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July 31 2014

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Bike Like Baba

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Catherine Baba

“Well, congratulations, New York City!” quipped Catherine Baba over the phone when we told her that the Big Apple had finally embraced Citi Bikes. Paris—her city of residence for almost two decades—launched its wildly popular shared vélo program a whopping six years ago.

As we’re sure you’ve noticed while hopping between shows or browsing Tommy Ton’s street-style snaps, cycling is the fashion set’s favorite new mode of transport—but coordinating an outfit that’s both front-row-worthy and ready to pedal across town is no easy task. Mme. Baba, however, has been doing just that for eighteen years—no doubt you’ve seen her, riding through the Tuileries in piles of jewelry, skyscraper heels, her signature turban, and, depending on the season, a kimono or a fur coat. (We have to note that she pulls her eccentric ensembles off with an astonishing level of aplomb.) “I get approached in different cities around the world by people who ask me if I’m the lady who rides the bicycle around Paris,” offered Baba, who, with her dramatic hand gestures and injections of français, is as Parisienne as they come—albeit by way of Sydney.

“I’m very impatient. I need to move, and waiting for le métro is not an option,” Baba told us when asked why cycling is her preferred form of transit. “It’s the best way to see the city. And it’s also environmentally friendly—the more we can remember that, the better.” Here, the singular styliste shares her acquired biking wisdom. Whether pedaling to the shows in Paris or just cruising over the Williamsburg Bridge, we’ll be keeping Baba’s tips in mind—even though some of her most fantastic suggestions may be mildly ill advised.

Do not pose for street-style bloggers while biking:
“Definitely avoid the photographers. That situation is an accident waiting to happen. Just focus and know where you’re going! That’s what’s important.”

Do be a defensive cyclist:
“Defensive, defensive, defensive! You have to have eyes in the back of your head. I am very vigilant, but we can’t be responsible for the rest of the world. I have had incidents, but touch wood, nothing serious.”

Do dress aerodynamically:
“When I get dressed in the morning, it just happens organically. But there is an element of engineering—let’s put it this way: When riding, there needs to be a certain level of aérodynamisme. For Spring/Summer, I love to have my wings, so I wear the kimono, which helps the air circulate. I do a catsuit, too—that’s easy. But it depends on my mood.”

Maybe wear a helmet, but definitely consider a turban. And accessorize aggressively:
“If you feel more secure with a helmet, then put one on. But the fact is, I haven’t myself—I wear a hat instead, purely to avoid the sun. Or a turban always works, darling. I think that’s been my look. I also try and wear gloves as much as possible—in winter or summer—for the grip sensation. And of course, you know, j’adore accessories. J’adore.”

Do listen to music to get the Baba attitude—at your own risk, of course:
“It’s all because of my playlist,” she said when asked how to achieve a Baba-esque air. “I always listen to music, which most people have told me is not advisable. But I’d rather hear music than the traffic around me. I love symphonics. It could be anything from David Bowie to disco. It’s very eclectic—very me.

Do not bring a practical pair of shoes:
“Are you out of your mind? I do not carry a pair of flats. If I can’t walk in the heels, I can’t cycle. Voilà. If I can’t cycle in the heels, I can’t walk in them.”

Photo: Tommy Ton

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