“Oh, j’adore, j’adoooooore,” purrs Catherine Baba with a soft Parisian thrum as she saunters onto the second floor of London's Dover Street Market. This, for those unfamiliar with the renowned stylist’s Baba-isms, is code for hello. “How absolutely divine it is to be here today for the birth of my babies,” she continues, sliding her slender fingers across a tall glass cabinet that holds her latest creative endeavour: a line of sunglasses, created in collaboration with F-O vision.
“You know I’ve already created two other fashion collections,” she notes, while reclining on a nearby white leather pouf in the manner of a Modigliani nude. “But this one was inevitable and so natural, no? I mean how divine to design sunglasses!” Indeed it is – sunglasses are an integral part of Baba’s fashion vernacular – as are vintage silk kimonos (“1920s styles found from little flea markets in Paris a decade ago,”) jewelled satin turbans and oversized resin bangles that click clack with each and every gesture.
Baba is an extraordinary creature – possessing the Delphian allure of both a silent movie star and Guy Bourdin muse. Originally hailing from Australia, she relocated from Sydney to Paris in the mid-90s to work as a creative consultant for luxury labels such as Ungaro, Givenchy and Balmain. Today, she remains a styling force to be reckoned with, and when she’s not lending her eclectic eye to glossy editorials, can be found cycling around Paris in towering Saint Laurent platforms. Needless to say, we couldn’t think of anyone better to offer lessons on life, style and general splendeur.
1. Sunglasses are like caviar for the face
“My collection, she was birthed during Couture in Paris Fashion Week. Each style is handmade in Italy, which I mean, j’adore! I selected three styles of frames, which are made from a natural cotton fibre. They are living and breathing and alive, thank god. I j’adore the way they make you feel like a cinematic star. And of course, they should be worn for day and night because they are so divine. Sunglasses are like caviar for the face.”
2. One can never own too many kimonos
“Mais oui, after 21 years of collecting kimonos, they are still constantly inspiring me, every day, and I need them. I have a passion for many Japanese things, the food, the sake, even the men [laughs]! Perhaps I was a geisha or a samurai in my previous life? You know, my kimonos even inspired my sunglasses designs, the little floral prints on some of the frames, oui oh oui.”
3. Desire responsibly
“I think it’s divine when we have a desire for anything, but when it’s in abundance, well it just becomes disposable. Which is why each style in my collection is handmade, they will last. I think it’s important to give back, j’adore. 10% of proceeds raised from the collection goes to Orange Babies, a foundation in India, which helps younger women develop a craft in textiles. I’ve worked closely with the Orange Babies team and they’re all divine.”
4. When in doubt, look to your favourite muses
“Marisa Berenson, Candy Darling, Marianne Faithfull, Marlene Dietrich, Eartha Kitt, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis – I’ve always loved these cinematic, playful, divine ladies, each style in my collection is named after these fabulous women. Embrace, embrace! Today, I felt like wearing Candy. Today, in my meditative state, when I was dressing, Candy was my armour and pourquoi pas?!”
5. Never forget to dance, dream, dress-up and love
“This is my style philosophy. Dress the way you feel, embrace it – I don’t follow trends, I follow a little voice in my head, I like to play. Never forget to dance, dream, dress-up and love.”
Catherine Baba’s eponymous collection of sunglasses is available now from Dover Street Market London and New York.