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Piel Session

Wink designer Wynn Smith is one of those shy types who usually makes only the briefest grinning appearance at the end of the runway. But this season, Smith decided to forgo the runway routine, opting instead to show his clothes with photos done in an...

Wink designer Wynn Smith is one of those shy types who usually makes only the briefest grinning appearance at the end of the runway. But this season, Smith decided to forgo the runway routine, opting instead to show his clothes with photos done in an homage to a racy, cinematic fashion story Denis Piel shot for GQ in the Eighties, which he’ll send out with his lookbooks.

This story first appeared in the September 24, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In the first spread tacked on the photo studio’s wall, a chiseled man strides away from a sea plane, a bedraggled girl in heels and glasses fumbling with papers and luggage in his wake. “I am Dominique, personal assistant to my former professor Marcel — author, lecturer, soldier of the mind (and, secretly, of my heart),” the campy copy reads. “He’s driving me quietly mad, but I speak not a word.”

“She is just so chic,” says Smith. He pulls on a pair of wraparound sunglasses and plays the part of Marcel himself, as he and model Bekah walk across a white backdrop in imitation of the original.

The Wink collection is full of slim coats, high-waisted skirts and chic shift dresses. “It’s Sixties Chanel with a little surfer thrown in,” he says. But like the Piel photos, it has a eerie edge to it. “All animals are created equal,” reads a looping cursive quote printed across one T-shirt, “but some animals are created more equal than others.”

And then, the moment of truth. In Piel’s version, Marcel sunbathes poolside in a bikini brief while Dominique bends over him, pencil at the ready. “The shoot has a very kinky feel,” says Smith. “I would never in a million of years wear a bikini in public, but today shorts just won’t work.”

For the love of fashion, he sighs, wiggles out of his jeans, scampers to the set and flings himself onto the cold floor. Photographers Roman Barrett and Jan-Willem Dikkers, who have teamed up for the day, each consult the originals. Dikkers grabs Smith by the ankle and turns him. Barrett pushes his foot back an inch the other way. The camera clicks away.

“Be extreme!” Dikkers yells.

“Bekah, you love him!” yells Barrett.

And then it is over. Smith jumps to his feet and pulls on his pants over the bikini. “It is so hard,” the blushing designer says. “I have a newfound respect for models.”