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Sunday, 29 August 2010

Coffee,Cakes and Creative License

If you happen to be wandering down the streets of Paris and find yourself  in the 10th arrondissement , ask your self  this: 
Am I  jonesing for a coffee ?   
Could  it accompany a piece of cake ?
Why don't I revamp this old coat ?
Let loose your artistic  freedom and get yourself to the Singer station at " Sweat Shop ; 13 Rue Lucien Sampaix, Paris 10eme."
In this cafe you can eat , drink and sew up a storm on the sewing machines available . You can  join workshops , learn how to knit or simply while away a rainy afternoon creating  your new and exclusive wardrobe without a care in the world.
Check out their website for more details and information: http://www.sweatshopparis.com/
...the only one sweating is you and the other like minded punters ...don't let the name scare you!

Thursday, 26 August 2010


This is bloody typical , just as my trip to London is both sorted and imminent , it still manages to fall short of a major event unfolding at Liberty of London on the 8th of September 2010.
The shoe master Manolo "i want me another pair" Blahnik is collaborating with Liberty and has created a limited edition collection of shoes designed especially for this department store  using their eponymous fabric . There will also be speciality items  such as  gorgeous "shoe print" scarves , candles and more.
Now if a pair of shoes is a little out of your range  don't despair ...there are also cushions , shoehorns and ...now this may sound as weird to you as it did to me but here goes anyway : Christmas decorations. If anyone cares to decorate my tree with a yuletide pair of Manolo's , who needs gifts !  That'll be a 39.5 , thank you very much.
Obviously a MB candle wafting scent around your living room just won't cut it when you would rather be strutting your stuff in a pair of  limited edition  Manolos...But , hey! Beggars can't be choosers and you really can choose something else that bares the designer's signature .
There will  be an exhibition of Mr Blahnik's work for all die hard fans and he will also be overseeing the window displays that will lead us up to the holiday season ...so "Santa baby... hurry down the chimney as soon as bloody  possible ."
I foresee queues , a mad frenzy of epic proportions and for once it  won't be  for a fridge during the Harrods sale. Maybe it's just as well that I will be missing opening day..by the time I come back to London,  there will no longer be my size available and maybe , if I am lucky, I may just find  one silk scarf left , cowering  in some  hidden corner.
Now Get thee to Liberty of London!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Banyuls or Bust !

Have you ever stared down the barrel of a long week end away and thought : "Nah!I just don't fancy it?" Or :" Fancy it? I can't even pronounce it?!"
Well that's what was awaiting me last weekend when due to an invitation to attend a baptism, I had to bite the bullet and shut the hell up.
Our destination was Perpignan for all intents and purpose but more specifically a snoozing seaside village by the frontier of Spain called "Banyuls sur Mer".
We left at 6am and I unashamedly slept through the better,longer half of the drive awaking for a pit stop that involved croissants and a moment to re-align my spine.We made good time and got to a sunny Perpignan late morning,enough time to visit and grab some lunch.If you have never been to Perpignan and this is coming from someone who lives not far from the downtown thriving metropolis of Cannes.. it was a pleasure and a relief  to get away from the showy summer crowds and get with the locals in this lovely town. I will not get technical with the history of it all,as frankly I didn't delve into that whatsoever: I looked, shopped and ate in that order.
 We had lunch at a local restaurant called "VIP"...the name had nothing to do with pomp or glamour and more with some Catalan saying I didn't quite catch.We chose the "plat du jour" which consisted of a "piece de boeuf " home made mash and green beans." Saignant? (Rare)" asked the waitress. " Non. A point svp (medium)" we replied. And "saignant " it was.Now what piece of beef it was, still remains a mystery,I needed a hacksaw to cut through it and being rare...well,the end result looked like something out of the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
We were now but 40mns or so away from our final destination the "Thalacap Catalogne/Institut de Thalassotherapie" or as I fondly like to remember it as "Welcome to Shutter Island ".
Located on a cliff and over looking the sea , the building itself eerily looked very little like an "institut" and more like an institution, "Girl Interrupted "anyone? Once we got passed the basic of basic reception area ,we headed half heartedly to our cell,I mean room. To say that the decor was spartan would be like saying that Liberace's wardrobe came from H&M and I am using the word "decor" liberally here for lack of another one.Everything that needed to be there was in wrought iron,luckily the windows were spared. There was no a/c but thank heaven's for the electric fan that made enough ruckus to wake the dead and muffled the endless screams coming from the room above ...and I don't doubt the need for escape or sedation,but this came from a baby..go figure.  Now this would be the right time to say that we managed a room change to one identical , one floor up from garden level. Actually there was no garden to speak of other than boulders and cigarette butts, so the partial sea/ traffic view was somewhat of a relief. We did score a mini bar..OK an empty one,but one that enabled our tepid bottle of water to cool in a day and a half.
The bathroom came  complete with bathtub suffering from a mild case of mildew,but I must say it was clean,as was the sterile room. There was not one single product ,no bar of soap,no plastic shower cap,no mini shampoo or conditioner...nothing. What was left by the side of the sink was a tiny plastic bottle with a liquid soap that was labeled "for hands,face and body" as well as floors and walls.The toilet was the piece  de resistance, it was in a separate room with a rather large water boiler suspended ominously above it.Luckily we are not tall but even in sitting positions:knees hiked cheek to jowl , our heads barely skimmed the top of that blasted contraption. I can honestly tell you that when nature called,one went in with his life in his hands,heart aflutter.
The spa was surprisingly packed, with old and young folk alike,all could be seen shuffling to breakfast and all hours of the day in their "Thalacap"bathrobes and blue rubber slippers.Now if we were really lucky ,we would be regaled by the sight of full regalia including the rather fetching blue and white stripped cotton swim cap.Like that is a look anyone can get away with. We were given our kit on arrival: bathrobe,towels,swim cap and rubber slippers...and we returned it half an hour later.The clincher,like I needed one, was that men were not allowed to wear swim shorts but had to sport the rather fetching speedo/banana hammock ...now add a gold chain to that and a pompadour and one can almost picture me with a rather shorter version of Elvis.
You must be puzzled as to why we would book in a spa and so readily give up our rights to all facilities and treatments... because couldn't find any other place to stay.
On plus side , breakfast was included ...Joie de Vivre: not.
Outside of spa,the weekend was a blast!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

CHANEL-LING BIGFOOT:Fall 2010/Winter 2011 Collection

Having read somewhere that the formidable Karl Lagerfeld had imported a 265 ton iceberg from Sweden (his inspiration being the ICEHOTEL in Lapland) for his fall 2010 /winter 2011 collection for Chanel , I stifled a yawn and thought "showmanship extraordinaire." If the late Alexander MQueen could get away with robotic paint sprayers,fake blood and "frightnight" to get the audience gasping,why not an iceberg. Seeing the collection emerging in the fashion magazines and in the boutiques...I had  to YouTube the show to see for myself  what on earth lead  Chanel ,my wallet weakness, down the road  to Sasquatch Fashion. What I saw frightened me.Not only seeing gorgeous hemlines dragged in water but the "Guinea Pig " colours of the "faux fur"on the 3 models in the opening of the show. Did they show it off with flair...sure. But gorgeous models looking laughable in giant Guinea Pig attire, complete with boots and hood...Yikes.
 It is nice to know that Mr.Lagerfeld has relaunched the desire to get to the bottom of the whole BigFoot myth..is he really out there? Well you can either stomp around the forests of the great unknown in search for him in your faux fur trousers and boots or start a designer Sasquatch frenzy complete with the "double C's" for authenticity.Having said that, peel back the scary and you will find some traditionally gorgeous pieces,the very essence of Chanel with twists of whimsy. 
Now,back to the iceberg... if only Mr Lagerfeld could have airlifted the rest of it and flown it over that blasted unpronounceable Icelandic volcano , he would have sparred us all the ensuing mayhem and thousands of pounds in travel costs.
On the plus side,at least the floors of the Grand Palais catwalk were buffed to a shine...all that water and the "swiffer" faux fur action from the boots...

Saturday, 7 August 2010

My Devil Wears Zara Part 2

My trips to shimmering Paris during fashion week have always been momentous one way or the other,be it seeing Amy Wino/Winehouse live,up close and personal at the exclusive Fendi event, to mark the opening of their boutique on Ave.Montaigne back in...feb 2008 or simply queueing for almost 2 hours with my "devil" to get down and dirty with the mad masses at a discount designer shoe sale...only to appear an hour later dishevelled and disoriented with absolutely nothing to show for it other than bruises and a bleary eyed demeanour...it all remains clear as a bell in my mind ,something I shall always remember fondly.
One afternoon, as I was strolling with a colleague along the Faubourg St Honore between shows and after a rare lunch break that didn't consist of grab and munch on the run, she stop and exclaimed:
Heads turned,she never was soft spoken and rather prone to over enthusiastic exclamations that bordered on the loud. There was Valentino strolling ahead of us ,perma-tanned and sophisticated in his light grey suit,  recognizably coiffed and hooded eyed.
"...It's Yves Saint Laurent !"
Towards the end of our stay, as we strolled content and sated after another "day full" in a "weekfull"... , my "devil" and her merry women;her then stalwart team of a few, one voice suddenly broke the silence: " You know what was really disappointing this time?...The collection in Zara."

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Devil is in the Details

G.Valli & MK Olsen-aftershow OCT 2007
Being Watson to my"devil's" Sherlock, I was pretty much by her side at many of the shows, ranging from the bizarre "Manish Arora" to the sublime "Gianbattista Valli and I was sitting pretty in most cases. That is when I wasn't rudely jostled and left swaying by Anna Wintour's gorilla's as she was escorted to and from her seat or being swamped by every member of "Paul and Joe" designer Sophie Albou's family and friends. This shamelessly ranged from the surly teenager flicking the pre Justin Bieber fringe,down to unruly 5 year olds playing tag while we were serenaded by the symphonic overtures of crying babies. It actually felt like I had  inadvertently stepped into someones private party with a side order of catwalk show to accompany the main meal.This was obviously before the show actually started and became less of a distraction from people watching as the seats started to fill.That and the mesmerizing mountain backdrop with the changing light from day to night dulled my senses and kept my urge to strike at bay.
For you to get the feel of things:Picture a jam packed venue,photographers on one end of the catwalk and the rest of us,the fashion hungry,the fashion savvy stacked up like designer club sandwiches around the catwalk in horseshoe unity. We sit on benches with postage stamp allocated spaces ,sweating artfully beneath the intoxicating aromas of perfumes already fighting their own air born battles, all the while unwilling to shed one item  of our carefully coordinated clothing  no matter how hot it gets under the unforgiving lights. We are cattle that converge together,chic and clean,manicured and plucked,content with our image preening to flashing bulbs.But other than being a celebrity,we invariably blend in rather than stand out. And yet wanting attention,we seek anonymity.
Now to the fashion:I have seen some of the most extraordinary examples of visually unforgiving clothes and accessories, this predating any of Lady Gaga's antics...and all this in the audience alone.The sharp intake of breath when the eccentric and artfully attired would walk in ,was simply an audible acknowledgement of true showmanship ,for where else can one perform than in this most publicized arena?A prime example of when the eccentricities of one becomes the focal attention of many is Anna Piagi.She may not be conventional but her presence at a show packs a punch. Another such character is the quietly fabulous Diane Pernet, a well know figure at these events whose website " a shaded view of fashion" is a trip. I would spy her at most events during fashion week and once had the chance to share my "umbrella,ella,ella"with her after a show. She cuts a fine figure in her all black attire and is rather more formidable than foreboding with her beehive,rivalling both  Amy Winehouse and Marge Simpson in the coiff department. I pity the fool who sits behind her during any of the shows. 
I believe it was during a Vivienne Westwood show when I began to notice the jerky foot mouvements from a young journalist beside me. It immediatly drew my attention to her feet,she was sporting the open toe boot du jour,something I have never found appealing.Is it for summer when it gets a little chilly after a day out on the beach or for winter on an unseasonably warm day? Seriously! What was unforgivable beyond the blatant fashion infraction was the state of her toenails.Protruding out of these contraptions were toenails that appeared to have been cut by either a short sighted pedicurist with a penchant for jagged edges or someone who mistook a hacksaw for clippers. The jerking indicated the need to pee ,so I gathered when she asked me to watch her bag and her seat,while she bolted to the loo.... to hopefully file her toenails ,before she slashed her way back to her seat.
She never made it back..the show began and  she was left stranded behind standing room only,while I was berated by my "devil" for foolishly accepting to watch her bag.
"Are you nuts?What if there is a bomb in there?"
"You better turn your head towards me. If it goes off,at least your face will be saved..."
Needless to say I spent the duration of the show with my head twisted in one direction while pushing the offensive bag away from me with my foot.