SS 14 is fashion speak for Spring/Summer 2014, and this being fall 2013, its that time of year again… Fashion Week. I’ve got Le Gastro, which is a charming local way of saying a tummy bug, so it wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to drag myself out into the glorious Paris sunshine and start shooting, but I had worked so hard getting the fashion show invites and I really do love seeing all those creative types out there doing their thing, I simply could not stay put. So while all the other girls were out there sporting their ‘it’ bags, I was sporting the bags under my eyes and taking as many clichés as I could get away with. Here is what I saw yesterday;
If fashion is a crime, I’ve got me a partner in the depraved practice and that would be my friend
Miss Madame Ella Coquine. Ella and I have been hitting up fashion events together ever since we first met. Along with Paris, great food and the written word, it is one of our “things”. So last night we headed out together for Vogue’s Fashion Night Out.
If you haven’t been following this for the past year and if you don’t live in a large city, you may not know that VFNO is an international event hosted by Vogue magazine, which sponsors open house parties in designer boutiques for fashionistas in cities like London, NYC, Tokyo and Paris. Last year the party was open to pretty much everyone, all you needed as an invite and you could walk through the door of pretty much any boutique. This year they were being somewhat more exclusive and you could often only come in if the store had invited you. Fortunately, we’d been invited to a couple of places.
Ella and I weren’t too torn up about the exclusivity. Our favorite destination on VFNO is Roger Vivier. I love that Inès will be in the house, Ella loves the live music. Inès, of course, being Inès de la Fressange, the queen of Parisienne chic and my inspiration for Inès sez…
This year we walked in the door with our author friend, Juliette Sobanet, her friend Kate and the Paris-based Brazilian actress Thaïs Sobreira . At the top of the stairs the two of froze. There, less than a metre away stood Inès talking quietly with Ella’s favorite local musician (so sorry, can not remember his name and she does not have a search function on her blog). The two of them, the two of us. Wow. Not that either of them know that either of us exists, but we were both quite pleased. Their conversation ended and something inexplicable came over me. I grabbed Ella’s hand and introduced her to her musician man, telling him that his promoter loves her blog and is constantly sending her free tickets to his concerts because he loves her reviews of their work. I didn’t think of the position this was putting her in, I just did it, grabbing her phone to sneak a few photos as they spoke.
A few minutes later Ella got her revenge by getting Inès attention and asking for a photo. Ella got such great shots, it looks like Inès and I are old friends! We were even and I really could not have been more thrilled. I chatted with Inès, folks. She still doesn’t know who I am, but she is just as lovely as I had always imagined.
It was an exciting start to a fantastic evening that involved plenty of Ruinart, some great music, an astonishing amount of fashion eye candy and lots of giggles.
Just before the holidays Mr French came home from a business trip, a page of Le Figaro grasped tightly in his hand. I offered him only the briefest of kisses, mostly because he smelled of canned air, but also because I was mad with curiosity. What had he seen in print? Was it the latest dream hotel? Had my blog been “discovered” and I was at last famous (lol)?
Coming back to reality, the article was infinitely more interesting than I had imagined; an entire page dedicated to Yves Saint Laurent, Catherine Deneuve and Le Smoking, aka the tuxedo jacket. Mr French recently survived a petit ordeal with me and Le Smoking so he was aware that it is something of an obsession of mine…
The article reminds the reader of how Monsieur Saint Laurent revolutionized the fashion world when he introduced Le Smoking for women in 1966. It features a photo by Helmut Newton of YSL with Madame Deneuve when they posed for a cover of ELLE magazine to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of YSL Haute Couture.
I had been so obsessed with the insanely sexy, subtly elegant jacket that over the last decade that I would secretly pop into the YSL boutique once or twice a year just to try it on. Which was a bit nutty, because I do not have that kind of budget. But the staff never seemed to mind and would agree with me as I’d appreciate the master tailoring, the luxurious wool, the perfect fit. When I was down, or tired, the vision of me in the shop mirror wearing The Jacket would boost my spirits, give me confidence.
And then we were invited to a party in Venice and I thought that at last, I had an excuse for Le Smoking, so I headed to the Place Saint Sulpice to see what was available. Turns out that while I’d been out living my life, YSL had hired a new creative director, Hedi Slimane who had changed the label’s name and the cut of the tuxedo jacket! It was no longer fitted at the waist, the shoulder pads had disappeared and the fabric was just not the same. It looked schlubby on me. I was flabbergasted, distraught and slightly dismayed.
Several weeks later I was in their men’s shop running an errand. As I waited for the clerk to prepare a package, I started complaining to the manager. I was unhappy about the name change, I was upset about Le Smoking. Saint Laurent employees are extremely proud of their brand and Monsieur le manager was no exception. He kindly took the time to explain that Hedi Slimane had not committed a sacrilegious act by offing the Yves from Yves Saint Laurent. Au contraire, he was paying hommage to the legendary designer by using the original name and logo designed for the Haute Couture house before it gained international acclaim.
I was enjoying the conversation. I started asking about Le Smoking. Did monsieur know of anyone specializing in the resale of vintage YSL? Non, madame. Was there any chance an older model could be found abandoned in some stockroom in Paris? Je suis désolé Madame. Perhaps their China store would have it? Maybe the foreign addresses get the older stock?
Oh, does Madame travel? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, she does. Which is when the manager told me about a Saint Laurent outlet in the UK and another in Italy. Oh, and by the way, he had shipped off the very last of anything with a YSL label their way just last week. Hopeful excitement bubbled up through me, as a goofy grin spread across my face.
The next day I called the Italy store. Not only did they have the jacket in my size, but the price had just been marked down an additional 40% off the 40% of the 40% discount, so I could afford it. It was time to ‘fess up to Mr French before hitting the SEND button. “You’re nuts,” he stated in utter dismay. “You can’t be sure it will fit and you have no idea what it looks like on you.” Which is when I had to come clean about those quirky little visits of mine. Fortunately, he is La Fashionista’s dad, so he has had enough fashion adventures that he didn’t suggest a psychiatric review. At least not immediately.
Then, like magic, several days later Le Smoking arrived chez moi and it is perfect.
As a side note, Le Smoking is very in this fall, but there is no reason it should be signed YSL. I’ve seen some gorgeous ones at every price point, from Zara to Zadig & Voltaire. Looks great worn with jeans and a white tank top!
A blogger I admire very much, Denise, writes about her life in Bolton, which includes frequent visits to Paris. She’ll write about cycling with our mutual friend Jane, going off to the races with her beloved husband Michael, or savouring peaceful moments on her own.
A year ago today Denise wrote about an exhibit at the Centre Pompidou honoring the artist Gerhard Richter. She tells the story of seeing one of his paintings and having it touch her very soul. I was so jealous when I read that. I love art, frequent museums and exhibitions regularly enough to be considered a junkie, and yet I had never felt moved to tears over art.
Until last week. And many would even consider it art. I was at the Haute Couture exhibition at the Hôtel de Ville, a free exhibit featuring one of Paris’ most important industries. The show began upstairs with pattern samples and sketch books. There was a series of photos featuring the hands of famous designers, including Mme Coco.
It was lovely, and informative, but the real goods were downstairs where Haute Couture dresses from the studios of every major designer, from Frederick Worth, who founded Haute Coutre in the 1850’s to today’s Jean-Paul Gualtier. The masterpieces of houses that did not survive the death of their designer like Poiret, Vionnet, and Schiaparelli were all on display. Icons of modern style like Courrèges, Balanciaga, and Alaïa were there, as well.
And it was all so beautiful, the sumptuous folds, stunning bead work, masterful pleats. These men and women had a away with fabric and they knew (or know) how to show off a woman’s body, curves and all, to its very best.
And there, between a Dior and a Grès, my eyes began to sting and the tears to spill at the tremendous beauty of it all.
I’ll be staying in this afternoon, because last night I was out partying until the wee hours at the Paris Diner en Blanc. Last week I was taking a bus and started thinking to myself, “Gee, it should be the DIner en Blanc soon. I wonder if I missed it?” My mild curiousity was quickly washed away by desperation over the rainy weather. It simply will not let up.
Then two days ago, my friend Mary Kay posted the date on her FB page, asking if anyone could tell her where the dinner would be held. She was in something of a pickle because we already had cocktail plans with friends that evening. Our cocktail was set to be a picnic, under the gazebo in the Luxembourg gardens, presumably as rain would be pouring down all around. And while that sounded lovely, MK had a lead on the Diner. We decided to play things by ear.
Ears started playing started with a phone call the next day at around 17h, “I really don’t have the strength to sit outside in this pouring rain. Could we choose another place?” MK had a point. It had been pouring all day. My pants were soaked to my knee caps and images of Noah’s ark were never far from my thoughts.
Ellacoquine, our third date for the night, suggested the Marais. Young, fun and somewhere new to me, I was IN. MK requested something a bit more central so she could jet off at a moment’s notice. She thought something along the Line 1 would be grand. Le Fumoir, I blurted out. Le Fumoir is one of the most searched sights in all of Google Maps Paris. It is hippy, trendy and located strategically just behind the Louvre, next to the Mairie du 1e (thank you Ella, for pointing out that it was the Mairie, and not just a continuation of the church next door). Le Fumoir also serves corn nuts at cocktail hour. We had a date.
And then magic happened. The rain stopped. The clouds drew away and blue sky could be seen for the first time in days. Ella was the first to arrive at the café and she deftly scored us a table on the much coveted terasse. I was quick on her heels, motivated by the promise of a sun celebratory drink.
We savoured the moment, the weather finally letting us being proper Parisiennes, sitting outside watching the world go by. And then, like fairy dust coming down from the sky, they appeared. “They” being folks dressed in white. Ella noticed them first. I immediately called MK and told her to step on it while Ella, ever the practical one, went over to get more details from the men in white.She came back to report that this was the pre-meeting place until their final destination was revealed.
I feel fairly confident that MK will give full details of the event on her blog, but I will just say that it ended as magically as it that began; from an amber sunset glowing through the pyramids of the Louvre to 6000 sparklers reflecting the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. There were opera singers, an oompa band and one of my favorite activities on earth; dancing.
Ancient Egyptians were hobbling around on high heels, so it is hardly a new thing. Monsieur Ramses was strapping on his heels to avoiding getting his feet dirty with blood as he worked in his butcher shop, so things have evolved considerably in the last 5000 years. We can thank the Italians for several phases of this evolution, as they wore heels on stage in Ancient Rome and then, in the 15th century, took the Turkish platform chopines and raised them to vertiginous heights. Particularly the Venetians, who have left samples with heels as high as 30cm. It was an evil plot, with the Republic’s patriarchs convinced that this was a sure way to keep their women at home, or at the very least, under escort, as they required servants to hold them steady to teeter from Palazzo to gondola and home again. It’s no wonder we use the Italian term to describe the most daring, most vertiginous heels today.
And the fact that the term defines the shape of a sharp, pointy weapon doesn’t seem to be an accident… they can be instruments of torture. And yet, we love them, covet them and spend excessive amounts of money acquiring them. Even when they may be just a half size too small (but they were on sale, I saved a fortune!).
On the last weekend before our departure, exactly one hour before stores closed for the weekend, Mr French dragged me out of the kitchen where I’d been preparing the meals for the week and steered me towards the posh rue de Grenelle, despite the distinct odor of onion emanating from my hands. The rue de Grenelle is an 8 minute walk from our front door and it just happens to be shoe lover’s mecca.
Chloé, Stuart Weitzman, Giuseppe Zanotti, Fratelli Rosetti, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Prada, Sergio Rossi and Michel Perry can all be found along the 75 meters of street that run from the Carrefour de la Croix Rouge and the boul Raspail. Oh, and Christian. Yes, Louboutin is there, too.
The saleswoman for the dress had suggested silver shoes, but I had settled for a pair of black silk mules, with a reasonable 2 inch heel that I already had in my closet. Mr French wanted us to follow the saleswoman’s advice, but I didn’t want shiny silver, so we had one hour to find a pair of matte silver shoes. I was feeling confident that I’m be wearing my mules.
First stop; Sergio Rossi, where they had a perfectly acceptable pair of matte silver heels. They were lovely and I could use them for everyday wear at the office after the event. I was sold. As we walked towards the register, Mr French stopped in his tracks. He had spotted a pair of black and grey satin stilettos. He was intrigued. I tried them on. He feel hook, line and sinker. 5 minutes later I was stumbling out of the boutique with my first-ever pair of stiletto heels.
I have to admit, the extra inch made a world of difference to the whole outfit. As I walked into the Palazzo in Venice, eyes were drawn to the sparkly tips of my toes. Women looked at them admiringly and a few even asked for a closer look. Not that I plan on making stilettos a regular addition to my wardrobe, but it was fun to feel like an It Girl for the evening.
…on ne se découvre pas d’un fil*. That’s French for “you can’t trust the weather.” The quote defines the uncertainty as an April thing, but that was before global warming. These days it may be cold and rainy on any given day of the year, even deep into the summer months, never the less, at some point all of Paris seems to let loose and start listening the rest of the saying, “Au mois de mai, fait se qui te plaît.**” The summer wardrobe comes out of the closet, weather and common sense be damned.
As a Californian, who never had two distinct seasonal wardrobes before moving to Montréal as a young bride, and as something of a clothes horse, the changing of the wardrobe is like Christmas time. Discovering long lost garments that I adore is like opening the presents under the tree as I joyfully wrap winter boots into their dust bags, putting them to rest for the months ahead.
Despite the Old Wive’s warning, I jump the gun every year. Like an impatient 7 year old who wakes Mom and Dad before the sunrise on Christmas morning, every April, after about two days of blissful spring warmth, I haul down the summer clothing and put away my winter wear. Invariably three days later I can be found caught out in the cold, shivering me timbers and cursing my impatience for summer.
This year was no exception, last weekend with Mr French off somewhere in the far west and Em with her Dad, I set to work early. Early in the morning and early in the season. The sad thing is, that the last two summers have been so abysmal that it seems to make little difference. I’ve now got enough summer sweaters, pants and closed shoes that there seems to be little risk I’ll freeze to death. Lately, only the colors change from one season to the next and the fun stuff, like light linen dresses and sheer blouses hang undisturbed in the closet, waiting for their return into winter storage. This morning’s bright sun gave me hope. Maybe we’ll get a summer after all.
* In April, don’t take off a thread.
** In May, do as you please.
For the next two months I will be working onsite. Instead of getting up each morning and rolling directly from my bed to my couch, where I sit with the computer on my lap writing through out the day, I actually have to leave my home, take the metro and talk with human beings. It thrills me to little bits and pieces. I love the energy of working on a creative team the dynamic exchange of ideas. And even more thrilling, I have to get dressed each morning.
Not only do I have to dress, but I have to dress to work with a room full of stylish Parisiennes, who even more interestingly work in the fashion industry. Each morning is a challenge putting together the right palette, matching my shoes and getting the accessories just right. Or wrong, because often I miss a trick or, three. I’ve lost practice at dressing to be seen every day. A few weeks ago I even slipped down to the convenience store wearing my plaid flannel pajama bottoms, letting my inner Californian out for a stroll. It was deliciously liberating, but I felt a little insane. Its is simply not the done thing.
Today, I made quite a stir wearing white jeans on a defiantly grey spring day. Eyes popped, comments were made. I whipped out my handy quotes of the unquestionably fashionable Inès de la Fressange, explain her suggestion that white jeans are perfect for warming up cold winter days and I am fairly confident that tomorrow no less than three girls will be wearing their whites, at least that is what they’ve told me.
Mr French lays out his clothing before going to sleep every evening. I have tried that, but invariably, the day breaks and I “feel” like wearing something different, So its usually a rather pointless exercise in putting away clothes I won’t be wearing for the day, while still hunting down what I will wear.
I start with a garment or accessory that has been calling my name. This morning it was a pair of cream colored suede Frye boots. Perfect with my white jeans, and then an off-white pullover. Notice a theme going on here? Monochrome! There is a rarely spoken fashion rule that reigns in this city; never wear more than three colors at once. It is a hint to their subtle elegance. I don’t always follow this “rule”, but knowing the rules helps a girl break them with style!
Because there is a huge leap from monochrome to tri-tone, I added my über practical military jacket for some green to bring out my eyes, threw on my grey coat with a white bulky knit scarf and I was good to go. I have the reputation of always wearing one thing just slightly off each day. Today it was E’s Lalique heart necklace (sorry E, it’s the first time I’ve borrowed it, I swear!) which was just a bit too bright for the rest of the outfit. But I don’t care. I had fun playing dress up and I look forward to tomorrow’s fashion faux pas.
Friday@Flore is at work in the ‘burbs, but last Sunday was a gloriously beautiful day. The first of the year, and one of the few in the last 12 months. All of Paris was out reveling in the feeling of the air against their skin. It. was. glorious.
The photos are not great. I had left my camera at home but was so inspired by all the stunning fashion looks that I popped out my iPhone and starting tactile-ing away.
Everyone was seeking out the shade, making it even harder ot get decent shots, but proving how long spring is taking, as the trees remain bare!
I love this woman’s look. Mental note to self; keep an eye out for pleated khakis, ascooped neck indian blouse and a pair of orange shoes!
A un BON WEEKEND tout le monde !
I have heard that there is a fantastic exhibition of Haute Couture at the Hôtel de Ville right now, and I can hardly wait to go, but first I wanted to see Fashioning Fashion at the Union des Art Decoratifs in the Louvre. Why first? Logistics. Sunday was the last day the show would be in Paris and the first day I had time to see it. Turns out this was particularly lucky as the show displays European fashion trends from 1750 until just after the era Mr Worth sailed to Paris from London and because the first Haute Couturier, ending in 1915.
Fashioning Fashion was in town directly from California, where the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has an extraordinary collection thanks to the generosity of two very astute, influential collectors, Martin Kamer and Wolfgang Ruf. Seeing the sumptuous fabrics, exquisite needle work and intricate beading made it easy to see why these men had been so passionate about the dress-wear. The details are captivating.
And so were the explanations. In totally un-Syvia like fashion I read every single one! They’d explain the subversive revolutionary messages in a vest, or nostalgically describe how the gold embroidery and moiré silk would reflect the candlelight at dinner party. You could almost see the effect.
And they discuss, or rather allude to the constraints of dress for women at the time. When you see those large Marie Antoinette gowns, you can imagine the cage that created that shape. What I’d never realized was that the cage was full of undercoats helping hold everything up, making walking something of a slog. I also learned why the ladies need so much help getting dressed. In period films you often see a lady being tied into her corset, but you never see the following scenes when she is actually sewn in to her bodice! A century later the frames that held out the hoop skirts took advantage of new technology so that Madame could move, at last. But not for long, because along came the bustle which seriously shortened one’s footsteps, make the tennis outfits and riding costumes of the time something of an oxymoron.