shopping 11.1.04

Atelier Byzantium

Anne Dupuy of Atelier Byzantium stuffs her gorgeous pillows with feathers and down, but she bestows much more into them than removable filling. Here's her story:
After majoring in art history in college, I studied classical figurative sculpture with Etienne Martin, a grand old man who looked and acted like Santa Claus. He ran an atelier at the Beaux-Arts (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts) just down the street from the Pont Neuf. We worked from a live model and though some of my classmates dressed like fashion models, (some dressed like ragamuffins), they were almost all Marxists and leaflet-ed the general student body before and after the school day.

After a few months of supporting myself by soldering stereo components inthe Parisian suburbs (and spending too much time commuting for theprivilege) I needed a new job. Following a lead (a handwritten file cardas I recall) off of a bulletin board near the Beaux-Arts, I was hired by adynamic and charming woman named Françoise Nathan. The job was to sew throw pillows in her loft/shop on the rue St. Martin in Les Halles, more or less across the Seine from the Beaux-Arts.

Françoise was her own boss. Customers trooped up out of the street into this cozy sort of salon (shop) where she offered them drinks and coffee from the nearby cafe, and had a life like out of a Godard movie: she followed her whims and made a living. She had a gorgeous slacker boyfriend who would stop in and a classically xenophobic, mean, and finicky old seamstress, Madame Mariette, who told off-color jokes and criticized my sewing.

Unfortunately, I was an impatient and reckless seamstress and was almostimmediately dispatched from the shop — demoted to stuffing the pillows and sent upstairs to the stuffing room. Kapok was the stuffing — a vegetable material that reminded me of the contents of the dried milkweed pods I picked and let fly in the wind when I was little. Fine out in the fields of my childhood, in the pillow stuffing room, it wasn't so much fun. I wore goggles and a scarf across my mouth and nose so I could breathe. When I was offered a second chance to sew, I figured out how to do it properly.

Ms. Dupuy is now combining her love for textures, great workmanship, high-quality, mostly antique fabrics, elegant design, and vibrant colors to create her own pillows with a craftsman's hand and an artist's eye. All of this, she says, "contribute another dimension, or layer of aliveness to the pillow." As for colors, Ms. Dupuy says, "As much as I admire subtle monochromatic color schemes, with these pillows I try to use the (usually) three different 'surfaces' (counting the gimp) to heighten the vibrational possibilities of all three colors. There are some gorgeous old French toiles which don't lend themselves to this treatment and in that case, I'm happy if I can enhance the toile and give it a new life as a pillow."

Most of the pillows are in the $125-$250 range and can be ordered through her website.
Norma Kamali, 11 W. 56th [5th/6th] 3rd flr. 212.957.9797, is having a sale throughout the month, M-Sa 10-6, including quilted trench coats for $150, white shirts are now $15, jean jackets are $25. Cash and cards, no checks.

Jheri Richards, 530 7th [38th/39th] 5th flr. 212.819.0444, is also having a month-long sale on fall and winter outerwear. Trenches, capes, poncho, and sportswear priced from $15-$495, sizes 2-18 and 1x-3x. M-F, 9-6.

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