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Please Dress Up on the Differences Between the Paris and SF Fashion Scenes

Judy Berberian and Grant Doolittle have but one simple request, at least where fashion is concerned. Please Dress Up, the name of their label launched in 2006, pretty much says it all. Late last year, the design duo fulfilled a long-held plan and moved to Paris. Four months after leaving the City by the Bay for the City of Lights, Please Dress Up is still turning West Coast heads with such irresistibly cool pieces as the convertible square dress, available at Union Square shop Shotwell. Fresh from Paris Fashion Week, the designer couple took a moment to chat about getting noticed in the world’s fashion capital, Parisian fashion habits and the power of blogs.

First off, how’s Paris?

Paris has been amazing so far. We live and work in the Marais neighborhood, which we love. On our street there are about 15 galleries, countless boutiques and the Picasso Museum.    

What are the major differences you’ve noticed in fashion in Paris vs. in San Francisco?

I think in San Francisco people are more open to wearing new things or kind of experimenting more to develop their own style. Here in Paris we have been told several times that everyone is very traditional and rarely do they venture out to try to wear new things. I would say that I guess that is pretty true since, although people here do tend to dress nicer in general, it is pretty rare that you see someone really dressed up or looking really different. Black, navy and gray are king here. 

Has it been more or less difficult to get your work noticed now that you’re based in city that’s considered a fashion capital?

I would definitely say it has been easier. I mean during fashion week, we met people from all over the world, Russia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, U.K. Everywhere.

Of course, there is a lot more competition and it has just been about us establishing ourselves as different, which hasn’t been very hard because there really aren’t too many Americans who live here and really just do what we are doing. It was pretty bizarre for us to get so many calls for fashion week from so many people that we didn’t even know who had just heard about us and wanted to see the new work. 

Tell us about your latest collection. What ideas were you playing with as you created it?

We continued to develop the idea of pieces that can have more than one style. We started soaking up inspiration from the moment we landed, so we moved a lot more to black, which is a color that we really only started using last season....Almost every piece in the collection can be worn with almost every piece in the collection. We also did a lot of hand knitting, which we have been doing for a while but never as part of our collection.

How did you go about creating pieces that can be worn in multiple ways for your Infinite Possibilities collection?

When we were making that collection, one of the things we had bounced around was creating the garments without creating any fabric waste or experimenting with what we could get by sewing together large squares, rectangles and triangles. I think maybe the fact that we even got anything was lucky. We started really experimenting even more and more ideas kept coming out of that process. We knew we didn’t want to make extremely fit things anymore and, by adding on the ties, it gave us a way to add fit and also allowing the ties to be a part of changing the silhouette as well. 

Tell us about your label’s name. Can we take it as a direct plea to the world at large?

The name is that exactly. In other words, we just wanted to use the name as a way to alert people maybe to the clothes that they are wearing. I mean, we all have our own personal style, and we aren’t saying everyone should wear beaded gowns everyday. A little phrase we have always used is, “You are your art.” We think clothing is a great way to represent yourself in whatever way you want to be perceived. 

What really excites you about the fashion world today?

Through blogs, people are able to convey ideas to a whole new generation of people who admire fashion and the messages are conveyed in a more sincere way than traditional forms of advertising, I think. 

Did you go to any shows or events for Paris Fashion Week? If so, what did you do and what were your impressions?

We went to several shows for fashion week: Gaspard Yurkevich, Tim Hamilton, Jean Paul Knott, and several others, as well our studio is exactly next door to one of the bigger venues for the week. So when there were shows going on next door, we would just hang out in front of our studio and watch all the madness. We also went to some really good parties for that week. The Jeremy Scott after party was a lot of fun.

Are you planning to stay in Paris indefinitely? When do you think you’ll be back in San Francisco again?

So far we have no current plans to return to San Francisco. We are really trying to establish ourselves here, and we want to base what we do from here as well. 

Favorite French phrase?

Je suis comme ça (literally, "I'm like that.") Though [it’s] maybe not as popular today as it was in the 1920s.