Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lipstick Sisters

One of my favorite things to do when I'm in another country is to browse in the local pharmacy for unique toiletries and makeup. While the world is getting smaller all the time and just about everything is available everywhere, it's still possible to find little treasures. And true confessions, I love using foreign makeup, lotions, soap and toothpaste. It gives me a little blast of memory about the trip everyday when I use the product back home. And I feel a touch more worldly when I see labels in a language other than english in my bathroom cabinet.
I first heard about T. LeClerc years ago when I read that Catherine Deneuve used their loose powder. With her luminous complexion I thought I had to try that. At the time, Bell'occhio was the only shop in San Francisco that carried the famous T. LeClerc powder. And when I saw the beautiful pressed metal tin that contained the powder, it became a favorite of mine too.
In 1881, Theophile LeClerc owned an elegant pharmacy near the Place de la Madeleine in Paris. The story goes that he came from a family of artists and that he was also a lover of beauty and art. At his pharmacy he experimented with color and texture and developed a secret formula of rice starch to create a powder that was lighter and more natural than the heavy makeup worn during that time. The powders were success with the women of  the Belle Epoque.

Some pharmacy finds. The smiling matador on the tube of Email Diamant toothpaste is irresistible.  Le Petit Marseiliais body cream from Monoprix comes in gift-worthy packaging and Labello makes a good lip balm. This one gives a pretty red stain. 

Bourjois makes a rich and smooth Khol eyeliner
A few years ago my Aunt Mary Ellen heard that Chanel had their makeup manufactered by Bourjois, so that set us on a search. We found Bourjois to be good quality for the price. And  Bourjois also has Belle Epoque cred. The company was started in 1863 by Alexandre Napoleon Bourjois who created the first non-grease powder makeup for the stage. Mary Ellen couldn't come on this trip, but armed her husband, my Uncle Ron, with a shopping list. On the list was a trip to Monoprix (like a french Target) for Bourjois lipstick in a nude shade. After being a good sport and trying a number of colors on the back of his hand, he decided on "Sweet Kiss Beige Elegant" for Mary Ellen. Auntie and I also liked the color and couldn't resist the glam purple tube with a silver button, so now we are sisters of the French lipstick. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Antiquites Brocante

View from the antique show in the Bastille

When in Paris one must go to a flea market. And there are so many to explore. On our last day in Paris my Auntie and I stayed in the neighborhood and spent the day at the Antiquites Brocante two blocks from our apartment. So many beautiful things, so many large and expensive things! I saw enough rich leather antique books to fill a town library, showers of sparkling crystal chandeliers to hang in grand foyers and rows of elegant Christofle crystal wine glasses so clear and heavy you could practically hear the bright ring from a festive toast. And cases of gorgeous museum-quality Bakelite deco jewelry. Don't you wish I had photos? Me too! But on our last day I was experiencing visual overload. I was so consumed with taking it all in, I forgot to take photos. And I was on a hunt.  Equal to the fun of looking at a flea market is the thrill of finding and buying some treasure. 

My ticket to the flea market

Just as we were giving up hope of finding something that we could afford and fit in our suitcase, I spied a bit of silver mesh in a glass case. The vendor took it out and I saw it was a small delicate chain mail coin purse. There was tiny ring at the top and I could easily imagine putting it on a chain or cord and wearing it. The wearability making it more desirable for me. He said it was around 100 years old. And ten euros. Sold! So the search was on for more. Many of the sellers had them, but the prices ranged wildly. We stuck to our ten euro range and found four more. And the rule is, three or more is a collection! 

My new collection. The one on the left is a coarse coppery metal. The rustic quality is an interesting contrast to the finer  silver purses. 

I've done some research about how these were used and haven't found anything definitive yet. Could be that  these were hung from chatelaines, or belts, worn by housekeepers in the 19th century with a series of chains suspended from it to carry household tools like scissors, thimbles, watches, keys and purses. The name comes from the french term chatelaine, meaning the mistress of a chateau. 

Now back in San Francisco when I need a Paris brocantes fix, I can browse the beautiful website and blog, Paris Boutique Hotel, for vintage french objects. And before my next trip to Paris, I'll definitely download the "Keys to the Fleas", a handy guide to the flea markets and brocantes of Paris. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Le Laboureur

Label inside Matt's new Parisian jacket

My sculptor husband works daily with large heavy machine tools, welding, hammering, painting and shaping metal. Or making plaster molds. Or dipping metal frames into a vat of bubbling tar. Or melting and casting aluminum (at 1200 degrees heat!). So he needs work clothes. He's not a Carhartt kind of guy. He says the clothes are too clunky and heavy. He'll wear the occasional Ben Davis shirt or pants, which do the job, but the style is not unique. Then there is Duluth Trading. Matt likes their lined work shirts, which are good for chilly San Francisco days. But Duluth is tailored for heftier guys with boxy styling and they don't do anything in black.

Paris street sweeper

When Matt and I were in Paris in 2000, I noticed the surprisingly chic bright green uniforms of the street sweepers and thought, if anybody has great work clothes, it's the French. We did a little research and found Adolph LaFont at a shop located near the Gare du Nord. We trekked over and Matt bought a black cotton "roofers" jacket, like this and a heavy canvas dark green carpenter's jacket. He's been wearing both for over ten years and it's time for a new jacket.

Recently I saw the Bill Cunningham documentary which is a must-see film, bursting with passion-for-creativity and an affirmation of following one's personal vision. If you have any doubts about pursuing what's meaningful to you, see this! In the documentary Bill talks about his bright blue uniform jacket that he buys at the Bazaar Hotel de Ville in Paris. I wasn't sure about Matt liking the bright blue, but I put it on my Paris shopping list.

On my list, I also had a visit to a store in the Marais carrying Adolphe Lafont. But somehow with our daily indulgences in long meals, a hike to the working man's store or the Bazaar Hotel de Ville kept getting postponed to the next day. Then one evening we were dashing up rue de Carmes to a attend a Chopin piano recital at Eglise Saint-Ephrem, we passed this shop, Aspasie et Mathieu, and a jacket in the window caught my eye. It was styled like Matt's Lafont jacket, but with dressier details and finer fabric. Ten minutes and 99 euros later, I had the jacket and the perfect Paris gift for Matt.

This shop is on my list for a longer visit next time I'm in Paris.
They carry many elegant linen and cotton items for men and women with a vintage feel.
The proprietor, Evelyne Chevalier  was helpful and charming.

The jacket was designed and made by Le Laboureur in France, which I am thrilled to learn about. From the website, they look like the real deal and have been making work clothes and traditional regional clothes for many years and are family owned. 

Matt looks great in  his new jacket!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

La Faire de Lecher la Vitrine*

*Which translates to "window shopping." Even better, the literal translation is "to lick the windows." Which we did a lot of, figuratively, in Paris. 

Beautiful lacy things at Chantal Thomas

Dayglo at Colette

We did literal licking here. We tried the intense chocolates and sampled the salted caramel, pistachio and cafe macarons.

The entrance to L'Eclaireur at 40 Rue de Sevigne. The name translates to "The Scout". The New York Times describes this store as "the destination for intellectual-minded customers who prefer their fashion directional and their designers underexposed" and "Most of the clothes sold here would challenge even a professional model." 
True on all accounts, and a real experience.

The interior of L'Eclaireur. The atmosphere is dark and somewhat disturbing. We were there at closing and at the push of a button and with the whir of a motor, the panels lower over the racks, tucking the clothes away for the night or perhaps in preparation for launch of this alien spacecraft. 

Sculpture when entering L'Eclaireur

Lilith, in the Marais

Happy shopper at Lilith

She's modeling the dress in the window at Lilith. Did the French invent stripes or do they just know what to do with them?

At a men's store in the Marais. Love his 'tude and stylin' Hermes tie.

The Kooples, groovy rock 'n roll style. The look that L.A. hipsters dream of. This particular shop is near the Bastille. Use of sharp details and tailoring playing with masculine and feminine. Fabulous ad campaign of glamorous hip couples. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Merci Merci

The entrance to Merci, 111 Blvd. Beaumarchais

Airy, spacious, loft-like and with the friendliest staff, Merci was a shopping pleasure. And with some of the prices in our range, we also had the satisfaction of buying a few things. It was a little over two weeks ago that my Auntie and I were there and we spent several leisurely hours looking at the beautiful selection of men and women's clothing, housewares, linens, Annick Goutal perfumes and a floor of distressed french cafe, rough-hewn and mid-century modern furniture.

The entrance interior

The furniture area

In the women's clothes, every time we took something off the racks that we loved, it was by the same designer, Isabel Marant. Her clothing looked wearable, casually sexy and worldly chic. The fabrics were soft chiffony silks with jewel-tone colors. We didn't have enough euros, but she's on my wish list. 

We were also taken by the beautiful natural dyed bed and bath linens. While we knew the duvet covers would never fit in our already stuffed suitcases, we picked up a few waffle-textured linen hand towels. And we loved the vermilion linen aprons worn by the workers. We each bought one. Maybe I'll wear mine when I give a dinner party for a dash of French cool or maybe even on the street as part of an outfit?

We made friends with one of the staff and he showed us the various ways to wear the apron. Turns out he lived in San Francisco for three years, just a few block from where I live! He also recommended Paris.unlike as the best online guide to Paris.

New handsome friend modeling the apron as the British would wear it.

Then with a quick fold and nonchalant savoir faire...

This is how the cool French wear the apron. 

Even the shoppers at Merci were style inspirations:

Jeans and leather, always cool.

Great shoes and summery detail on jeans.

 Elegant orange, brown leather and khaki

Here's an easy and hip outfit

We had lunch in the bookstore. It was a comfortably dark library room with floor-to-ceiling used books for sale. I'm always happy to be surrounded by books.

Dejeuner at Merci

The lunch was fine. Every bite was bright and delicious, but a little too conceptual for our mood at that time. We were so accustomed to swimming in a sea of creamy richness that it was a little startling to have something so veggie and fresh and California-like.

Here are the items I bought (not including the apron). The MYdrap is a bit gimmicky, but practical too. I couldn't resist the idea of black cloth napkins coming on a roll like paper towels. And I love the colors and feel of the enamel demitasse cups that I can mix and match. The hors d'oeuvres picks are graphic and will be great at parties. And as always, I can't resist a blank book. I've since learned that the Merci owners have pledged to donate the profits to a charity that helps women and children in Madagascar.

After our shopping experience we headed out to Boulevard Beaumarchais and around the corner to Rue Bretagne, where we found more great cafes and shops. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Runway St. Honore

The window at Colette, 213 Rue St. Honore

We got back from Paris a week ago today. And I am still living in the dream. (Seeing "Midnight in Paris" is a very effective cure for the I-wish-I-was-still-in-Paris blues.) It was a great trip. My Auntie, Uncle Ron and I ate deliciously rich dinners, ridiculously rich desserts and drank ambrosia-like wines. In between our restaurant indulgences we shopped and people-watched. First on my retail list was a visit to Colette, a super cool designer mash-up of high fashion, make-up, books, magazines, music and trinkets. But while it is lovely and exciting to be up close to Rodarte, Lanvin, Chanel and Christopher Kane, one item was more than our entire travel budget. We oohed and ahhed until we were parched and retired to a little cafe right across the street from Colette for a pression. It was there we discovered we had front row seats to fabulous fashion show of passersby.

Hard to take your eyes off that face.

When I saw a cool person and outfit I would leap from my cafe chair, chase them down, point to my camera and in pitiful french ask if I could take their photo. To my surprise, people were very happy to pose for pictures. Delighted in fact. Only one person said no because he was "under contract".

Crazy, but it works on them!
(fabulous shoes)

Blackest black with beautiful textures.

Fleurs de St. Honore. Casual and chic.