Flowers for BabetteA few months ago I was walking up the street and I spotted Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu making a film. Not much later, I saw the film on the silver screen, as part of the celebration for the 150 years of the Bon Marche. Its fun to watch and Catherine truly is the ultimate icon, but at one point she says,

“I don’t like Parisiennes. They’re not nice…. too stressed out. Non, I don’t like Parisiennes.”

Just steps from the Bon Marche, where Catherine makes this bold statement, there is a provençal haven reserved almost exclusively for women. With a chalky blue tiled floor, cornflower walls, dried hydrangias in large vases and old pharmacy bottles on the shelves, stepping into Graine de Beauté feels like stepping out of Paris and back in time.

Translating to “the beauty mark” this salon, specializing in 100% natural hair colors blended specifically for each client, is full of chic Parisiennes; playwrights, business women, full time moms, actresses, politicians all sit quietly side by side. No one is yapping away on their cellphones, or disturbing their neighbor as we each savour the peaceful moment, serenely sipping tea that arrives in an iron Japanese tea pot, happy to de-stress.

Martine comes to work in a black fitted top and an elegant pencil skirt, looking stunning as she prepares to mix magic on to your hair. The whole operation is run by Babette, the very definition of elegance, a trim woman with rich, black hair, who glides between clients, answering the phone and grabbing the occasional handful of raw almonds or hazelnuts from the two jars that stand near the entrance.

The reason that no one takes out their cellphones is Babette. Like a strict school teacher, she is able to make it clear this will not be tolerated before the question is even asked. She dispenses more than beauty advice; she reads scalps and gives valuable life lessons as she guides women to look their very best and take care of themselves from the inside out. Her clients adore her.

A few weeks ago Babette was diagnosed with cancer. She has had the lump removed and the prognosis is good. As she recuperates it is clear how very much her clients and employees are under her spell. The staff is working double time so they can satisfy her clients, while customers offer to blow dry their own hair, and even more exceptionally, walk out of the salon with wet hair.

Seeing a Parisienne on the streets with wet hair is about as common as seeing a teen without a cellphone. Nobody asks these women to chip in and not everyone is willing to head out to the office with frizz in their future, but seeing everyone take the initiative yesterday made me wish Mlle Deneuve would pop in and see just how very wonderful Parisiennes can be.

Graine de Beauté / 60 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 6e / 0145 44 25 13

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