J'ai Crew

Monday, 17 November 2014

See what they did there? J'ai cru in French means 'I believed' - it's the hashtag they're using. Clever. Pretty much sums the brand up, since the ever-inspiring Jenna Lyons took hold of the reins. I discovered J.Crew about five or six years ago whilst on a trip to LA to visit a friend and have been a fan ever since. It's a brand you can wear for every occasion - office, evening, party, wedding - and there is something for everyone. I popped along to their presentation last Thursday to check out the new SS/2015 collection that will be launching in Paris in March. Yes, we are getting a shop in le Marais. I am très excited. 

I don't do a lot of fuss when it comes to clothes, opting for a palette of mainly black, navy, grey and white, but as I walked around the beautiful Parisian apartment with the lovely Carin (always good to have a partner in crime at these events), with a view of the Arch de Triomphe, I was picturing myself wearing almost every (colourful) look. Well, truth be told Carin was picturing me in various outfits: 'oh, I can so see you in this outfit come spring.' Am I that predictable? Clearly being 'normcore', as it's been dubbed in the fashion industry, has its disadvantages. I obviously need to shake things up a bit and up the ante in my wardrobe - luckily J.Crew has some lovely colourful and embellished pieces that would fit right into my various shades of grey and do the job of making what I currently wear a little more interesting. 

First Impressions

Monday, 10 November 2014

When I moved to Paris, I was admittedly desperate to live in a traditional Parisian building, complete with wooden floors and original character features. Nearly two years later and my dream has come true. We fought for a good week for this flat (which included bugging the estate agent on a daily basis), but it was worth the stress. One of my main criteria for finding a new apartment in Paris was light, not something that is easy to find living in Paris. This apartment has oodles of it. The light streams in through the three large windows in salon and there's not one, but two floor to ceiling windows in the bedroom. We had to sacrifice a few things - we live above a busy boulevard, so often hear sirens roaring by, but luckily there's double glazing that drowns out a lot of the noise. It's also a little rough around the edges with a dated bathroom and kitchen, but the marble fireplace, cornices, parquet flooring and of course the view more than make up for it. And best of all it's almost unfurnished - not so easy now (we only have two chairs and a bed), but it means we can put our personal stamp on it. The sofa will arrive in three weeks and we'll be adding to it over the coming weeks, so expect many more posts! But here are a few first impressions. 

An Italian Affair

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

After a warm bout over the weekend, the weather in Paris has suddenly turned colder. (Luckily I bought these, much to the amusement of the boy). Winter is certainly coming, which has had me reminiscing about our summer holiday that feels like an age away. So rather belatedly, here's another post from my travels. 

Now I'm no wedding photographer, I leave that up to experts like my dear friend Katie (if you need a great wedding photographer, she's your woman), but I couldn't help but document this beautiful Italian wedding in Abruzzo of our friends Catherine and Georgio. It was everything you might imagine an Italian wedding to be and more. 

The ceremony took place in a charming medieval church in a little village in the hills, with the most incredible stone flooring and crumbling wall paintings. Catherine wore a beautiful Grecian style, draped, but very modern one-shouldered dress, paired with bronze gold sandals and just a simple bouquet of baby's breath - the epitome of elegance. 

For the reception we drove through the winding roads to Georgio's sister Giulia's house, Casale Centurione - a guest house and restaurant, where Giulia also runs cookery courses - located on a hill in the countryside, surrounded by vines and olive trees. It's set amongst the most beautiful scenery - truly an Italian dream. And at the edge of the property you can look down into the valley below and catch incredible sun sets. Visiting places like this, reminds me that there's a big wide world outside of city living. I think I'll always be an urbanite, but it does make me think how amazing it would be to live in a house in the countryside, Mimi Thorisson style. The food was unsurprisingly amazing. Just look at that buffet spread! Have you ever seen anything so delicious? And that was just the warm-up (which muggins here didn't realise so stuffed her face, leaving less room for the mains.) Post buffet, came pasta, lots of it. I lost count after the third dish.. then there was focaccia, hog roast, beef, cold meats, cheese, fresh figs, oh and of course the obligatory wedding cake. I think I must have put on 3 kilos in one evening. And felt happier for it. 

Seeing things clearly

Friday, 31 October 2014

I was one of those geeky kids with the glasses. I became a little four eyes aged 5, with a pair of My Little Pony glasses. Remember those? I had all four colours. Aged six I had to wear a patch over my right eye because it was lazy. Not a look that endears you to other kids. As I got older I hated wearing glasses and throughout my teenage years, I would only wear them during class for lectures, so I could see the whiteboard. During breaks I would walk around half blind, totally oblivious if someone was trying to make eye contact with me or trying to catch my attention. Walking down the high street on the weekend was an obstacle course. University was the same. I'm quite sure I missed a few winks and sneaky looks from fellow male students (I wish), because I just couldn't see them. As soon as class was over off came the glasses, which made walking around campus a little tricky, if not dangerous.

Thank goodness for contact lenses. In my last year of university I finally got my first pair. I remember looking in the mirror, whilst standing in the lift on the way up to my room in the university halls, mesmerised at how big my eyes were. I'd never seen them in focus except behind a pair of frames. It took me six months to get used to putting them in and taking them out (they still make me cry today). But I was determined to look 'cool' and 'normal' - I used to wear my contacts 7 days a week for a minimum of 14 hours a day. Sometimes I even slept in them and in the morning when I woke up, they'd literally be stuck to my eyeballs. (I can envisage opticians shaking their heads as I write this). But as I've gotten older, I've started wearing glasses again, it might have something to do with a little thing called fashion. Glasses are trendy, and people look cool in them. Geek is good. So when I was looking around for a pair of new specs that I'd happily be seen walking down the street in, Oscar Wylee caught my eye, not just for their vintage-inspired designs, but also because when you buy a pair of glasses, they give a pair to someone in need. I love a good deed. And they don't take long to arrive. I chose the Stafford style in Ivory Tortoise as I wanted a bold frame that would stand out and match my usual monochrome look, sent off my prescription they made them for me in their factory, and I received them in just a few weeks. Fuss free, et voila. 

I hope you enjoy the little story that was shot in the Used Book Cafe at Merci, with the help of my friend and talented photographer, Carin. I wanted somewhere a little darker and moodier, and well bookish. Sadly I don't have much time to sit around drinking coffee, eating scones, reading books and staring out of the window contemplating life, but if I did this is where I'd do it, and with a good friend like Carin. I'd love to know what you think.

Photos by Carin Olsson, edited by me. 
Jumper from & Other Stories, lipstick 'All Fired Up' by Mac.

Margaret Howell

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

I just came back from another weekend in London to celebrate a friend's engagement party - so thought it apt to post a few photos of Margaret Howell's beautiful central London store that I took last time I was in the Big Smoke. I have a bit of a penchant for clean, modern clothing that supports a palette of grey, navy, white, black, and I particularly like wearing structured lines with minimal fuss that can be spiced up with a slick of bright lipstick. (And let's be honest, I neither have the inclination or time to spend faffing around trying to figure out what to wear in the mornings, so opt for a personal uniform of sorts). So I wandered off Wigmore Street and into the eponymous Margaret Howell shop to peruse a spectrum of greys, neutrals, browns and army greens, peppered with the odd pop of colour, checks and tartan. It's a lovely space flooded with light that streams in from the glass ceiling to showcase the collections, as well as the vintage furniture and homewares. It's more concept store, than clothes shop, creating a lifestyle rather than just offering apparel for the average clotheshorse. And boy, could I have happily bought everything in there. Or moved in. Luckily I had a meeting, otherwise I would have camped out for the rest of the day, in that grey armchair, asking the sales staff to bring me cups of tea in those pretty ceramics. 

Stylish Living: Stéphanie from White Bird

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

WHITE bIRD is tucked just behind Rue de Rivoli, only a few minutes from the Jardin de Tuileries in the 1st arrondissement, in an ideal location for locals, as well as tourists wandering just off the tourist track. I headed over there on a particularly warm September day to photograph and chat to the owner, Stéphanie - purveyor of fine, pretty jewels - in collaboration with my good friend Kate who runs the London-based jewellery blog The Cut London. If you're ever looking for an engagement ring, she's your girl!

Stéphanie opened WHITE bIRD a few years ago after the plug was pulled on an exciting project to launch a fine jewellery collection at Chloe because of the economic crisis. After putting a year of hard work into the project, only to see it cancelled, Stéphanie decided the timing was right to go solo - and it was the push she needed to set up on her own. 

She always wanted to work with luxury products and has spent most of her working life in jewellery or watches, starting at Cartier: "I had no special jewellery training. I just did some business studies, but I knew one thing when I was young - I lived with my parents in Bordeaux and I knew that I wanted to live in Paris. I also knew that I wanted to work with fashion or in the luxury industry." She later worked for Chaumet, and it was during her time there, whilst travelling to the US that she started exploring other jewellery designers. "I went to Barney’s when they'd just opened their little department of fine jewellery. It was just a tiny room in the beginning and they only had one or two brands. But every year it’s grown and grown, and it’s now a huge floor where they have a fantastic range of designers. One of the designers was Cathy Waterman and I loved her designs. So I started to think about what I wanted to do for myself. I didn’t want to work for brands anymore, so I decided that in France, there was a real need for a space to showcase new designers." So she opened WHITE bIRD, which is very different to most high end jewellery shops - she wanted to create a space that was cool and cosy, a place where kids could come, and where husbands could happily sit on a couch answering emails while their wives perused the designs. She's done just that - it's warm, welcoming, cosy and beautifully designed to show off the pretty jewels, without being too stiff or strict; it doesn't have the stuffy air of a place like Cartier, where you feel afraid to go in.

Scroll down to read the rest of the interview! 

Earliest fashion or jewellery moment? 
The first collection I directed at Dinh Van with a freelance designer. Jewellery is a small piece of art that involves a lot of emotion from the designer to the wearer. It’s on your skin. It’s like perfume, it’s very sensual and personal.

Describe a typical working day… 
When I’m in Paris, I take my youngest daughter to school, sometimes have a coffee with other parents, walk to the office which is half in the shop, half in a small office nearby and work non stop until 7pm, usually without lunch. I often meet and chat with some customers of the shop, which are delicious breaks 

What do you do to relax? 
Read and garden at our seaside house.

What piece of advice would you give someone who wants to launch their own jewellery brand or boutique? 
Have faith in what your doing, don’t let people discourage you and when there are tough days always think: "tomorrow will be a better day".

Who are your clients? 
People that come here are looking for something more personal – they are investing more of themselves into the piece, rather than buying it because it’s a particular brand.

What was the inspiration behind the boutique’s interior style? 
I wanted natural and rough materials to contrast with the jewellery, which is precious and delicate. I wanted people to feel relaxed, finding a cool sofa was key and authentic 50’s furniture to make it a bit like a home.

Where did you source the furniture? 
Vintage markets and online

Interior styles that have inspired you?  
English homes, the Isabel Marant shop in Le Marais, Astier de Villatte, APC in Soho New York, the decorator Ilse Crawford.

How would you describe your personal style? 

Last good book you read? 
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – it's quite dark, but I love historical books – this one takes place in Iceland in the 19th century.

What’s in your magazine pile at home? 
ELLE and the rest is online.

Evening drink of choice?  
Champagne and Chablis white wine.

Bedside table essentials?  
My Aesop hand cream and my book

Favourite Paris places for coffee, clothes shopping, dinner? 
Le Telegraphe coffee shop, Toraya for lunch, Septime restaurant, Acne, Pierre Hardy, Journal Standard (Palais Royal) and Stouls for leather clothes.

Words and photography by Marissa Cox. 

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