GLOBE-TROTTER: After Barneys in New York, the Webster in Miami and 14 other high-end retailers, Kilometre Paris is to hit Le Bon Marché. The French shirt brand, the brainchild of former editor Alexandra Senes, is to have a 345-square-foot pop-up space at the Left Bank department store in Paris in July.
The line is made of 20 shirt models, including some authentic 19th-century white dress shirts and some inspired by them, featuring embroideries of travel destinations.
“I have the travel virus,” said Senes, a former editor in chief of Jalouse magazine, who had been entrusted to launch a French edition of Harper’s Bazaar, and was tapped as a judge in the French version of “Project Runway” after the Harper’s Bazaar project folded.
While browsing a flea market on Rue de Bretagne in the French capital’s Marais area, she found a trove of 19th-century white dress shirts, originally meant for men, that came from the South of France.
“These don’t wear out,” said Senes, noting that they’re made from linen, hemp or nettle. She bought a stock of 300 vintage pieces, of which about 200 were in perfect condition.
Destinations featured on the new shirts include the Inhotim arts center in Brazil; Kashan, Iran; and Pantin outside Paris. “I chose the Brooklyns of tomorrow,” she explained. For example, the embroideries on the Pantin shirt reads “métiers d’art,” as a nod to the home of Chanel’s specialty ateliers, and “Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.” “To me, Pantin will be like the Marais 10 years from now,” she predicted. All shirts come with a “passport” and a guide to the destination.
In addition, she created exclusive pieces for retailers. The Barneys shirt, sold at the West 18th Street location in New York, features the High Line and the Whitney Museum. For Le Bon Marché, she created a basket as a tribute to the square Boucicaut, the park in front of the department store.
The antique shirts are priced at around $3,175, while the new pieces, that are handmade in Mexico, are sold at around $975. In its first season for spring 2016, the collection is distributed in 16 doors. For winter, Senes is adding a range of jumpsuits and bags to the line.
What did Senes learn by switching from editor to designer? “I discovered custom duties, how to deal with department stores — they’re tough with young brands — and how to choose buttons at the Première Vision trade fair — the torments of a fashion designer.”
Still, Kilometre’s Web site has an editorial component, including videos interviews on travel with people she has labeled “GPS” for “Gens Particulièrement Sympathiques,” or “Very Nice People” in English. These include DJ Nadège Winter, chef Alexandre Gauthier or French actress Julie Gayet.