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flaneur
Stroller, lounger, saunterer, or loafer; the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street.

“Flattery? Flannel…? Sorry, I don’t think I know this word”, I blubbered, pausing Pauline mid-sentence as she began to explain the inseparable nature of Hermès and the art of flânerie over one eggy breakfast at Berners Tavern. What a funny word. Turns out it’s one of those untranslatable foreign words that mean a multitude of things in English yet is so satisfyingly encompassing when you finally understand exactly what it is. A complex word, like love, or sort of like when girls say ‘fine’ to their boyfriends during a quarrel.

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I’d like to think that I’ve had my own versions of that word before learning of it. Maybe that time when I was 12 and obsessed with aimlessly rollerblading around the neighbourhood alone, imaginings different lives in the houses I passed by – that was called ‘mum I’m going out with friends’ (usually met by ‘what friends? you don’t have any friends’). In uni I befriended Ellen, a fellow flâneur – and it’d take one of us to simply cock a head towards a back street and that was code for ‘we’re not going home anytime soon’. We ambled, wandered and strolled the streets of London, unconsciously categorising quirks and novelties of the city as we happened on them.

Fast forward to now, in the city that birthed the very word – Paris. It was much the same but a different enjoyment, learning the art of being a flâneur with the true master in its art, Hermès. We, along with Susie Bubble, set out from Palais Royal and meandered through time-worn galleries and under ornate, covered passageways from the 18th century; from 1st Arrondissement to the 9th, losing all sense of time and rejoicing in the lack of an objective. Or at least until our stomachs started a to-do list and put itself at the very top, which we promptly ticked off at Caffe Stern, an engraving-shop-turned-Venetian-restaurant (by David Lanher and designed by Philippe Starck).

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While I do attest to the fact that digital ‘wandering’ so totally can be a thing, and unearthing a good cat video as rewarding as finding a peculiar object off the street, true flanerie is defined by disconnecting oneself from the usual pace, and occupying with time, child-like curiosity and a discerning eye – all-in-all a luxury to be earned, even saved-up for. These values define Hermès, and therefore a perfect fit for the theme of the year and annual exhibition*. As we joined up with the bustle of the real world at the end of Passage Verdeau, a rather special treat awaited… stay tuned for part 2!

*Hermès Wanderland exhibition; 9th April to 2nd May; Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London, SW3 4RY. Open 10am-6pm daily. Free entrance.

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Coat – Dagmar. Bag – Monsieur Gavriel. Trousers – Zara. Shoes – Acne ‘Jensen’

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Top, Skirt, Shoes & Clutch - Alice & Olivia. Watch - Larsson & Jennings. Bangle – ASOS.

Dear skirt that hangs south of my faux-abs and forgives all sorts of dinner crime… where have you been all my life? I mean really, every meal I’ve ever had – especially in Paris – has been a two-part act of 1) arriving in jittery enthusiasm with dance moves that impress no judge, and 2) waddling out belt unbuckled and unladylike, burping the alphabet in post-meal euphoria. Alas, a maxi skirt, as pictured, means unsightly leg dance concealed within the folds of silky meringue, and the entire table worth of food – minus the plates – safely tucked into the fabric puff under the waist belt, which to curious onlookers I insist is an Alice & Olivia design feature and NOT a food baby (it is). It’s genius, and useful also in making the evening a tad more interesting because guess how many people it takes to pack a semi-drunk woman in a creampuff/ballgown skirt into a taxi?

BTW, this was the stunning Paris flat I was staying with a couple of girlfriends (Team Apartment + Reem) over Paris Fashion Week, and now that I look back I wish I’d taken more photos. Too bad we were too convinced this was our upgraded life now and that we were never going to leave, and this also explains why I kept reaching out for my ballgown get-up… 

Thank you Reem for helping with the shots!

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Hermès Petit h atelier, Paris

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The ‘Ali Baba cave’, full of bits and bobs that were rejected, discontinued or defected.

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Even the tiniest of fault in a Hermès bag would be rejected and sent to Petit h for re-purposing

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Stools with re-purposed scarves and croc leather

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Silk-covered mobile

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Leather pleating detailing on a vase, which is now adapted at other ateliers at Hermès

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The store on Rue de Sèvres

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Studio-shot photos courtesy of Hermès

The little sister that wanders the garden to collect acorns and bright-coloured leaves, and sits at the foot of her mother’s sewing table and picks up scraps – buttons, fabrics, ribbons- to store them all in a special place… that’s Hermès Petit h for you. She makes dolls out of discarded socks and fills them with scrap yarn, carves out the pages of an old book to make a secret box… some of her knick-knacks even have names and stories. Championed by Pascale Mussard, great-great-great-granddaugher of the saddle-maker Thierry Hermès, Petit h was a solution to the materials that were discarded, discontinued, or refused by Grand H – Hermès, which, by policy, would normally be destroyed or burnt without exception, belt buckles to Birkins. Open in 2010, it has since been a treasure cove of flawed materials from all the ateliers, and a laboratory where these materials breathed new life as absolutely unique, one-off pieces. A team of six multi-disciplinary artisans act as treasure-hunters, most well seasoned in the Hermès tradition of impeccable craftsmanship but also a few younger apprentices that Mussard believes can instil fresher takes on design.

Speaking with Pascale Mussard in the Petit h atelier, it’s astonishing, because she is that ‘little sister’. Her face animates as she tells us about her love for collecting and takes us through her life story of growing up in post-war France, being frugal but also creative with the things you have. She recalls fondly how she and her mother would imagine up new recipes using leftovers, or make play costumes with leather scrounged from the ateliers. Even during her years at Hermès she had set aside rooms and rooms to collect paraphernalia: fabrics, leathers… which would eventually evolve into the official archive of Hermes. I’ve never met anyone as passionate, I think. Ultimately, her joy of saving, taking care, and re-inventing/up-cycling would give way for treasures via Petit h. It’s been over a year since I visited the Hermès Atelier Sacs and saw a Constance bag creep into my very grown-up wish-list, but I have a feeling Petit h will be a delight to my inner child for years to come.

Petit h is setting up camp in the Bond Street store starting 20th November through till the 7th December, and let’s just say, as far as Hermès pricing goes, this may be the ideal time to start your collection. The space is being designed in collaboration with Studio Toogood, which also lends a good excuse just to pop by for a good oogle.

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Sunglasses – Carrera by Jimmy Choo

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Sunglasses – Carrera by Jimmy Choo

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Cashmere boyfriend knit – Next. Boyfriend jeans – ASOS. Brogues – Zara. Bag – L.K Bennett. Cashmere scarf - Johnstons of Elgin (opposite British Museum). Watch – Sekonda (via ASOS). Bangles – ASOS (similar). Coral Ring – Michelle Oh. Nail Polish – YSL. Sunglasses – Carrera by Jimmy Choo.

Paris is my lover – everyone knows that – we make sweet love every now and then, and it’s beautiful. Sometimes it makes me cry like a little boy. But if I’m honest, I don’t think I’d be up for a long-term relationship. As you know, I did one week this time and sure, it was electrifying at the start – to be able to decorate my own Parisian flat with baguettes and… baguettes (!), but the magic wore off quickly. Near the end of it, it was just early nights with microwave meals, t-shirts + jeans, and bickering in the metro. In fact, I recall something similar happened last season too, which was when my eczema was at its worst, after days of working in the bitter cold I’d completely fallen out of charm with being in the city. I suppose it’s the gritty truth of having to work, and the stress attached to it, not to mention the language barrier – asking how to get to the ‘piscine’ sure never got me very far (further than the closest swimming pool, that is). Oh, but what would be a story of lovers without proper ending? On this trip, I moved out of my little flat in Oberkampf, into a great little hotel on the left bank, and spent the last two days with team Next and some of my favourite blogger girls* doing absolutely postcard Paris holiday things: like learning to make macarons, or going on a chocolate tour sampling goodies from Pierre Hermé and éclairs from Angelina. We visited the Eiffel on a hazy morning, and even having seen it nearly every day for the past week,

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it felt like meeting someone for the first time.

Aaaand I was smitten again. Paris my luvrr, hope to see you soon, short and sweet, next time.

*Carrie of Wishwishwish, Emily of Fashion Foie Gras, Reem of Five Five Fabulous, Kit of Style Slicker, Ella of Coco’s Tea Party; Many thanks to Next for such a great time!

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Sweater – Chanel AW13. Dress – Next. Booties – Next. Bag – Couronne. Rose-gold star necklace – MyFlashTrash. Watch – Sekonda. Sunglasses – c/o Carrera by Jimmy Choo. Thank you Carrie for helping with the outfit shots.

Guess who feels all grown up buying baguettes at the local boulangerie and eating them straight out the paper bag in her own Parisian flat? Me. Sometimes I alternate a chomp with a lick off a spoonful of French Nutella on one hand and feel like I’ve cooked a meal. Renting an apartment in Paris for one week sounded harmless at first – it’s a fraction of the costs of a hotel room, has a kitchen, and get this: my own room service rules. The Kit Kat in the fridge would be plentiful and would not cost €3,000 + my first-born on check-out. But three days in, I feel like I was getting just too comfortable; the internet was unbelievably fast for some reason and Carrefour supermarket would only sell dessert pots by sets of 6, so I was dutifully employing myself to chain-eat chocolate pudding while streaming Korea’s Next Top Model episodes, back-to-back. I’d make it to a PFW show at 10am in the morning, then come home and do this until it was time to go to the next 10am show. THIS particular set of photos were shot on the last day at the flat before a dinner with a few of my gal friends. Like coming out from a cave, I emerged in this feminine, first-date outfit. An attempt to join society again, I suppose. Even wore my new Carrera by Jimmy Choo sunglasses to protect my out-TV’d eyes, although I’d like to say it was a style choice because, well, aren’t they pretty cool, yo? Good thing I was packing and going home because otherwise I’d really have eaten €3,000 worth in pudding and perhaps even had my first born in there. How Parisienne-chic.