Pigalle: Stephane Ashpool
Building brand credibility is hard. The lengths companies will go to in order to convince particular consumers that their product is genuine, relevant and in touch are great, to say the least. There are a number of routes international brands use to earn this kind of authenticity. From collaborations and endorsements from musicians and celebrities to engaging their audience in unconventional ways, brands are constantly chasing that increasingly elusive, highly coveted yet frustratingly abstract tag: being irrefutably ‘cool’ .
This is an issue Stephane Ashpool has little difficulty with. Since his modestly sized fashion store, Pigalle, opened its doors four and a half years ago, its daring yet accessible designs have earned him international recognition and legions of fans – some more famous than others. His loyalty to his roots is perhaps largely responsible for how readily he’s been accepted by the notoriously snooty fashion gliterati. “Pigalle is an area in Paris, I was born there, so I guess the store actually started 30 years ago” he says. Stephane, along with several of his friends formed the Pain Au Chocolat collective. Made up of multi-disciplinary, passionate and productive young Parisians, they made a name for themselves throwing roadblock parties. “We built our scene and it grew up and up and up.”
The idea to open a fashion store began when a space opened near the crew’s office. “I wanted to do something with my friends to do with clothes.” But why fashion? “My Dad is an artist, but made clothes for theatre and contemporary dance. While my Mum was a dancer, who walked for Thierry Mugler… So fashion was around me when I was young, but at the time I was more interested in playing basketball.”
Stephane’s penchant for street culture has certainly played its part in his designs, however his style is incredibly tricky to pigeonhole. “One day I’m feeling high fashion, then another day I’m feeling more grimy” he says, “I put the two together and play basketball, and maybe that’s my inspiration.” He seems unwilling to label himself, or decide where exactly he fits within the fashion world. But then perhaps that’s why he’s been so successful. Stephane doesn’t seem all that interested in defining himself – he’s happy to just do what he does and let the rest of the world decide where to put him. “With every collection I have a story in my mind that I follow,” he explains, ”but it’s not like I want the people to call it this or that. I let the people give a name to it.”
This laid back approach to his place in the market feels characteristic of Pigalle’s brand ethos. “I don’t try to position myself, as soon as I’m happy, I don’t care about the rest.” This is reflected in the diversity of the kind of products he sells. From affordable €30 t-shirts to more premium, almost high fashion items like €1500 jackets, Stephane explains how the store’s diversity is reflective of Paris “It’s this mixed culture. It’s world music and Hip Hop, it’s black and white, it’s French elegance and street.” This natural, effortless cool is an asset that no amount of marketing savvy or promotional dollars could match. “I didn’t go to marketing school. The only marketing I know is the street and it’s one I learnt by myself.”
The ‘Roc-A-Fella Records’ Mercedes-Benz E-class 320.
In the beginning of Roc-A-Fella Records Dame Dash knew that they needed to enforce some serious promotion to create a Jay-Z juggernaut around New York City, therefore creating a steady income stream for the Roc team. So Dame had Lenny “KodakLens” Santiago drive around the city in the Benz with the Roc-A-Fella logo plastered on the hood. As always with his business models, Dame’s theory was “look large to be large”. Santiago would hand out CDs, stickers, posters, and other promotional material to the eager pedestrians. Guerrilla distribution!
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