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#SPARKYxPARIS
How to be a
Parisian
when you quite like the look of your face under a good, strong, elaborate layer of makeup…

I’ve googled it, I possibly even own an illustrated book or two about it*, and if my google search history is any indication I may even have a phD on it the same way my husband is an expert on all things Dungeons and Dragons. HOW DOES ONE BECOME A PARISIAN? The answer is not so apparent, apparently, even when you’re in the thick of it – slurping down a café allongé with a Coach leather coat caped over your shoulders in the middle of Rue Montorgueil, while the cute waiter periodically pops his head out the door and asks Avez-vous terminee? No, mon cher, it’s not terminal – although given that I am on Page 3 of the search results in pursuit of a self-applicable answer it may as well be. I am done with my coffee though; may I have a glass of rosé?

What does being a Parisian even mean? See, if you have a council tax bill under your name from the London Borough of Anywhere, and accepted the local Turkish joint to be at least one of of your weekly meals, then one can generously consider oneself a Londoner – regardless of duration of residence. There is no gait, no 5-piece wardrobe that would allow you to single out a Londoner from a throng. That odd (borderline creepy) obsession to a pub perhaps can be used for an inkling, but then we invite anyone north of Birmingham to this equation.

*this is what happens when you say yes to one too many goody-bags

This is the Airbnb you need to stay at in Paris

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top: suit PAUL & JOE pleated dress COACH SS16 boots SAM EDELMAN. bottom: coat and bag COACH SS16 trousers NEXT

You can however, pick out the Parisienne out of a crowd. The rule-book (illustrated in colour or not) says she is probably blonde, smoking, and most likely also not wearing a smidgen of makeup, but so far my attempts at following this has only led to being shunned from the high street and offered loose change. And that’s where it hits me: we are dealing with the number of f*cks here. Not the optimal heel height, rituals of lovers vs. boyfriends, nor the percentage of black/navy in the wardrobe. French women simply give less f*cks. Whereas English women, my goodness, KOREAN WOMEN are one (face-contour) beauty product too many f*cks to even contend (why do we care so much?). I’m stereotyping here, of course, but it’s an important lesson. Be Spiderman. Be you. Give less f*cks about what people think and layer that dress over the pant-suit. Do it with confidence, because that’s really what being a Parisian is about, n’est-ce pas?

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Paris
Dice
    Kayek

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who DICE KAYEK what HAUTE COUTURE FASHION WEEK PARIS when JANUARY 2016

I’m going to let you in on a secret: next time you draw up a bubble bath, take a box of walnut baklavas (from that Turkish café on the high street you’ve always been eyeing) in with you*. It’s a match made in heaven – just like Dice Kayek Haute Couture and that one January morning in Paris. Those that are familiar with the label might know the founders Ayşe and Ece Ege’s wild love/yearning for Istanbul: from the intricate grandeur of the city and the allure of old Constantinople, to delicate shapes taken from the Botany tulips that grow in the palace gardens, and the gentle swirls of silk in the markets.

This season a fairy tale is woven. Ece Ege is adamant in dreaming up a new world – expertly crafted with the Dice Kayek stamp of technical know-how for precision sculpting and the ever-defying of gravity in voluminous silhouettes. I came by the atelier on the eve of the show for a glimpse at before my fitting and had to stifle my surprise on how calm the mood was. Of course, a back-cover snippet all but tells the full story, but from what I caught it looked to be a page-turner.

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Smooth sailing, 15 hours before the show and not an ounce of panic.

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Morning of: wearing a ballooney top means more space for croissants in my bra.

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Top – Dice Kayek. Trousers – Filippa K. Heels – Sarah Flint. Bag – Chloe.

The day of the show was particularly frosty; I arrived just about fending off a migraine that had sprouted out of nowhere that very morning, but the collection came as a balm. Dark, and even Gothic in setting, the looks came floating out like foam. An Audrey Hepburn-French count cross-breed sauntered out, followed by a Little Red Riding Hood cake icing… the caped jackets and belled sleeves seemed almost ceremonial if not cinematic. Eye-makeup resembled something that a court jester might don. It all reminded me of that part in the childhood fable The Lion, the Witch, and the Lion where the White Witch offers a Turkish delight: that altogether curious, healing, warming sensation brought on by a new idea or encounter. And what better setting for a fairytale, if not Paris?

*The syrup has a tendency to seep out, at which point all you have to do is lick it off your hand before it hits the water.

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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.