We can’t stand choosing precise words to describe our personalities, and for this one, we just couldn’t do it. Alexandra Senes is a comet. She travels around the world and doesn’t only give us something to remember: she makes us live an experience, both fleeting and incredibly lively. Alexandra is a laboratory of ideas herself. She learned the ropes in the entire world. From Dakar, where she was born, to New York, where she grew up, and to Paris. She admired and studied thousands of kilometres which propelled her on a lot of orbits. Journalist, designer, boss of a company. Her company. Alexandra Senes’ company. Why choosing the easy way when we are complicated? The former new editor in Jalouse is ready to turn on every part of the planet and she is now embroidering them. On white shirts of men from the XIXth century, she embroiders the GPS coordinates of the “Ibiza of tomorrow”, thanks to her brand Kilometre. It’s the discovery of the planisphere, the ultimate idea of luxury, delivered with its guide. This new project is more than a summary of herself: it’s a new support of her global network she wants to share. Just like in her family place. Alexandra tastes the world and invites it in her dining room, a sort of grocery where there are goods from the most remote parts of the world. A desire for life and encounters which has formed, since her early childhood, her personality. Just like Gyro Gearloose, she collects objects, is an indomitable dreamer and an anthropologist of the daily life. Creating opportunities is a second nature. Revealing the nature of the globe is what she does best.
Alexandra, who are you?
To describe myself, I have to talk about geography. “Some writers need geography and some others need to focus: That’s the difference between travellers and clairvoyants”, Nicolas Bouvier wrote. My HQ? The global village and the cloud. There I explore new know-hows and know-how-to-be. I connect flows of creativity. I use the energy of any creator. I worked as a freelance journalist for dozens of newspapers, such as the daily Le Monde, the Journal du Dimanche and the magazines Elle, Beaux-Arts and Le Nouvel Economiste. Then, I designed a made-to-measure magazine for the publisher Jalou, called Jalouse: it does extremely well. The magazine is now 19, just like my daughter. It arrived before the launching of SAS (Société d’Alexandra Senes, which means “Alexandra Senes’s company). It’s neither a newspaper nor a magazine. The acronym sticks to the projects in my laboratory of ideas, which are always singular. I created “Air de Paris” (which means “Paris’ air”): it was a weekly radio programme, made for Hermès, and broadcasted in Japan. From Jane Birkin to the curate of Saint-Eustache, hundreds of interviewees were the soundtrack of this programme about Parisians. People in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobé got to hear that sound, which had the smell of Paris. 20 million people listened to the programme. For four years, I have been working on a space of 1000 square meters dedicated to trends, for the Prêt-à-Porter trade show. I have also been a consultant for the development of the fashion week in Lahore and then in Karachi. My mission was to take another look at the works of around 30 creators and to appeal an audience of socialites at a “first row” in sari. The event has then occurred in Paris. Then, I wrote a city guide, “Le Paris du Tout Paris”, published by Lonely Planet. Inès de la Fressange, Abdelwahab Meddeb, Golshifteh Farahani and Edgar Morin are part of the 100 personalities who told me about their favourite and secret places. I have been a teacher for the famous fashion school “Ecole de la Chambre syndicale de la couture parisienne” for three years. What did I teach? Everything but fashion. We all learned a lot, about Jennifer Tipton’s lights, Rashid Rana’s works, and the sensuality of the electric bodies by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. My emails show latitude and longitude. It says a lot about the Senegalese Parisian I am.
Can you tell us about the concept of your brand Kilometre Paris?
Kilometre is the mix of my twenty years working in fashion and my trips. It’s my heart and soul. So it’s hard to talk about a concept! It’s like the people who tell me: “you have an excellent storytelling”. I write my story thanks to Mexican and Indian very talented hands. I embroider my strong curiosity on shirts, cushions and carpets. Kilometre uses fashion to travel differently. This label foretells the new Ibiza of 2020, such as Croatia and Goa. I work on a collection of white shirts of men of the XIXth century. But instead of the interchangeable “I love”, I embroider the GPS coordinates of these desirable heavens. Every shirt is sold with a guide from the region. We think discovering the world is the ultimate perception of luxury.
How do you wish to develop your brand?
I would like to open “corners of the world” in airports. I’m fed up with finding the same things in Heathrow, Sheremetyevo and in the airport of Linate. Eventually, I’d like to have a small boutique of “Tomorrow’s souvenirs” – rue de Rivoli – where you wouldn’t find any synthetic scarf for supporters of the PSG (Paris’ football club) and made in China! The brand adapts enough to embroider made-to-measure shirts for the greatest fashion place in California – in Newport -, called A’maree’s, but also for the great store Barneys in New York and for Duchatel, a wonderful small boutique in Biarritz. So why not inventing the trip of a palace in Marrakech or informing the Concierge of a boutique-hotel in Monza, with this pioneer spirit we like. Kilometre wants to develop quickly in order to give back thousands of kilometres to children. I found out about La Fondation Zellidja, which has been enabling young adults, from 17 to 20, to travel, since 1939. This year, thanks to the support of the agency Mon Plus Beau Voyage (meaning “My nicest trip”), we enabled a boy from Bordeaux to travel to Tokyo, and a Parisian girl to go to an island in Chile.
What were you taught about trips and meeting people?
I spent my childhood in Dakar and my adolescence in New York. It predisposes me to see Paris as an open window to anywhere else. I was born among the little Senegalese children in Dakar and I had to adapt to the New York Americans very quickly! It made me become stronger. I became a journalist to keep living this anthropology. Interviewing the president of Benin in Cotonou, the late New Zealand navigator Peter Blake in San Diego during the America’s Cup and the chief executive of Louis Vuitton in Tokyo has enabled me to be attentive to others and to their worlds. I like travelling because I like moving – I’m lucky, I never experience “jet lag” – and taking risks in contexts I don’t know. Every day, I learn to look and listen the others and their rituals, far from what I’m used to – as a protected and spoiled Parisian.
What does motivate you in the continuous search for what’s rare and new, this search for treasures?
It’s a search for rare things and for treasures, but not for new things. It’s new to us but not to them! Looking for something is always being researching something. We are pioneers, we decode trends, talents, and pictures: I observe the mechanisms, estimate what’s unusual, examine the soul of new things. I have a gift: I spot what’s best. And when I find a treasure, I like sharing it. When I advise my readers to go to Procida in Italy rather than in Capri or in Kastelorizo in Greece rather than in Mykonos, the people who know these rare gems hate me; but I open the eyes of the people who don’t know how to travel. It’s a new perspective, a different way of travelling, an alternative route: only new treasures to enable you to avoid the charterslands!
In your apartment, where do you spend the most of your time?
I undoubtedly spend the most of my time in my office, which is at home. But we have talked enough about the place Kilometre takes in my life. So I’ll cheat: when I close the door of my office, I spend all my time in the kitchen and in what I call my “grocery”. I hate dining rooms that have no goal; the ones with a great table. Well, we have this. The table by Guillerme and Chambron is 2.8 meters long! I renamed our dining room “grocery” because I’ll put shelves full of food and meals coming from the whole world. And here, we don’t eat: we devour and taste the world. I don’t know how to cook for 2. I don’t like measuring jugs. So I always follow a recipe but double the proportions, so I’m sure I’ll have enough to invite 1 or 3 people at the last minute or to eat the leftovers the day after. For Christmas, we can be 8, 18 or even 45. I can spend the day cooking. My childhood friend Alexandra gave me a wonderful cookbook called “Jerusalem”, by Yotam Ottogenghi – I didn’t know this English chef who is apparently very famous. In any case, his book is a find and the pictures are sublime. Yesterday, I tried the lamb kofta: it was amazing.
Where do you dream of going?
Do you really want to ask me this question!? I dream of going to Ethiopia. I dreamed so much of going to Tasmania to visit the Mona museum that I made it become one of the destinations in Kilometre. Maybe my dream will come true in June and that I’ll be able to meet the crazy and fascinating owner of that place: David Walsh. I dream of a lobster with Genever gin cooked by Alexandre Gauthier in La Grenouillère in La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, and also of a vegetables gargouillou by Michel Bras in the Aubrac. I also dream of going to the wedding of my friend Fazeelat in Pakistan, to escape and visit the region of Gilgit in the North, to play polo, wander in the small village of Karimabad, the former capital city of the kingdom of Hunza, and to go back in time to Ganish, still in the same valley.
In terms of furniture and decoration, what would be the piece of your craziest dreams?
The craziest piece would be a series of portraits from the XVIIIth century to go with the painting of Bertrand’s ancestor, which is alone with JonOne graffiti. And I’d dream of a room filled only with my collection of globes. I already have some at home since my lover had the same passion when we met. But I still have a lot in a furniture storage unit, waiting for the room filled with balls! There is one for every taste: spheres, worlds, planispheres and all sorts of globes.
Looking for something is always being researching something. We are pioneers, we decode trends, talents, and pictures: I observe the mechanisms, estimate what’s unusual, examine the soul of new things.
Where do you go when you are looking for a piece of furniture or for a light?
I hunt for antiques. Around August 15th – day of merchants -, I go to the fair in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, in Vaucluse. In September, I go on Chatou Island (I found two sublime church candelabras), near Paris, or even closer, at the flea markets of Vanves or Saint-Ouen, on Sunday mornings. Or I go further. If I have to be in California, I make sure I won’t miss Rose Bowl flea market, the second Sunday of every month, in Pasadena, near Los Angeles.
What are your plans for Christmas?
Last summer, I planned a motorbike trip for my lover, from Lisboa to Comporta. This time, we’ll go and discover the South of Portugal. I would have loved doing it with the motorbike once more, but apparently it’s “still” winter there and there is a lot of wind in the South. I’ll give you the exclusivity of our trip – at your own risk, since it has not been tested yet. First stop: Sagres, in the hotel Memmo – a piece of advice my friend Vicky Chahine (she works for the best French magazine: M Le Monde) gave me. Second stop: Lagos in the hotel Casa Mãe. Third stop: Carrapateira in the hotel Casa Bamboo – a “timeless” find according to our friends Eve and Martin, who travel a lot. Fourth step: Comporta, with my friend Laurent, to eat cod for New Years’ Eve. No need to introduce you Comporta. But Comporta during the winter, I don’t know yet.
Is there a good restaurant you would recommend, in Paris or elsewhere?
In Paris, there is a winning trio: Le Derrière/Momo/Andy. It’s not new, this golden triangle of energy has been existing for 20 years, thanks to Hakim and Momo. On the left, the 404 – for its couscous and the very loud Arabic music since 10. In front of it (or behind it, it depends on your GPS): Le Derrière – for its roast chicken, the “secret” cupboard from Alice in Wonderland and its table tennis table. On the right, Andy Wahloo – for its bar made of almost nothing but always full. In Roma: Settimio. With my daughter Mila, we decided to go there on Thursdays for their handmade gnocchi. The wonderful old owner even taught Mila how to roll them.
Credits : Constance Gennari @thesocialitefamily