Peter Marino swapped his trademark biker leathers for wool — above the waist, at least — at a ceremony Monday night at the cultural arm of the French Embassy in New York.
That smoothed the pinning on his chest of the medal for his latest honor: Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters.
“Do you recognize it? You made it for me 15 years ago,” Marino explained to LVMH Fashion Group honcho Sidney Toledano, as he stroked the covered placket of the cropped style, in black to match his leather pants and high police boots. Toledano had presided over Dior and Dior Homme when its ateliers turned out the sharp-shouldered garment.
Toledano and Chanel’s Alain Wertheimer were among French luxury executives — marquee clients of the acclaimed American architect — who turned out for the event.
Marino’s retail projects also include gleaming flagships for Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Ermenegildo Zegna and others — though his initial claim to fame was the Madison Avenue flagship of Barneys New York back in 1985.
“And Barneys was clearly blown away with your work because they hired you to design 17 more of their department stores,” Bénédicte de Montlaur, cultural counselor of the French Embassy, told a small crowd assembled in the embassy’s bookshop. “This initial connection with fashion retailers allowed you to connect with many more. In fact, when I look at the list, it’s really difficult to find some brand that you didn’t collaborate with. And I really want to know your secret of collaboration with so many competitors.”
The Arts and Letters honor was created by the Ministry of Culture in 1957 — two years after Marino’s French aunt started teaching him the language.
“You are one of the most prolific and romantic architects in interior designers of our time,” de Montlaur enthused. “And you have been all through that time a champion of French and international arts,” she added, noting that he has invited scores of painters and sculptors to create more than 300 site-specific works in stores and homes.
De Montlaur confessed some fashion anxiety ahead of the event, knowing Marino’s reputation for outlandish Tom of Finland-esque leathers. She opted for basic black.
Marino, meanwhile, doffed his signature leather cap for the ceremony, revealing a healthy crop of locks, and not his usual Mohawk. He said he’s working on an Elvis-worthy ducktail for his daughter’s wedding in June.