Back and forth, hither and yon – whether on my habitual trajectory between Touraine and Paris or further afield… destinations, encounters, events and observations I can’t resist sharing.

Balenciaga & Commes des Garçons at LES DOCKS

July 8, 2012

Paris has a new fashion temple on the Seine – Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design – between Gare d’Austerlitz and the BNF.  Another style scoop for the Left Bank’s eastern waterfront.

The undulating lime green facade is hard to miss from the opposite bank.  Architects JAKOB+MACFARLANE created a diamond pattern ‘Plug-Over’ for the existing industrial dock building.  Goals of the state-funded project include attracting visitors besides the fashion/design tribe, and furthering the city’s reputation as world fashion capital.  Outdoor space is expansive, with wooden decks on the street and roof levels.  Plenty of seating is provided for sunning, sipping drinks and surveying river traffic.

It’s an ambitious 4-story complex encompassing a museum/gallery, conference & showroom space, offices, boutiques and 4 bar/restaurants. The MoonRoof quickly became a hot RDV for drinks and celebrations.  A sprawling deck surrounding the surprising vegetal roof offers spectacular river views.

The MUSÉE GALLIERA HORS LES MURS has a duet of shows through October 7 featuring past and present couture innovators:

Cristobal Balenciaga – Collectionneur de Modes

White Drama – Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons

The Balenciaga exhibit marks the 40th anniversary of the Spanish couturier’s death.  It showcases 40 garments created between 1937 and 1968, alongside his private collection of 18th and 19th century fashion, costumes and accessories.   The juxtaposition demonstrates how folkloric costumes and 19th century fashion inspired his work.  The installation is a bit disconcerting – with couture pieces on mannequins above cantilevered drawer display cases.  I’d prefer seeing the gowns at ground level, visible from several vantage points.  Looking up at clothing is not a flattering angle.   One of several exquisite Balenciaga hats – a sweeping sculptural bridal model, was reprised in the 2012 Balenciaga spring-summer collection.

While the couturiers’ couturier leaves you with visions of black lace mantillas, the accompanying show of Rei Kawakubo’s 2012 spring-summer collection, is a blizzard of creamy white.  Mannequins are grouped by theme in plastic bubble tents.  The effect is eerily poetic.  Her runway show received glowing reviews; a moving spiritual parenthesis amid a succession of commercial collections.

Striking parallels exist between the two exhibits – sculptural form married with decorative embellishment, solid colors versus prints, gathered seaming and substantive fabrics that imbrue garments with ceremonial solemnity.

Left feeling I’d been witness to rituals conducted by a high priest and priestess of fashion.





Bag envy and burqas

June 26, 2012

Our daughter Sarah is back from college in Manhattan, where she’s a fashion design major at Parsons.

Her summer job is selling women’s clothing and accessories in a high-end ready to wear boutique on rue St. Honoré in Paris.  The other day, three women in burqas (sans outlawed niqab veil) entered the boutique.

The fact they were wearing burquas wasn’t surprising, as the sales help are accustomed to shrouded Middle Eastern clients.

Instead of browsing the racks, the woman clustered by the door fishing in their Hermès ‘Kelly’ bags.

They each pulled out a fitted transparent plastic cover, slipped it over their handbag and headed out into the rain without a word.

Sarah was miffed she didn’t capture the scene on camera.  Funny how clothing intended to repel the gaze of lascivious men, throws into high relief an accessory that’s the object of intense envy among status hungry fashionistas.

Who could help but stare.


What do you think?  Leave a comment below!


Parisian Hideaways to be redistributed Feb 7 by Rizzoli Universe for just $17.98

January 23, 2012
Parisian Hideaways

Happy to report that PARISIAN HIDEAWAYS is now an affordable gift (especially to yourself).

The online discount at Amazon and Barnes&Noble brings it to under $13!

Book Specifications

Format: Hardcover 216 pages
US Price: $17.98
ISBN: 978-0-7893-2417-7
Publisher: Rizzoli Universe Promotional Books (February 7, 2012)
Trim Size: 9.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches

Hotel LENOX, Saint Germain.

June 17, 2011

I imagined that writing a Paris hotel book might get me off the hook, but I continue to receive a steady stream of queries from family, friends, friends of friends and sixth degree of separation Facebook networkers asking, WHERE DO YOU RECOMMEND I STAY IN PARIS?  I politely suggest they BUY MY BOOK, but for any number of reasons, people crave customized advice based on their very specific needs.

Since starting this blog last summer, I  avoided covering hotels.  It’s a counter intuitive choice considering my niche expertise in French “Hideaway” hotels and B&Bs, but I wished to explore other subjects.  How silly when demand for updates on Paris hotels and charming rural chambre d’hôtes appears insatiable.

Before we go further, I’ll feel better if you read a quote from my introduction to Parisian Hideaways:

In his book Paris, John Russell, former chief art critic for the New York Times, cautions: “Hotels, like restaurants, are a subject upon which advice is usually fatal. The choice of an hotel is as private a matter as the choice of a wife.”

With this in mind, I gave up on impartiality and set out to find thirty hotels where I’d like to stay.

Securing a good table in a restaurant doesn’t cost more, but you do have to ask for it.  It’s best to do so when making your reservation rather than when unhappily seated by the entry to the kitchen.  The same applies to hotel rooms.  The better informed you are, the less likely you are to be dissatisfied.  Do you prefer a street view or a courtyard view, high or low floor, proximity to the elevator etc?   In boutique hotels, the decor, layout and size can vary between rooms in the same price category.  Look at the room photos on the web site and if you see a picture of one you like, ask about it.  Consult the floor plan (if there is one.)  When you check in, if there’s a choice of rooms available, ask to see them. Read More »

Madame Grès Exhibit at Musée Bourdelle

May 25, 2011

Make a detour to the 15th arrondissement, for the show and the museum. It’s close to Gare Montparnasse at 8, rue Antoine Bourdelle.

Ends July 24th.

Another innovator who changed their name.  It’s uncanny how many creative people reboot their persona with a name change. Germaine Krebs (1903-1993) did it in stages; adopting Alix Barton when she began working as a designer in the 1930’s and Madame Grès after launching her couture house in the 1942.  Grès was an anagram of her husband’s name, Serge Czerefkov, a Russian painter.

Madame Grès trained as a sculptor, so it’s fitting that a major show of her couture clothing, sketches, and collection of fashion and portrait photography featuring her designs by preeminent photographers of the 1930s through the 1980’s – is installed in the former home and atelier of neoclassical sculptor, Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929). Though an intimate museum, it’s surprising spacious and comprises lovely gardens.

Bourdelle, a student and friend of Rodin, produced vigorous nudes on a frequently monumental scale.  His muse was another unconventional neoclassicist – Isadora Duncan. Madame Grès’ neoclassical vision stands up well in comparison.  The artistry of her craft calls to mind winged victory – the headless Hellenistic sculpture that’s among the Louvre’s treasures. Read More »

Beauty Secrets of a Parisian Makeup Artist

November 2, 2010

As with her diet, a French woman’s beauty and grooming regimen tends to be well balanced.  She won’t deny herself much, yet consumes in moderation. A realist who plays up her best features rather than obsess over flaws; she accepts that beauty, like an impeccable jardin à la Française, demands consistent maintenance.

Keeping up appearances is a vital tenet of French culture, particularly out in public, which is why my daughters give me the once over before I leave the house, lest I regress to American standards and slip out to the bakery in running sweats.  On average, French women over thirty don’t favor conspicuous makeup.  Color statements are acceptable for hair dye and pedicures. Glowing skin and alluring eyes are the priority (over 60% of French cosmetic purchases are for foundation and mascara).  It’s rare to see women put lipstick on in public, in part because they don’t wear it consistently.

However, teens and young women in their twenties are breaking out of the natural look, experimenting and having fun with bronzing powder, false eyelashes, heavy eyeliner and coats of mascara, plus playful hues of nail enamel.   A Re-boot of Bardot in the 6os. Read More »

Girls (& Guys) Want to Have Fun

October 20, 2010

A chill wind swept over Paris this weekend.  Collars were up on coats pulled out for their first sortie of the season, as exuberant sun-burnished limbs of la rentrée went under cover along with fingers, toes, and décolletés.

Leaves scuttling along the pavement past gutters strewn with cigarette butts and vagrant scraps of trash, signaled the idyll of Indian summer had segued into la grogne of strike season…a shift apt to discourage the sunniest of dispositions.  Humor being the best revenge, I decided to amuse myself delving into the confidential milieu of luxury lingerie. Read More »

A new Paris Rive Gauche

September 5, 2010
Josephine Baker

Rentrée scolaire took place Thursday – one of the loveliest days of the season.  Luckily it’s a short school week, because Paris clearly isn’t ready to bid adieu to sunning and swimming.

The city has 38 public pools, none more inviting than floating Piscine Joséphine Baker, moored at port de la Gare, in the shadow of the BNF (Biliothèque nationale de France) towers.  During my morning run, I check out the sun deck from a footbridge linking the BNF plaza to de Bercy across the Seine.  Friday it was packed by midday, so vacation must still be on for some.  They offer an aqua gym and fitness program, and when cool weather hits, a retractable roof encloses the open air piscine. Read More »


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