton blend.
An object I would never part with is my Hermès 48hr travel bag from the 1960s. I bought it some years ago, and it’s a bit destroyed because of how much I’ve used it, but I’ll get it redone one day. It’s not the most practical bag but I love the shape, the patina and all the imperfections it has now.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Giacometti. It could be the sculptures or the drawings, I just really love his technique and also how he always worked wearing a tie. It’s one point of view that lasts forever.
The grooming staple I’m never without is Vétiver cologne by Guerlain, which I’ve been wearing for 30 years. I think I put too much of it on in the morning because I don’t smell it any more, but I do when it’s on a scarf or a jacket. It belongs to me – it shouldn’t be on anyone else.
My grooming guru is Fanny, who cuts my hair at David Mallett’s salon in Paris. It’s in a beautiful apartment with high ceilings that’s very warm and welcoming yet hidden from the street. I also go to his place in New York when I’m there.
My favourite app is WeatherPro, because I’m constantly looking at the forecast. As a business, we often change the window display if we know it’s going to be warmer or colder, to match what people are wearing.
In another life I would have been an architect, because I think connecting spaces with people is amazing. A building can be beautiful, have amazing colours, but it doesn’t mean anything if it’s not human-friendly. I am very picky about the details – how a wardrobe fits with a person, or whether the shower is the right size.
The works of art that changed everything for me were Irving Penn portraits from the 1950s, both in a personal and professional way. He is a master of photography, and I admire the confidence he had in shooting people, the way he styled them and the intensity of the looks in their eyes. Whenever I revisit them I always find something new.
The thing I couldn’t do without is my morning coffee. I sit outside thinking of the day ahead or sometimes meeting a friend. It is a stolen moment before my full day of work. I live in Saint-Germain, opposite Café de Flore, so I often sit there, even when it’s freezing, to watch the people passing by.