Jun 272012
 

As the famous line from The Devil Wears Prada goes, “Gird your loins!” The French government authorizes only two sales per year. No, I’m not kidding. Today was the first day (except for store cardholders who got to first pick over the past week). It can be an absolute madhouse. If one is serious about these sales, one is waiting at the door at 8 am. This year, I was not one of those people.

By the time I arrived mid-afternoon, the aisles were packed with shoppers. By the way, why are some rolling suitcases behind them? Does any one know? Are they buying so much? Some of the major couture houses had lines outside the door. Guess which line I was in?

As I expected, only very trendy/seasonal items had been marked down and the selection had been whittled down to the unappealing by the time I arrived. Even a discount isn’t really a discount if you’ll never, ever wear it. On a happier note, I did find some patent red Lanvin flats for 30% off at another store.

 Now to figure out how to get that gorgeous box home in my already-overstuffed suitcase. The sales will run until July 31st, consisting almost entirely of the spring and summer items. In the meantime, the stock shrinks, the discounts get deeper, and lines start to put out their Fall 2012 merchandise to tempt you into paying full price for the newly-released items.

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Jun 262012
 

So many people visit Paris and look at the breathtaking architecture. Most of these buildings are in everyday use in the city. For example, the Palais Garnier (above) is an incredible building that actively houses ballet, opera and concerts throughout many months of the year.

One of the very best ways to see these theaters is while attending a live event. As a major cultural center, Paris presents some of the most incredible performances in the world.

It’s best to order your tickets online before your trip, because performances sell out. The other day, I went to the theater with a glowing complexion thanks to Edward Bess South of France Quad Royale. To compliment its pink tones, I also used Nars Gaiety blush, Chanel Variation Quad Eyeshadow, and Burberry Hibiscus Lip Glow Gloss. I loved the effect. Bravo!!

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Jun 262012
 

On the Cafe Makeup menu today, this mille-feuille pastry (also called a Napoleon). This, made of an unbelievably flaky and light pastry, includes a touch of custard and cream. This one is from Lenôtre, which consistently presents picture-perfect, stunning creations that only the human hand can create. With something so beautiful, who needs to actually taste it?

If you enjoy learning more about excellent French pastry, you might enjoy a documentary called The Kings of Pastry (trailer is here). It’s a charming little film.

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May 182011
 

While shopping in Paris, Colette included a sample of a Byredo fragrance in one of my bags (judge me, I went to Colette more than once).

When I tried the scent, I was knocked off my feet.  There was a gorgeous complexity to the perfume that left me both satisfied and wanting more.  These are edgy, incredible artworks of scent.  Well worth exploring.  I emailed Byredo (they are located in Sweden), to sample a few of their scents for review here.

Typically, their scents range from $135-200, depending on the size of the bottle.  The Byredo website features lines of candles and body care as well (which I have not tried). Here is my take on the fragrances that I tried:

  • Oud Immortel Eau de Parfum is a deep, spicy sweet incense fragrance.  There is a beautifully exotic warmth to this scent.  There is a very soft lemon high note, mixed with patchouli.  The smoke includes a hint of tobacco.  There is also something very amber and woodsy about this scent.  Just gorgeous.  Although I’ve heard that some Oud fragrances can be bitter or moldy, Byredo’s Oud Immortel is rich and deeply sweet.  Later in the day, the ambery spice notes predominated in this really gorgeous way.  This is extremely long-lasting–I could still smell slight traces after showering the next day.

  • Rose Noir is listed as a men’s fragrance on Barney’s website.  Please, we all know that no one cares about gender.  This is a very heady scent and extremely sensual.  The rose is very full and tempered with a pleasant, deep musk.  On my skin, the grapefruit and freesia are very delicate and barely perceptible, adding just a touch of topnote complexity.  Rose Noir is said to have a touch of moss, which is somewhat buried.  I would describe it as a dark honeyed rose–it’s grown-up sort of sweet, with depth and age.  This is a incredible Fall or Winter fragrance.  Or a hot August night.

  • M/Mink was a developed as a collaboration with two Parisian graphic designers and art directors, Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak. This scent was inspired by various objects that these collaborators gave to Byredo, including a block of solid ink, a photograph showing a Japanese master practising his daily calligraphy, and a large utopian formula.  True to these sources, the scent does start with a strong smell of ink and very peppery incense.  The clover honey base is tinged with patchouli and amber.  Despite my disinclination to classify scents by gender, M/Mink does smell distinctly masculine.  I’d love it on a man, but it is too edgy for me.  One of the inspirations for M/Mink:

 

Bottom line:  There’s an intelligent and emotional magic in this line; the complexity and quality are gorgeous.   Well worth exploring.

Byredo is available for sale on their website and at Barneys.  If you are interested in trying these without a large investment, I noticed that The Perfumed Court has samples of some Byredo fragrances.

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May 182011
 

I’m working my way through Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange ($18 on Amazon.com/paperback).  It’s the closest that I can get to Paris without stepping on a plane.  If you love French style, buy it immediately.

Parisian Chic was written with Ines de la Fessange, a French model and designer.  She has come a long way since the time that she modeled for Chanel during the 1980′s, and her beauty has endured.

Another of Ines as a Chanel model:

Last year, she made an appearance in the Chanel Couture show for Spring/Summer ’11 (ending her 20 year feud with Karl Lagerfeld):

Parisian Chic is full of the simple, yet somehow complicated, secrets of French beauty and style.  The fashion advice is practical and elegant, suggesting touches to any woman’s wardrobe to make it both more classic, edgy and more interesting.

There are sections on food, decor, sights to see in Paris, and even a compilation of boutique hotels to try on an upcoming trip the city of light.  It is delightfully illustrated, clearly written and gorgeously authentic (it is written by a Parisian style icon, after all).

I very much enjoyed the relaxed style of the writing–Ines is as careful to tell you what not to worry about, as she is about what matters.  It’s an engaging read.  I loved how her advice helps me understand how to look feminine without looking like a “good girl.”  Because, let’s face it, when has following the rules ever gotten anyone anywhere?

There is a slim chapter on beauty, featuring some of our favorite lines.

If you are interested in what women in Paris are wearing and doing right now, you’ll love Parisian Chic. At less than $20, it’s far less expensive than plane fare and a wonderful way to pass a few lovely hours learning about French beauty and style.

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