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Paloma Picasso Unveils Her Own Art--Which the Buyer Can Wear

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As a girl, Paloma Picasso once showed her father pictures she’d made of “things in the house,” including copies of original paintings by Matisse and Pablo himself.

Instead of praising her efforts, however, Picasso chastised his daughter for imitating other people’s work.

“He said, ‘Don’t worry about copying other people. Do your own thing and you’ll be fine,’ ” she recalls.

She has done just that. Picasso, 42, has made her own name as a designer of everything from belts to bedsheets.

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“I like the idea of designing things people use,” she says. “It’s a way of setting myself apart from my parents.” Her mother, Francoise Gilot, is also a famous artist.

“I wouldn’t dare be a painter,” she says.

Her creations aren’t meant to hang in museums, but around people’s arms and necks. She introduced her fall ’91 collection of handbags, belts and scarves Tuesday at Bullock’s South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

Known worldwide as a woman of great style, she credits accessories with helping her establish an identity apart from her famous parents.

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“I’ve always been interested in looking special and different, because of my name,” she says. Even as a child she knew anyone named Picasso could not be ordinary. She was virtually born with style.

“I consider it a politeness to be well dressed,” she says.

She found one of the best ways to stand apart was to wear dramatic accessories.

“You want to be in fashion, and yet set yourself apart. Two women can wear the same dress, but if you’re wearing an important necklace or belt, you’ll look different.”

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She prefers her clothing to be a dark, empty canvas on which to paint bold bracelets and belts. To Picasso, accessories should provide the color, not the clothes.

“I wear a lot of black, then add color by bringing in a wonderful scarf or jewelry.”

Her outfit for a brunch in her honor at Bullock’s illustrated her fashion philosophy: a simple black dress with a large gold-link bracelet and her trademark red lipstick. She almost apologized for her small, heart-shaped earrings.

“Mine are much bigger, but I couldn’t find them,” she explained.

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She has enjoyed “playing” with accessories since she was a child.

“I’d string beads together and wear a necklace under my shirt that would match my shoes. Nobody knew I was wearing the necklace but me,” she says. “I was always into those little details.”

Her attention to details is now seen in her accessories. Small touches, such as the ingenious way the strap can be doubled on her double-ring purses or the quality of the soft leather, make her collection stand out.

She’s one of the few designers who will actually visit her manufacturers in Italy to see that the leather goods are made according to her specifications.

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“They like the fact that it’s me dealing directly with them and I’m really interested,” she says. “That’s where I get the most pleasure. I don’t need to work. If I work, it’s because I like to make beautiful things.”

Her handbags and scarves are often adorned with the loose Xs that have become her signature. Her affection for the symbol also stems from her childhood, when at age 12 she was sent to England from her native France to study English. She was charmed by the way English people would end their letters with Xs to signify kisses.

“It’s romantic without being sentimental, without being cute,” she says.

Sentimental and cute are not words to describe her designs. Rather, they are strong and sophisticated, like her white pentagon-shaped purse with the short, circular strap.

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Her fall collection features handbags in all sizes and shapes and in red, purple, black, bone or white leather.

“A woman who works needs a big bag,” she says. “But she should be able to pull a small bag out for lunch.” Thus her collection includes handbags large enough to hold a notebook, or the little round pouches for holding keys, lipstick and lunch money.

“Being strong doesn’t mean not being soft at the same time. This picture is very strong,” Picasso says, indicating a poster Bullock’s has set up featuring the famous Richard Avedon portrait of her cupping her face in her gloved hands.

People tend to find her friendlier than the cool-looking woman in the photograph. Picasso says the image had to be strong to assert herself.

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“When you have a name like Picasso, it’s hard to make a name as Paloma Picasso,” she says. “The reason for having the face (in the ad) is it’s something totally different than Pablo. It’s very theatrical, grander than life. I needed to be interesting as Paloma.”

The list of things with Paloma Picasso’s name has widened to include fine jewelry for Tiffany, china and crystal for Villeroy & Boch, perfume and cosmetics for Cosmair and most recently, sheets for Martex.

“I’m careful my name doesn’t go on something I haven’t designed,” she says. She travels to Europe frequently from her home in New York to work on her creations. She collaborates with her husband, Rafael Lopez-Cambil, on all aspects of the business.

So far, she has drawn the line at designing clothes.

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“Accessories have a longer life,” she says. Some are even treasured forever, like beautiful paintings.


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