The Paris Factor. Or How Carven Stole My Heart.

The answer is, yes, I do have a 2 foot-tall wire Eiffel Tower in my bedroom.  Paris is the first place I ever went to visit outside of the United States and I have been charmed ever since.  Don't judge me when I say I have actually lost count of the number of times I have been to the City of Lights/Love/Wine & Cheese.  (It helps that I lived in London for 7 years and could literally get on a train and be there in 2 hours.)  Generally, despite previous admission of Eiffel Tower replica, I like to make sure my adoration of Paris is slightly more understated.  If you're going to be obsessed with something, try to stay classy.  That's my rule of thumb.

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So when I came across Carven's somewhat recent collection featuring, what I would deem, understated maps of Paris, I fell immediately in love.  I have spent a potentially excessive amount of time in the last 24 hours staring at items from this collection trying to justify the expenditure on an item from the collection (going between the dress and the wedges).  I can't justify them right now, but you can bet your bottom dollar I have set-up a sale alert on these bad boys.

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What would you choose?  Has this collection won your heart, fellow Francophiles?

Check out the entire collection on Net-A-Porter here.

(All images c/o Pinterest)

Au Revior, Fashion Month! My Paris Highlights.

The time has come for us to bid a sweet (and exhausted) goodbye to 'fashion month', as it is now dubbed.  Fashion editors, bloggers and the style obsessed alike have been wandering the globe for the last four weeks, chasing the trends and excitement of the Fall 2013 collections.  I know I have said it before but we all know Paris gives the final bow for good reason...it is fashion on a whole other level.  In presentation and style, it is a brand unto its own.  This season, there seems to have been a real move into a world where the beauty is in the details.  It was less about making a statement and more about silhouettes, fabrications and construction.  A move from the excitement of fashion to the love of it...which is inspiring.  Paris round-up?  Black and white and biker jackets. Here are some of my favorite moments from Paris Fashion Week:

Alexander McQueen

Alessandra Rich

Alessandra Rich

Chloé

Chloé

Chanel

Chanel

Chanel

Christian Dior

Christian Dior

Christian Dior

Givenchy

Givenchy

Kenzo

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton (and the immaculate Kate Moss)

Miu Miu

Miu Miu

Valentino

Valentino

Valentino

(All images c/o Style.com)

Chanel Couture Spring 2013.

I've not been saying a lot of nice things about Uncle Karl lately.  I've been underwhelmed by his recent collections and we all just have to deal with that.  I'd never say it to his face.  To be fair, I'm not sure if I could say anything to his face...I mean, in my world, he is more of a god than a mere mortal.  Sigh...

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This couture collection is not one of my soul-shaking fashion moments.  But this was some kind of brilliant 'Alice went to Wonderland and hooked up with the Mad Hatter' vibe.  And I dig that.  Seriously dig that.  Part of it may be the brilliant beauty that Karl always seems to deliver.  (No matter how wishy washy I may be about some of the Chanel collections, I always adore the beauty.)  See the entire collection here.

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(All images c/o Style.com)

Alexis Mabille Couture Spring 2013.

Couture is a dying art.  This season, for me at least, the collections seems to have started without me even really noticing.  Don't tell the rest of the fashion world I said that, please.  Anyway, the first collection I took a peek at was Alexis Mabille and was ready to be underwhelmed.  But dammit.  This collection makes me want to be a ballerina.  Or at least dress like one.  Or at least dress the way I think ballerinas should dress.

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Ballerina!  I want to be a mother f**king ballerina!  And the silver hair was pretty cool too.  But I may leave that for the runway...  But otherwise, wrap me up in tulle and send me on my way!  See the entire collection here.

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(All images c/o Style.com)

Eric Cantona x The Kooples.

French label The Kooples is one of my favorite labels out there.  The look is ever so Parisian.  The marketing is super cool couples.  The trademark symbol is a small and ever so understated skull detail.  As the label moves slowly onto US soil, it doesn't help ease the pain of missing out on a pair of boots I've been watching that finally went on sale (UK and France-based friends, anyone want to run an errand for me?!).  But they did go ahead and make a new move that earned them some more 'cool credits' in my eyes...

The Kooples 10FW - Gemma & Robert

If I have a decent understanding of the demographic that reads Thrill of the Chaise, I would say that about 40% of you may have an idea of who Eric Cantona is, and for the 60% that don't...I was one of you until a few years ago.  Monsieur Cantona is a French footballer who made a name for himself playing a pretty incredible game while never being short of some reasonably out-of-control antics for Manchester United.  (You would be surprised at my knowledge of Manchester United football club...)  If you haven't seen him out on the pitch, you may have seen him on the silver screen in Elizabeth.  I mean, you may have also seen him in the film Looking for Eric, but if that is the case, you'd know who he is since he plays himself as a sort of invisible friend to a Manchester United fan.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgmTRuWMyeI]

THERE'S A POINT.  The Kooples has teamed up with the football legend and has him on model-duty with his Hottie McHot lady friend.  For as much as I think Eric Cantona is a total dude, I think his steely glare and what I might call 'extreme modeling' may have been a bit over-the-top.  But I didn't want to write about this pairing to knock Cantona's inability to act natural in this campaign.  I wanted to write about it because the special edition Cantona polo shirts for the label are freakin' badass.

Eric-Cantona-Kooples1

If you're a guy, buy one.  You will immediately have my respect and I'll make sure to tell everyone how cool you are.  And before you ask, yes, that is a little skull crest on the chest.  Honestly, this shirt makes me kinda wish I was a dude.  But only kinda, I like wearing eyeliner too much.

Cantona RedCantona Black

Cantona White

(All images c/o The Kooples.)

Darkened Cities.

Whenever I come home to the countryside, I am always so taken aback by how clear the skies are and how much the stars really glow over the landscape.  If you, like me, have ever wondered what some of your favorite cities would look like in the darkness, artist Thierry Cohen has gone and taken the guesswork out of it for you. Paris

Rio de Janeiro

New York

San Francisco

New York

Rio de Janeiro

Shanghai

Tokyo

You can see the rest of the series on the artist's website here.

(Images c/o Thierry Cohen)

Let's Move To Paris.

I am a little obsessed with Uncovet, a website that features new discounted shops on a daily basis with careful curation of design-focused and always amazing products.  Artwork, jewelry, apparel...it's easy to get inspired every time you check out the shops and I couldn't help but share this one!

How beautiful are these prints?!  And how appropriate too  :)  I've been lucky enough to call two my permanent homes and one my temporary one.  If you're huge fan of just one of the cities, it's a perfect gift to yourself (or someone with the same appreciation).  If you're a die-hard traveller or just want a reminder that the world is your oyster, they look great as a series!  I am personally considering the 'series' option.

The sale on these gorgeous prints may be over on Uncovet (you should still sign-up here) but fear not!  Sacred & Profane Designs, otherwise known as the genius behind these prints, has an Etsy shop filled with these and other amazing prints.  Gimme!  Gimme!  Gimme!

 

 

 

 

And the cherry on top of this typographic sundae is that if you order in the next 5 days, you can get 15% off your order!  Just use the code 'LC2012' when checking out by October 15th!  Browse the shop here.

OH MY DIOR: The Spring 2013 Collection.

There is very little to say about this collection other than squeal with delight and make faces at it like you've just fallen in love.  One of the most anticipated shows of the season (the other being the newly renamed 'Saint Laurent'), all eyes were on Raf Simons to see if the magic he brought to his final Jil Sander show and his first Dior Couture show were simply flukes or the work of a real star.  So as guests settled into one of the four different colored block rooms specially constructed at Invalides in Paris (and I settled into my bed watching it live streaming online), there was quite the buzz.

 

 

 

Raf delivered.  Raf exceeded expectation.  I want Raf to be my best friend.  Saying before the show that he wanted to pay as much attention to the legacy that is Mr. Dior as he did to his own aesthetic and vision, it seems these two men make a great spiritual team.  With designers like Sarah Burton at McQueen getting some stick for trying too hard to recreate what her predecessor may have wanted and Hedi Slimane given a hard time for potentially stripping YSL of its heritage, Raf seemed to find a really happy medium.

 

 

 

 

 

Don't alienate but update.  It was Dior to the core but in a new era.  The shoes seemed to be a problem for a few of the models but if that is the biggest hurdle, who cares.  This was a gorgeous show and Raf has obviously found his way home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don't forget that you have a couple more days to enter our giveaway with the amazing Astrid Endeavor to win a necklace!  Enter here!

(Images c/o Style.com)

French Girl Style. From The Source.

When I arrived in Paris it became immediately apparent to me that my neighborhood, the Marais, was every shopping enthusiasts' paradise.  I came across one shop in particular that I fell in love with. Joy is a boutique that makes you feel like you're in Alice's Wonderland within A Midsummer's Night Dream on the set of the coolest 1960s French film.  Does that give your imagination enough to conjure up some images?

I had the pleasure of getting to spend some time with the owner, buyer and designer of Joy, Valentina, who let me in on some of the secrets to what it means to be French, feminine and fashionable...

What makes your shop special and unique?

'We have a selection that highlights what is chic and trendy in Paris. Our fashion is very subtle and gentle so that it can be adapted to each time of day depending on the accessories that you decide to wear. We offer several very select brands. The idea is to have a representation of the each brands universe, its strengths and its essential parts; to mix one with the other and to have fun!'

What does 'joy' mean for you?

'Joy is a lovely word.  It is just three letters, simple and light as fashion should be.  It means fun and nothing else.'

What makes the style of French women stand out from the rest of the world?

'Our style is based on a way to dress with chic simplicity. It's the choice of deep and warm colors or a detail of embroidery...and always aggressively feminine.  You dress in what you feel good in because the materials are soft and volume/silhouette follow the female body without ever contradicting it. The style of the young French woman could be defined by its light, clean lines and a very detailed chic.'

Do you have any fashion 'rules'?

'There are no rules in fashion, especially with our lives so sufficiently regulated otherwise. Try to never restrict yourself because you might end up imposing on something new!  If there is one important thing to remember, it is to have fun and feel good.  From there you have the right to do anything!  However, I would say that a silhouette is beautiful when it is not overloaded.  Focus on a detail, a mixture of material, a refined ornamentation, avoid adding all the rainbows and sky to an outfit.  And especially...respect your body.  Accept it as it is and don't force it. A figure is a whole, never a detail.'

What are the essential basics that every girl should have in her wardrobe?

'We are all different! I'm crazy about fashion, so for me everything is essential!  I would say a dark blue skinny jeans, not black. Navy blue is used to associate the colors without 'breaking' them up and you can wear it with everything. A light silk dress you can wear with boots during the day and evening with something to offset it.  A big, oversized sweater with a plunging neckline in a very soft knits...that's so Parisian.  A masculine cut jacket in wool.  A long chiffon skirt that can be worn with something oversized, as well as part of a more slinky outfit. And a pea coat.  Each garment has a story should tell a story.  If it does, that's all you really need.'

Joy seems to be a mixture of a playful youthfulness and adult chic. How can you balance these effectively?

'That is exactly what we all are! Women with a playful youth!  Balance is created on its own.  Try several things and work on combinations.  Then all of a sudden it works...you smile when you look in the mirror and voila! That's the magic of it all and it's the most important part of getting dressed.  We have beautiful and chic silk See By Chloe gowns with fronts that are very simple and minimalist.  Then in the back, the collar is closed by a large knot keeping it chic but also very playful.'

What are your favorite brands and products at the moment? 

'I must admit, the collections we have for winter are truly spectacular!  There's this high-waisted wool skirt Sonia By Sonia Rykiel wool cloth with a belt that cinches the waist tied in a small knot...the blush pink silk blouses of Erika Cavallini/Semi Couture...vintage jewelry...a very soft oversized cardigan by Cacharel...Fred Perry boots...a See By Chloe bag in a beautiful sepia color...and, of course, the Alex Monroe jewelry! We are all addicted!'

Make sure to visit Joy's website where you can find more about the store and how to buy parts of the collection online.  And if you're in the Marais, make sure to visit the shop itself.  Valentina has made Joy a real oasis in the hustle and bustle of the city but also has some of the most amazing merchandising I have ever seen.  Not too much, not too little and something for everyone who wants something with a story.

And don't forget, you have until Tuesday to enter our giveaway here to win a copy of the book 'Paris vs New York'!

GIVEAWAY: Paris vs. New York

I fell in love with the work of Vahram Muratyan the first time I saw it...

I wrote about Vahram's work here and little did I know that a book was in the works to properly showcase his amazing collection of Paris vs. New York artwork.  After spending the past month in Paris (and awaiting my return to New York), I wanted to say thank you all of you out there in the world who visit Thrill of the Chaise and make this blog such a pleasure to write...and how better to do that then give away a copy of Vahram's incredible and adorable book, 'Paris vs. New York'  :)

So here's all you have to do to enter:

1. Leave a comment on this post with your email address (so I can contact you if you win, not for anything creepy) by the end of the day on Tuesday, August 21st.  This is open to international readers so everyone gets the chance to win.

2. For extra entries, 'like' the new Thrill of the Chaise page on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter.  Make sure to let me know your name and Twitter handle in your comment!

Good luck and thanks so much for visiting Thrill of the Chaise!

Twins For Peace: Be Cool. Be Good.

Long before I made my way over to Paris last month, I came across a French sneaker company called Twins for Peace.  I had recently found true love with Warby Parker and was jazzed about this new way of fashion meeting charity.  There was something so familiar about the effortlessly cool, affordably high fashion and charitably concious sensibility of Twins for Peace that mirrored what I admired so much about the eyewear brand.  Seeing that there might be an entire movement around the idea of smaller companies making it big with their priorities in the right place is enough to get any of us really excited about the world taking a turn for the better. [vimeo http://vimeo.com/16050489]

Twins for Peace was started in 2009 by twin brothers Maxime and Alexandre Mussard along with friend Louis Felix de Fenoyl under the strong vision of creating a shoe line that makes a difference.  Their motto 'be cool, be good' says it all.  The shoes, comfortable but fashionable no-fuss sneakers, are as straightforward as their philosophy. At the core, they are a 'buy one, give one' organization which is a powerful stance in its own right.  But Twins for Peace doesn't stop there.  They have partnered with SOS Enfants to create education and health invitiaves on top of their own Shoe Project that will help to provide meals in schools, offer vaccines, build wells and make sure that the children they help don't go hungry and are able to have the chance at an education.  These are some pretty powerful sneakers.

I had the pleasure of being invited into the office to sit down and chat with Louis Felix and the team, take a peek at their product and upcoming campaigns and even get a new pair of kicks for moi.  When I walked into the courtyard at Twins for Peace HQ, I immediately felt like a part of this small team myself.  The people are as warm and international as their product and the offices are as colorful as the countries they help.  They are excited to share not just their product but their philosophy on what they do and how they relate it to not just their business but to who they all are as people of the world.  In a day and age where younger companies can easily become flooded with the worry of succeeding in a pretty unsure economic climate, Twins for Peace just seems really happy to be getting to do the work they do.

The donated shoes are all made in the countries that they help fueling their economies and creating jobs.  But the company works hard to not just promote offering help in the form of reward but also in the form of showcasing the talents of the native people and culture.  The newest collection, Gacha, are probably some of the coolest shoes I have ever seen.  The team is incredibly proud of this collaboration of sorts with the artists who help them make these specific shoes in Cameroon and so they should be.  The entirety of the sneakers are hand beaded (over 50 hours goes into each pair) and when a pair were placed in front of me, I couldn't stop looking at them.  The craftsmanship, colors and designs make these shoes so incredibly unique and also really freakin' cool.  When Louis Felix showed me a street style shot of a girl in a black, relaxed jumpsuit with a pair of the sneakers and some simple gold jewelry it became even more obvious why the French are style icons.

So while I save up for a pair of sneakers from the Gacha line, I will very proudly wear my pair of bright red Twins and hope that you all take a look here and join the club too  :)  To see more videos of the Twins for Peace initiatives in action, click here.

Thanks so much to everyone at Twins for Peace for such a lovely visit and a real highlight to my Parisian adventures.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/21974748]

Chloe's 'It' Boots...By Zara.

When standing outside the Chanel Haute Couture show last month (see here), I found myself thrown together in the pit of sorts with lots of name-shouting, excitable photographers trying to get the best shots of the drop dead gorgeous celebrities making their way into the show.  It was purely by accident because I really just wanted to see what the arriving guests were wearing and wasn't actually taking any photos other than mental snapshots.  Ah well.  The point is that it was actually a female photographer that caught my attention with her super casual but super cool style.  Slim leather ankle-length trousers matched with a semi-sheer white t-shirt and a pair of red studded boots I was immediately obsessed with. Browsing through Zara the next day and lo and behold!  Have I found them?  These super cool ankle boots?!  All the pieces of my life began to fit together and make sense suddenly as this woman finally gave me hope in life.  As long as I can afford Zara, I can be a cool French photographer outside the Chanel show too!!!

 

But nay.  It took me only a couple of hours more to realize that somehow this lady could afford to put statement boots from Chloe on her person and I, the fashion student, would be condemned to the 'knock off' version.  But in reality...the boots are cool and Zara has done a pretty bang up job on holding their own despite potentially stealing the idea...so aside from quality, craftsmanship and a few details that make the Chloe pair a bit more thought through, I'd rather spend $189 on a pair of boots that may or may not stand the test of trendsetting time.  Think of all the fun I could have with the $1,100 left over :)

So I'm not making a judgement.  I'm just making a statement.  Zara is a copy cat but does an ok job at it sometimes.  What do you think?  A bit too much of a tribute to the Chloe boots?  Or just enough?

(Zara images copyright of Zara. Chloe images copyright of SSENSE.)

Soundwalk: An Insider's Tour Of Paris.

Being a tourist is tough.  Especially in a city where you're trying to look cool.  When I see someone holding up a closed umbrella to make sure the mass of bum bag obsessed, oversized camera holding, University of Wherever I Am From t-shirt wearing bodies don't loose their way, my heart sinks.  I'm all for learning about the place you are in...in fact, I would encourage you to go out of your way to go outside your comfort zone on your travels.  But I would promote immersion rather than just being a stand out tourist. The brilliant news is that my prayers have been answered by a group called Soundwalk who have taken over not just Paris but cities all over the world.  It's a bit of an individual event but also allows you to take a tour without anyone around you knowing what you're up to.  So bloody clever.

Soundwalk is a one hour tour of chosen Parisian neighborhoods that you can download onto your Mp3 player (for 99 cents each) and take part in whenever you have the time.  That' right, 'take part'.  The audio tours are not your typical 'monument here, famous thing happened here' guides but an interactive story that takes you through each 'hood in a very unique way.  For the Marais tour, you'll have a coffee at a local cafe while Isild, a singer/actress, introduces herself and her neighborhood to you before you embark on a tour to find her lost Walkman, stopping along the way to peek into courtyards and learn about special restaurants, shops and monuments that you may otherwise walk by.  Paris tours include the Marais, Belleville, Palais Royale, Pigalle and St. Germain des Pres.

Learn more and download at www.soundwalk.com.  Other city tours include NYC, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Ibiza, Varanasi and even running tours of Berlin, London, NYC and Paris...almost makes me want to put my sneakers on and hit the dusty trail. Almost.

Also, check out my guest post at Paris Cheapskate where I talk about Soundwalk and my other cheap (but super fun) finds!

My Favorite Things: Paris

Well, it's official. This is my last day in Paris. I've learned a lot and met some incredible people along the way, including Jenna from Paris Cheapskate, a writer from NYC who has moved over to this amazing city to stay only as long as her money will last her. She and her website have been amazing resources in getting inspired and excited by Paris. So let me hand it over to Jenna who I am thrilled to have as a guest on the blog today... We all know that Paris is a dreamworld when it comes to shopping: lingerie, haute couture, shoes, vintage, and it even has its fair share of thrift stores. And, believe it or not, I haven’t always been a cheapskate. Here are a few of my favorite Paris purchases.

This is actually two of my favorites, though the dress is kinda hard to see. I got the dress, a form-fitting vintage number with a twirlable skirt, covered in a pink-and-earth toned jungle pattern, at Vintage Desir (aka Coiffure) in the Marais for a scant 10€. That place is a goldmine. Paired with a braided brown belt, it is the perfect outfit for a daytime date, picnics, and, as you see above, toodling around on a bike in Giverny.

This adorable hat I also got in the Marais, though I’m hard-pressed to remember the name of the boutique. I have an embarrassingly small head and it’s humiliating to try on hats. Sometimes my best friend likes to take me to Target and just laugh at me while I try on hats. This is the only summer fedora style I’ve ever been able to find that actually fits my head, and it’s come in handy on many a sunny day to top off a casual about-town outfit.

On my first trip to Paris, I figured I should come away with at least one chic bathing suit to end all bathing suits. There is nothing that assures you more that you’re okay with your body than to spend two hours at Le Bonmarché trying on every single thing they have and walking away with three new swimsuits (oops). This one by À La Plage, however, remains my favorite, with its adjustable bottoms and an old-fashioned top that boosts my bust.

When I completed my first novel, my wise mother told me I should splurge and buy “a little something” to commemorate the experience, so that whenever I wore it I could remember the achievement. This is a good reward habit to form, and after keeping my eyes open to little baubles and simple rings around Paris, when I found this lovely necklace at Cécile & Jeanne, I knew it had to be mine. Imagine my delight when it turned out to be 50% off. Its unique gold edges and bright rubies bring a little black dress to a whole new level. When I wear it, I feel beautiful, elegant, and, inside, proud of myself.

Shopping in Paris can be overwhelming, and sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re O.D.’ing– there’s just too much good stuff. But here’s some sage advice: buy only what you believe you would never stop thinking about if you didn’t get it. If you do that, whatever you pay for your wearable souvenir will be worth every penny. And you will always be able to rejoinder the inevitable compliments with a casual “Oh this? I got this in Paris.”

Read more from Jenna, get the best cheap-chic insight on Paris and check out my guest post this week at Paris Cheapskate.

(All photos courtesy of Jenna-Marie Warnecke.)

Falafel Wars: Judged By Lenny Kravitz.

It would probably be easy to think that I came up with some weird title to this blog post in order to ignite curiosity.  But, in fact, I am not so clever (or wasn't until I realized how bizarre it was to throw Lenny Kravitz's name in to the mix).  The truth is the Lenny piece of this puzzle did not actually appear until the end of my experience in aforementioned falafel wars but I think by the end, we'll all feel better for it.

There are two things you really need to know in order to really understand why I am writing this post, other than the fact that I want to make sure if any of you readers find yourself in Paris, you have a tip on where to grab a cheap, delightful meal.

1. I have been living in the Marais area of Paris for the last month.  It is known as the Jewish part of town (and also the gay bit but that's another story entirely).

2. I never cared much for falafel.  There are very few forms that chickpeas can take that I feel comfortable participating in.

There is a little street in the Marais, Rue des Rosiers, that you might otherwise mistake of an alleyway if you walk by it too quickly.  And once you start to walk down the street, you might actually still keep that idea in your head.  It's cobbled, narrow and cars can drive down it but there is no proper designation between road and pedestrian path.  Basically, they try to look out for you and you better look out for them.  The further you walk on this little street, you'll start to notice that you pass one falafel joint after another and it becomes very obvious that you are in the hub of all things Jewish cuisine.

BUT TOURIST BEWARE!  There is one falafel joint that trumps all others and it is important that you eat there because Lenny Kravitz says so (see photo of menu below).

L'As du Falafel is not hard to find. It's green and there is always a massive line out front. So massive in fact that there are bossy men, usually smoking cigarettes, that have the sole job of managing the lines, taking orders and payment and making sure that by the time you get to the window where your food awaits, all you have to do is hand the nice men your ticket, answer 'yes' or 'no' to 'do you want spicy sauce' and get the hell out of the way.  (Run-on sentence, lay off, I'm trying to help.)

I ended up there for lunch one day because my bakery was closed, my local creperie was taking it's time setting up and I was ravenous. I had heard a lot of great things and thought it might be worth a try.  I get the hype.  It's amazing.  For a country that is pretty obsessed with red meat, this is a welcome treat and for under 6 Euro, you can be quite sure of a brilliant meal. So brilliant that I brought my mom there for her first ever falafel the other night and she fell in love so much that she now delights by people watching from my big Parisian windows and saying 'another person with a falafel!' every minute or so.  She's so cute.

Keep in mind though, these guys close early on Fridays and are not open on Saturdays.  It's just the way things go.

Directions and whatnot for L'As du Falafel here.

Life's A Beach. In The Middle Of Paris.

Or at least a fake beach.  And in this weather, beggars can't be choosers.  Paris Plages is probably one of the coolest things I've seen done in a city.  Knowing that other cities have attempted this fun and unusual idea to set-up a faux tropical escape of the banks of whatever river runs through it, Paris does it best.

Every July and August, the powers that be (mayor and whatnot) block off a massive stretch of roadways and footpaths along the bank of the Seine starting at Hotel de Ville and running all the way down to the Louvre.  With winding edges created in decking to mimic the waves of the ocean they can unfortunately not also transplant, they bring in an ungodly amount of beautiful looking sand and suddenly, you question if you're in Paris or Nice.  Palm trees are planted.  Little huts offering snacks and ice-cold treats are dotted along the length of the man-made heaven.

When you take a walk down the beach, you not only get the sense that this is impeccably well-planned out (there is a monitored playground complete with pirate ship, bocce courts, a hosted wi-fi deck with lounge chairs and even misting machines to help you cool off) but also a really lovely family and summer tradition.  I guess instead of being a summer camp counselor like I was in my time off of school, teens here get to throw on matching t-shirts and work on the boardwalk.

I would say get there early to get your spot...somewhere where there is lounge chairs and umbrellas (honestly, you just have to show up with yourself and a good book)...but even just a stroll down the beach will make you happy summer is here.

For more details on Paris Plages, visit Paris Cheapskate.

A Note On French Beauty.

The French are beautiful.  An irritatingly, naturally beautiful species that seems to exist with little to no fuss regarding their primping regime.  While the rest of us around the world seem to need the minimum of an hour to get ourselves ready in the morning in order to deem our appearance 'appropriate', the French just seem to roll out of bed, shake their hair about a bit and then walk straight out the door and somehow look superhuman. Maybe this is much deeper than a beauty regime (I can't for the life of me figure out how the French stay hydrated...seems like nothing but coffee, wine and very tiny glasses of water) and a greater question about an overall way of being but honestly, I don't have the brain power to even begin to contemplate that at the moment.  But what I can tell you is that they take beauty very seriously and that involves the care in which goes into oneself and much less about the care taken to disguise what we really look like.

My whole point is really quite superficial after such a psychological view of beauty.  French pharmacies are mind-blowing.  Yup.  That's basically what I've been trying to say.  You see, when I myself, an American who loves to shop and goes into some kind of brilliant daze when entering a Sephora, think of a pharmacy, I think of something a bit low brow.  Aisles of everything you never knew you needed and don't actually need at all.  Cheap fixes to whatever ailments you may have with some half-assed beauty products thrown in.

BUT NAY.  NOT IN FRANCE.  If you are a fan of CVS or Duane Reade, it is my job to tell you right now that you better get the f**k out of dodge.  French pharmacies do, in fact, sell you things to help you with your health issues but if you think you're just going to pop in and get some cheap face wash on your way home from work, the answer is 'hell no'.  Skincare especially is incredibly important to the French and that shows here.  Some of the finest brands you can find are lining the shelves and employees are on hand to make sure you are buying what you need and not something to just do the job.

I went into my local pharmacy today to get some shave gel (look elsewhere, they won't have it) and ended up with a moisturizer and lip balm that have already turned me into a new person.  Honestly, my other lip balm has been no help to me whatsoever in a time of need for the last few days and one application of the new guy and BOOM, my pout is back and ten times better than before.  An extra note, yes, you will be spending more money than you usually would at a pharmacy but it is still reasonable for the products you are getting and they will be totally worth the price of admission.  The only bother is...where will I find my very French products back on American soil?!

Live The Language.

I studied French through my junior high years all the way up until my second year of university.  I spent the better part of a summer on an exchange program which landed me in Northern France with a family for a month when I was a teen.  I should be able to speak French.  And usually, I can.  Or enough that I don't look like a complete fool.  But complete fool I have been since I arrived in Paris.  So now, as my week in between classes and my mother's visit begins, I am taking this part of my study more seriously.  I've been taking lessons with a lovely lady named Marjorie, sitting in a cafe, sipping coffee, getting scolded for making up words in French.  I've been forcing myself to go outside of my comfort zone in the streets of Paris, trying to converse even when I know how foolish I sound.  It's hard, self-depricating work. So this video came along at just the right frustrating moment for me.  It's back to basics and a brilliant little story about the adventure.  How adorable.  Le sigh.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/18886355]

Lesage: The Warriors Of Couture.

One of the most interesting parts of the course I just finished in Paris was a visit to Lesage, an embroidery atelier that has been an integral though quite unknown facet to the world of haute couture since its inception with the first 'fashion designer', Charles Frederic Worth.  While I was really looking forward to seeing first-hand some beautiful embroidery and beading, I had no idea what I was actually in for. The history of not just Lesage but of ateliers across the country is fascinating and somewhat mysterious.

When you watch the haute couture shows, you imagine the drawings being made by the creative directors (Karl, Raf, Valentino) and then busy worker bees in their studios tirelessly creating the looks with a watchful eye over them.  And this can be rather true.  What is more of a secret, however, is the origin of the parts of the garments that are the actual show stealers.  When you watch a Chanel look stride down the runway and your breath is taken away by embroidery and beading designs fit for a king, you never think that component is actually something created by someone else entirely.

Saying that these smaller ateliers creating the embroidery and beading, the hats, accompanying accessories are 'masters of craft' that are 'the hands and eyes of haute couture' may not be enough to fully explain the depth of their involvement.  These silent heroes of couture have a very interesting process in their involvement in each collection which may help in understanding:

1. The designer visits the Lesage atelier during the early planning stages of their collection and delivers the inspiration and theme.

2. Embroiderers take the inspiration and create samples of embroidery and beading to present to the design house.

3. The designer returns to view the samples and to choose which they would like to use in their collection.  It's important to note that all samples are made just once and only presented to one designer.  Confidentiality is key at Lesage, as is the constant creation of new ideas.  A visit to their sample archive is both beautifully overwhelming and almost a bit sad.  Stacks of some of the most beautiful hand work sits before and will never be used.

4. The designer delivers final plans, designs and fabric and the incredible talent at Lesage creates the pieces of the garments with their embroidery or beading which are then sent to the design house atelier for construction.

Kind of insane, right?!  Yves Saint Laurent used Lesage exclusively (if you're familiar with the amazing beaded jackets directly replicating Van Gogh paintings, they were made at Lesage) and the atelier is owned by Chanel (though they work with all couturiers).

Our visit was fascinating, complete with a presentation on the French fashion industry and its rich history, followed by a tour of the actual ateliers where we not only got to see people hard at work but also were treated to one on one demonstations...and let me tell you, this work is not for the faint of heart.  Lesage is committed to keeping their methods traditional...you'll only find one sewing machine in the 6 floors of the building.  Everything is done by hand, from hand drawn designs to almost archaic methods of transferring designs onto fabric before they are taken to be embroidered or beaded.  All embroidery and beading is also done upside-down, meaning that the work is done on the back of the fabric and the embroiderer cannot see what the final product looks like, as it is underneath where they are working.  I can't even imagine what that is like when you're working with fabrics that aren't at all sheer!

Photos were not permitted in most of the atelier due to confidentiality (yes, I got to see people working with a drawing by Karl Lagerfeld sitting next to them) but we did have free reign when it came to areas of the beautiful materials being used.  Even in these parts of the atelier, you feel like you've gone back in time.  They do not employ any kind of computer system to keep track of materials, those who know where things are just know where things are...and that suits Lesage just fine and has done for over a hundred years.

Lesage has recently opened a school which includes courses for leisure but also those for professionals.  Almost makes you want to rethink your career path when you see the work and finished products, until, of course, you remember that these people have more talent in their little pinkie than I probably do in my entire clumsy hand  :)

So what I've been trying to say this whole time is that when you next watch the most incredible garment you've ever seen walk the runway, give a little more thought to the hands and eyes that really made it the work of art that it is.

A huge thank you to all the staff at Lesage for giving us such a wonderful experience and education.  (Photos courtesy of my fellow classmate and blogger, Vogue Epilogue.)

Bastille Day Bliss.

When I first planned my trip over to Paris, I was immediately excited that I would be here for Bastille Day.  For those who need further information, it is a national holiday in France celebrating, well, being French  :)  It takes place on the 14th of July commemorating the storming of the Bastille in 1789.

It's pretty similar to the Fourth of July in the States but maybe a bit more, dare I say it, patriotic?  Now, we Americans know how to do it.  There is drinking and fireworks and lots of food.  But when you find yourself along the banks of the Seine surrounded by thousands of people even miles away from the Eiffel Tower where the fireworks and music show is centered, you suddenly realize how serious it all is.  And if we're being picky about it, everyone is delightfully full of wine and France always has lots of food.

To maybe make it a bit more entertaining, Bastille Day has a theme every year.  This year, it was Disco Fever.  That's right.  So not only is there an insane fireworks show but it is set to a pretty hysterical soundtrack.  And if that isn't enough for you, following the fireworks, fire houses (and then men within) host somewhat raucous 'balls' to which us younger folk attempt to attend to be able to say 'is this for real?'  I mean, there is a reason that I didn't make my way to bed until 4am.

I stayed back a bit watching from a bridge at Place du Concorde with my friends (and our wine) but it was a brilliant show even at that distance and even a bit more so with one of Paris' most beautiful bridges, Pont Alexandre III, in the foreground.

If you want to see the full show complete with the music, click here.