Impassioned motorcyclist Laura Antoine travels on her Scrambler from her home town in Toulouse to Lyon. She is visiting someone who has made his style into his whole life's mission, and who – like Laura – loves vintage and motorcycles: Sébastien Chirpaz. A true individualist, who understands his trade and also has a small present ready for his visitor.
Laura Antoine, originally from Toulouse, was born with her passion. She absolutely couldn’t make it past the custom and vintage scene, because her father is a member of the Toulouse Southsiders MC, which, among other things, also organises the Wheels and Waves Festival. "My father is the reason I have been fascinated by motorcycles since my childhood", Laura explains. "I love motorcycling. It gives me this unique feeling of freedom. Life is precious, and must be enjoyed to the fullest. When I am sitting on my bike, my head becomes clear and I find solutions to problems". On her free days, the 26-year old rides her bike out of Toulouse and enjoys the beautiful nature of southern France. When she has more time, she heads even farther afield. She has even ridden through Namibia and later through Cuba. "For me it is important to feel free and to go wherever I want, whenever I want", she says, adding: "Of course, I do have fears. But I need this feeling to feel more alive and to be able to enjoy life more intensively".
A fascination for travelling with the motorcycle.
Laura has had numerous positive experiences during her travels: "People get much closer to you and you yourself get much closer to the people when you are travelling with your motorcycle. Because people are surprised and curious. The motorcycle also allows you to discover crazy places in the middle of nowhere, which you would never have made it to with a car". For Laura, these experiences apply to every journey – even relatively small ones, such as the one to Lyon. Here, she will meet Sébastien Chirpaz, with whom she shares both her passion for all things vintage as well as here affinity for the unadjusted lifestyle. She is excited about the present which Sébastien designed especially for her: a silk cloth as a lucky charm for future journeys.
As she nears Lyon, the roads get increasingly windy. The Rhône-Alpes region, the capital of which is Lyon, has some fantastic routes. Upon arrival in Lyon, Laura winds her Scrambler through the narrow streets up to La Croix-Rousse hill, which provides a spectacular view over the city. Weavers were among the first to settle in its working-class district, and roll out their long banners in the windy alleys. So it was clear that Sébastien would seek to manufacture his silk cloths in precisely this region. After all, this extraordinary free spirit loves authenticity.
Like from a black and white film.
The world of Sébastien Chirpaz is hidden behind an inconspicuous brown wooden door. Anyone who enters will be overwhelmed by the charms of the past. Fashion, music, motorsport and architecture from the 30s to the 60s are the theme here. The antique shelves hold rock ’n’ roll records, a tube radio, beside it a bass fiddle. A worn leather couch is the heart of the room.
Just by looking at Sébastien it is clear to see how much the 45-year old embodies the lifestyle back then. He has a moustache, silk scarf and braces over a lined shirt – Sébastien could have just stepped out of a film that was shot in black and white. "The past has no end. It is an infinite source of inspiration and creation, which brings a bit of elegance into today's world", he proclaims, straightening his black framed glasses.
Instinct instead of business plan.
"The ongoing search for style is my lifestyle. It is my daily drive and gets me through the day. Nothing is worse for me than routine, consistency and monotony". This is why Sébastien gave up his job as a Marketing Director and founded his fashion label in 2012; "A Piece Of Chic". He operates the traditional craft of silk cloth printing in his studio. He quickly made a name for himself thanks to the unusual designs and the high level of quality of his handmade goods. Now his cloths are being sold in 50 selected stores worldwide. In Spain, Italy, Germany, England, Japan and America. But Sébastien's assortment also shines in Lyon and Paris in lifestyle shops like the Pop-up-Store of Deus Ex Machina or in the famous Parisian department store Le Bon Marché. "I wanted to escape the rules, processes and controlled risks. I didn't come up with any business plans or do any SWOT analyses; instead, I trusted my instinct. The thing with the silk cloths was like proof", he says. Then he hurries ahead into the studio, where his famous goods come into being, from idea right through to production.
A silk cloth with the story of BMW Motorrad.
Laura follows him eagerly. In the studio, Sébastien grabs a pile of freshly printed silk cloths, which came back from the dryers just a few moments ago. With an experienced grip, he spreads them out on one of the work surfaces which are scattered around the light-flooded studio. With a critical eye, he inspects the imprint, which illustrates the story of BMW Motorrad. "I don't just print nice designs on silk. I recount heroic stories", Sébastien tells us. He has already told many of these stories on the finest of silk. "In the late 19th century, pilots wore silk scarves with escape routes drawn on them. This is the inspiring part of our history. These adventurers and pioneers who risked their lives to fulfil their dreams are my original inspiration”.
With great enthusiasm, he explains the production steps from the first drawing right up to the final cloth. Impressed by Sébastien's creations and his vintage decoration, Laura asks: "What do you find so fascinating about this period"? Sébastien ponders briefly, before carefully formulating his words. "I think this admiration for the past has something comforting about it. Back then, people still had real heroes – not nerds who become millionaires in two years after a successful start-up. But beyond this nostalgia, I am enamoured by the art-deco and style of this era. Then, freedom was more than simply breaking the rules. It was a much more subtle acknowledgement".
ON THE ROAD.
Kerouac, one of the big unconventional thinkers in world literature, was another influence for Sébastien. And taking cue from one of his novel's titles, off they go on the road. Because Laura obviously didn't come to Lyon just to get to know Sébastien's work and to pick up her lucky charm. And so the pair set off on their R nineT and R nineT Scrambler into the land surrounding Lyon. Sébastien knows each and every one of the winding roads meandering their way up into the mountains. "This bike really exceeds my expectations", Laura says euphorically, when they take a short break.
"The R nineT Scrambler is easy to ride, convenient and comfortable. But it also has power and a quick response – you can take it offroad. And of course, it looks good and the sound is simply perfect. I love this bike. Performance and aesthetics are unified in the R nineT Scrambler", Laura enthuses. Sébastien also adds: "When you ride this bike, everything is so easy – in any situation. You can use it to take advantage of every type of surface that Lyon has to offer, either asphalted roads, field or forest paths. You have got everything you need to make riding safe and easy".
The gentleman nods silently.
It starts to rain. A quick shower, which is typical for the Alpine region surrounding Lyon. "How did you get into motorcycling?", Laura asks. "From vintage Vespas and the Mod subculture. On the vintage motorcycle scene, I found a new type of family who shared the same community rules and the same lifestyle I was currently enjoying with my buddies as a snowboarder: the ongoing quest for new kinds of thrills and styles".
Sébastien was one of France's first professional snowboarders: In the mid-80s, back when there were only a handful of snow-crazed people around, who built their boards themselves. Motorcycling for him is a kind of revelation and rebirth, as was boarding back then. "It is a life that is driven by creativity and self-projection", he says. So motorcycling is another way of showing that your style is as far away from mainstream as possible. "If I ride a motorcycle, it has to have class. We're not a bunch of rebels – we're noblemen", he says – throws a glance at the R nineT Scrambler and nods appreciatively.