Olivier Saillard, Sheila E. and the leader of the Garde Républicaine drum corps.

BEAUTIFUL NIGHT: “Who said girls couldn’t play drums?” asked Sheila E.

Certainly not the crowd that gathered at the barracks of the Garde Républicaine, the regiment whose origins date to Napoléon Bonaparte, for a special event on the opening night of Paris Fashion Week Men’s hosted by Olivier Saillard in his capacity as artistic, image and culture director of J.M. Weston.

The heritage shoe brand has been making made-to-measure boots for the cavalry division of the Garde Républicaine since the Seventies. A row of 100 pairs, borrowed from their owners and filled with pink roses, snaked through the courtyard of the venue.

“I find the design of the boots very pure, very stripped-back, especially for horseback soldiers, and the drum corps sets the pace. I’ve always been a fan of Sheila E., so I selfishly organized this event for myself — though I thought it would be nice to share it with others as well,” Saillard said with a smile.

Sheila E. and the Garde Républicaine drummers.

Sheila E. and the Garde Républicaine drummers.  Stéphane Feugère

The percussionist, whose full name is Sheila Escovedo, regaled guests — including Tilda Swinton, DJ Pedro Winter and photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino — with tales of working with the likes of Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and Prince, in the process delivering a master class on congas, cajón and drums.

She recalled a time when Gaye, rehearsing for his final tour in 1983, chided her for playing an extra beat on “What’s Going On,” his signature song.

“I just learned that playing, I can have this stage full of percussion, it doesn’t mean that I have to play all of it at the same time to be heard. It’s really about having a conversation, and when we’re on stage playing with other people, it’s about listening and paying attention and being a unit. So I learned less is more,” she said.

Demonstrating her point, the Alaïa-clad musician pulled in members of the audience to provide backup for a sing-along version of Prince’s “Kiss,” before launching into a fiery battle with the Republican Guard drummers.

“I think we made history today,” she said, noting it was the first time that anyone outside the drum corps had played with the military band. The smiles on their faces said it all.

Tilda Swinton.

Tilda Swinton  Stéphane Feugère.

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