“DSquared2 is Canadian?” someone said, with complete disbelief, on the night of the brand’s big reveal during Paris Fashion Week in early October.
Perhaps the maple leafs stamped on T-shirts and colour-blocked basketball sneakers or the women’s boots with modified skate blades for heels wasn’t giveaway enough?
No matter. The important part is that Dean and Dan Caten, the sprightly Toronto-born twins who wave the Canadian flag with unrivaled brio, have set up what they’re calling their “first international flagship store” on one of the world’s most important fashion strips, the rue Saint-Honoré.
Completely by coincidence, their westward neighbour happens to be Ports 1961, another Canadian-born label, which opened its European flagship a few weeks ago.
These days, the word “flagship” gets tossed around very liberally. Brands seem to crown any store larger than a closet with the honorific. But Paris is not a place to go halfway and, accordingly, both brands are making grand statements in the City of Light.
The labels occupy the two desirable street-front spaces on either side of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s plush entrance. DSquared2 takes up three floors, while Ports 1961 has two. Where the former combines a yin-yang of Canadian timber and smoky grey mirrors, the latter, designed by Winka Dubbledam, is a study in understated luxe. Each has a curvaceous staircase for added ooh la la.
Incidentally, the Catens spent six years designing at Ports 1961 before decamping to Milan. “It’s like a haunting but it’s funny,” says Dan, who makes sure to point out that “our [store]is bigger, by the way.”
The Paris location, which he describes as “chic and elegant,” offers an opportunity for customers to experience the entire range, from eyewear to runway pieces.
Meanwhile, Ports 1961’s creative director, Fiona Cibani, says that Paris represents growth and exposure for the label, now headquartered in China, but also carries emotional weight.
“As long as I can remember, it’s been a dream of mine to have a store in Paris,” she gushes by phone from Milan.
Now that the dream has been fulfilled, though, what’s next? “My next dream is a Paris apartment. The store comes first; now I have a reason to be there.”
CANADIAN DESIGNERS ABROAD: DEAN AND DAN, AND, PORTS INTERNATIONAL
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