KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When you’re 6-foot-2 with a forehead that can crack walnuts, you can wear, as a general rule, pretty much whatever you want, wherever you want. But Aurelien Collin is a serious fashionista, and serious fashionistas aren’t content with just being the coolest cat in the room.
“It’s almost better when I dress somebody or when I design for somebody, to see somebody happy and looking great, than when I dress myself,” says Collin, a lockdown defender with Sporting Kansas City by night and budding fashion designer by day. “You know what I mean?”
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OK, not really.
But it’s interesting, isn’t it? On Wednesday night, the big Frenchman will appear at his second MLS All-Star game — Collin broke his face in his first one, last summer, after running headlong into Chelsea’s Michael Essien — but Tuesday night, the preamble, is generating almost as much buzz locally.
That’s when Collin will debut his clothing line, AC78, at a fashion show scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Kansas City’s downtown Power & Light District.
“I’m a very strong and aggressive player on the field,” says Collin, whose line of suits will be modeled by teammates and Sporting execs. “So, of course, I can’t jump on people and tackle other people in the fashion business.
“But I’m giving everything I have to make the best look I can, you know?”
AC78 is the brainchild of Collin and his business partner, Kansas City garment guru Tom Paolini, who’d launched this sailboat with the odd suit here and there, usually auctioned off for charitable causes.
Paolini had first run into Collin, a native of the Paris suburbs, after a Sporting game a few years back and made a point to compliment him on his patent leather shoes — or so the legend goes. Collin mentioned the fashion design classes he was taking on the side, and the two decided to pool their collective strengths.
“There are some things, when it comes to style, when it comes to fashion, that you can’t really teach,” Paolini says. “And that’s a taste level … I don’t want to say it’s an innate thing, but (with) some people, it just comes more naturally.”
To put it another way, the 27-year-old Collin has an eye for an eye. For this, he credits his upbringing by a very fashion-conscious mother — if there was a fashion magazine to leave lying around the house, she invariably left it — in the most fashion-conscious city in the western world.
One part nature, one part nurture, one part Christian Dior.
“My worst judge is myself,” says the Frenchman, who designed the suit that Sporting teammate and U.S. men’s national team midfielder Graham Zusi recently wore to the ESPYs. “It’s going to be myself. And then I’m going to see how people respond to it. And then I’m going to see if people want to buy it.
“Fashion is a point of view, you know?”
It’s also subjective, time-consuming and anything but cheap. So after Tuesday’s show, Collin and Paolini are planning to play it by ear. Regardless of the reception, they’ve talked about moving into a line of less cost-intensive items for AC78, something along more casual tastes, such as t-shirts or bags.
“I think it’s just about a state of mind,” Collin says. “(People) who are into fashion are not (always) into soccer. Everybody has his interests. And I was talking about the differences between (KC teammate and defender) Beez (Matt Besler) and I, and I love fashion and sports.
“Sometimes our differences make us very special.”
What was it Madonna used to say? Beauty’s where you find it. And Collin just happens to find it in Westport.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org