U-NI-TY PARIS AT PITTI UOMO 85: BOOKS AND LIQUOR Words and pictures by Jasper L The traditional method (one of many, really) of drinking absinthe is to place a specially-made slotted spoon over a measure of liquor, set a sugar cube on top, and slowly drip chilled water through the sugar. The resultant louche, the lustrous cloudiness born of anise and fennel, is what brings out the vibrant flavors of the spirit and reveals the preferences of the drinker. One can, of course, simply add the desired amount of water to a glass of absinthe, as with a pastis, but there is a certain magic to ritual and in preparing one’s own favored spirit; in manipulating tastes and obscurities and settling on a preferred blend of alcohol, water and sugar. “Louche” is a word that gets tossed around here quite a bit, usually in an admiring sort of way; a nod to the inimitable charm of the dubious and the disreputable. If you’re looking for louche you can’t do much better than U-NI-TY. It’s a real kind of louche; romantic and brooding and born in absinthe houses and art salons, painted by Manet and immortalized by Verlaine and Rimbaud and, later, Wilde and Hemingway. I found the whole look to be absolutely charming. The designers, Greg Gassa and his father, JP, were both wearing their clothing at the Pitti Uomo booth; Greg slightly more dashing and sleek, la fée verte taken neat; his father, silver tooth twinkling, very much the image of a patron of Les Deux Magots circa 1899, before those damned hipster existentialists took it over. The unfortunate truth is that, as with many brands, in product photos and on e-shops U-NI-TY can come across as flat, just another RTW brand making streetwear blazers and semi-tailored goods. I’m happy to say that’s far from the truth, and perhaps the elder Gassa was the better example of this - for he was certainly more picturesque. Layers of fabric, a scarf draped loosely about the neck, and well-loved leather derbies gave him the appearance of a charming con-man, quick to smile and full of youth and snark and a dash of spleen. There’s no reason to think it couldn’t be worn more simply, though, as Gassa the younger demonstrated: a jacket, a pair of jeans or trousers, your favorite boots; U-NI-TY certainly has enough of a visible narrative that it can carry itself. It is a very French brand, elegant and self-deprecating, and perhaps Parisian café culture is the best lens through which to view it. Like Les Deux Magots and its legendary patrons, the clothing holds traces of the cosmopolitan; embroidered collars and the occasional silk lend texture, personality and shabby luxury to the pleasures of seeing and being seen. It’s upscale without appearing to be, detailed without overwhelming the wearer, and above all it’s a celebration of the quirky, the humorous, and the personal. As Greg and JP showed, the preparation and opacity of U-NI-TY’s louche very much depends on one’s taste, but its adaptability makes it palatable for any age.