Mister Freedom in Paris and LA


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Sometimes you need to go beyond Paris to learn about Paris history – especially when it comes to expats in Paris like William Klein.

I was wandering down Beverly Blvd in LA and stumbled into the shop called Mister Freedom, the brainchild of LA transplanted Parisian Christophe Loiron.

William Klein is a NYC born photographer and filmmaker who’s film ‘Mister Freedom’ 1969 was the inspirational name for M. Loiron’s LA shop which specializes in vintage western and rural gear.

Klein’s film has been described as an ‘anti-American film’ in the sense that it was a product of the Cold War era and the anti-Vietnam war movement. It did not sit well with French censors of the day because not only did it lambaste US war policies regarding the Vietnam war but Klein also didn’t hesitate to throw barbs at Maoists and assorted Communists – none of the hallowed were spared – including De Gaulle.

I have yet to see this film, but I am more interested in seeing the photographer’s image/impressions of Paris in the late sixties. (As soon as I find them-I’ll share them with Parislogue readers!)

In the meantime, I am enjoying a detour at the shop called Mister Freedom which appears to have much more to do with conjuring up images of old America and rustic France (when one is weary of the politics of the day what better thing to do than find some respite in the nostalgia of yesteryear?).

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What I found here among stacks of worn jeans and exquisitely tooled Western boots was a great surprise (especially because when I first entered th e store, I had no clue that the shop owner was a native of France).

It was the ‘maquignon’ French linen ‘blouse’ that sent me asking the sales clerk for a word with the owner.

“How did this 1890’s rustic tunic show up here amongst the piles of denim distressed jeans?

“They were called ‘maquignons’, M. Loiron explained. He was referring to horse traders (that’s the dictionary translation) – or cowherders (my French translation)- who wore these tunics in that era – meanwhile I continued to admire intently the exquisite vintage ‘blouse’ with its little patches here and there of stitches.

For some reason, the garment sent a shiver down by spine – like unearthing a gold nugget, or being able to almost feel the life of its past owner. It had a magical aura – and on top of that, it’s price tag was pretty outlandish ($1,650.00)- the kind of price that made me think it’s owner didn’t really want to part with this find.

Loiron said, ‘yes, you look at this blouse and you can practically see the pastoral scene’

What I could see was a troop of sheep, cattle, or horses being led by the cowhand or shepherd through a gate as the sun set low in the sky.

Then I left his shop and walked back along the concrete sidewalk with the rush hour traffic whizzing past and the golden LA sun sinking lower in the sky.

Expats are a strange breed, they don’t ever really leave a country – they just seem to merge and reappear in the places where you’d least expect to find them. Kind of like floating bottles on the ocean. Kind of like freedom.