Sunday, 29 April 2012

In Da 'Hood

I live in a pretty decent neighbourhood.

I thank my lucky stars for this fact, each and every day.  If it were down to my own personal resources and credit rating, I'd be living in cardboard under a bridge.  But touch-wood-worthy good fortune - not to mention my fiancé - sees that my current living arrangement involves four solid walls, in a part of Paris that at worst can be described as a little dull.

Which it is.

The cafe culture of the Left Bank and the hip vibe of the Marais are literally and figuratively miles away.   On the other hand, so are the swarms of noisy tourists, littered disused lots and wild graffiti that blight many of Paris’ trendier quartiers.

It was therefore a shock to see that a graffiti artist has taken a shine to my neck of the woods, vandalising the stone surfaces of several local buildings with vicious abandon.  But, this isn't your ordinary tagger.  Instead of spray-painting their name in fat curly script or drawing mega Manga characters to illustrate post-apocalyptic plunder, my local delinquent seems to have opted for simple block capitals and some charcoal or crayon to make his or her point.

In English, no less:

I know what you're thinking.  There goes the neighbourhood.

Paris Style File Followers Take Note:
1. Happy people wrote this?  High people wrote that.
2. You're right.  It's probably two vandals.  Which is tantamount to a gang.  A gang of marauding anglophones. You bet I'm double-locking my door tonight.
3. I'm hoping that the police can identify these ruffians from the shoe treads and finger prints they left by the entrance of 158bis.
4. At least I won't need to trek to St. Germain for post-modern engagement anymore.  Which will save a lot in bus fares.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Speaking of Rings

Despite recent events, my mind hasn't succumb to the single track that blinds many brides-to-be to all but their Big Day.  Granted, this may be because there isn't a Big Day in our future just yet:  We're grown ups, with complicated families and no shotgun in sight, so we're quite happy to amble along in our new state of betrothal without worrying about ceremonies, witnesses and what canapés to serve.

That being said, I have become a little more attune to the rings around me.  Big rocks, infinity bands and classic settings all seem to have added sparkle these days.  But what's really caught my eye is the season's trend for enormous fashion rings - aggressive accessories that could be mistaken for knuckle-dusters and should not be allowed on flights.  Designed to shock, intimidate or actually impale, we're talking about big ass rings that pack a mean punch.

Which, come to think of it, makes them perfect to wear at sample sales.

Alexander McQueen | Skull Shark Tooth Ring @ Matches
Frank Montialoux | Dracula Ring @ Montaigne Market
Nak Armstrong |  Diamond Cocktail Ring @ Barneys
Sandra Dini | Red Coral Ring @ Barneys
Ileana Makri | Cone Ring @ Montaigne Market
Tom Binns | Class Stud Ring @ Selfridges
Pamela Love | Bronze Steak Ring @ Browns

Style File Followers Take Note:
1. To clarify, the mention of shotguns was a reference to shotgun weddings, and in no way related to complicated families.
2. The canapés at my bf's wedding last weekend were exquisite. If you fancy some fancy take-a-way in Paris, visit Dalloyau.
3. Seriously people.  Some of these rings are downright ugly.  You'd remove a wart from your finger.  Why wear one?
4. I'm pretty sure that the Nak Armstrong ring was an extra in Alien.
5. Next time you see me at a sample sale, you'd better drop the blazer I was eyeing.  Now.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Juicy (for) Couture

I'm juicing.

My yoga teacher has been talking about juicing for the past few months, so, the day after my bf's wedding (and open bar), I decided that a detox was in order and that juicing might do the trick.  I reckoned that replacing a few solid meals with liquid fruit & veg might also help shed some of the winter weight that stands between me and my summer wardrobe.

The first act of my new regime involved a fraught climb up a step-stool to retrieve my erstwhile retired juicer from the very back of a top shelf.  The morning's hangover made the task doubly dangerous, but spurred by pity for my long-suffering liver and a love of some too-tight dresses, I managed to succeed without injury.

Meet my juicer.

That's a Jack Lalanne Power Juicer, purchased on Amazon for about £40 five years ago - an 'entry level' juicer bought with a view to seeing how I took to the whole concept.  If juicing became a habit, I thought at the time, I'd eventually spring for a more advanced and expensive machine.  Until then, I would revel in the kitchness of owning a kitchen appliance named for a 1950's American fitness icon.

Meet Jack Lalanne.

I decided to set Jack to the task of extracting juicy goodness from some celery, cucumber and apple that I had in the fridge.

If mine was a more puerile sense of humour, the picture of my breakfast prep would have looked more like this:

Luckily, my humour is far too sophisticated for that.

I washed the lot and cored the apples and let Jack Lalanne do the rest.  (Purists say that you should peel everything, but in my opinion, life's too short, and any life-expectancy gains won by peeling will, in fact, be negated by the amount of time you'd spent peeling.)

My first juice of the day was a vitamin and mineral wonder; nutritious and delicious, to borrow a suitably retro marketing phrase.

For lunch I decided on something more substantial - a melange of carrot and beetroot.

Again, the result tasted great and was surprisingly filling.  I could feel the energising and cleansing benefits of juicing already.  I couldn't believe that Jack been relegated to the back of a cupboard all this time!

Then it all came back to me.

The mess.

While I was feeling virtuous and healthy, my kitchen was a scene from CSI Vegas.  Instead of leaping over tall buildings or solving improbable math functions, my juice-begotten gains were put to work scouring beetroot stains from surprising surfaces, wondering what Grissom and Willows would have made of the splatter.

Style File Followers Take Note:
1. I love champagne.  And red wine.  And a mean Manhattan.  This detox is gonna kill me.
2. Although I can't be bothered to peel, I do respect the principal that if juicing aids in the body's absorption of the essential nutrients in fruit and veg, it will also encourage our bodies to absorb more of the toxins (ie. pesticides) used in conventional farming.  So only buy a organic to juice.
3. To have had such a damned spot, Lady Macbeth must have been juicing.
4. The good thing about the clean up is that it burns calories.
5. Jack Lalanne passed away last year at the age of 96.  [Liquid] Food for thought.
6. Owning a George Foreman Grill is not the same thing.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Speaking of Weddings

My best friend is getting married this weekend.

She's been my bf in Paris ever since I got here, thanks to some stellar matchmaking by a mutual friend. Among other things, my bf and I clicked over a shared love of fashion and a propensity to giggle inappropriately during Japanese tea ceremonies (cue, projectile matcha). Despite, or perhaps because of the matcha incident, she asked me to be her witness at her civil wedding - an honour which I accepted with joy.   Accepting to help her find the perfect little white dress, not so much.

Despite the avalanche of white that’s recently swept across catwalks and shops, finding “the one” wasn't as easy as we thought.  Or should I say, it was easier than either of us imagined which is why it was so hard. Right at the beginning, we found "the one" but couldn't believe our luck.  So four months later we were still searching - and going snow-blind in the process - only to come back to the same understated, sophisticated LWD that had first caught our eye.

My bf's dress will be revealed at her City Hall ceremony this Saturday.  In the meantime, here’s a selection of other options for anyone else planning a chic, urban knot-tying this spring.

Azzedine Alaia @ Matches
L Wren Scott @ Matches
Alice by Temperly @ Net-a-Porter

Jil Sander
Roksanda Ilincic @ Stylebop

Osman @ Matches

Ralph Lauren @ Net-a-Porter
Notte by Marchesa @ Net-a-Porter

Style File Followers Take Note:
1. Snot is not the only green substance that can come out of one's nose.
2. I have been forbidden from drinking matcha tea, or any other coloured beverage, while anywhere near my bf on Saturday.
3. If you're in Paris and would like to experience a genuine Japanese tea ceremony visit Musée Guimet.
4. In case you didn't get it, LWD stands for Little White Dress, which is the LBD of Spring/Summer 2012.
5. Nuptials aren't necessary to wear any of these.  Just don't wear one to a wedding as a guest, or you might find yourself utterly friendless.  ("I can't believe the bitch wore white." "I can't believe the bride did either.")
6. Do you see how decided to merchandise their white dresses?  Do you know how many other online fashion retailers thought that presenting white dresses on white backgrounds would be a good idea too? My opthamologist says I should recover in a few weeks.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Gorgeous at Guerlain

I don't like make-up.

I don't like looking overly made up myself, and I don't like looking at ladies who haven't blended properly.  I find make-up mishaps distracting.  Like, if you can't hide a pimple, don't try.

When a new acquaintance invited me for a special make-over at Guerlain's glittering flagship on the Champs Elysée, I was grateful but hesitant.  Since moving to Paris - where a natural look is the norm - I had whittled the contents of my make-up bag down to a brow-brush, mascara and gloss.  Plus, throughout my career I'd worked with plenty of make-up artists, so felt I knew most of the tricks.  Apart from some welcome girl-time with my lovely new friend, what was I really going to gain?

Meet Olivier.

The Creative Director of Guerlain, Olivier Echaudemaison isn't just a make-up artist; he's the daddy of make-up artists.  The DADDY.   He's been on the scene since Twiggy was a young covergirl.  He's worked on such icons as Jackie Kennedy, Princess Caroline, Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn, and worked with such geniuses as Hubert de Givenchy and Diana Vreeland: and that was when he was just getting started.

Our session began with laughter - Olivier has a great sense of humour and the gift of the (thankfully, bilingual) gab. But things got serious when he asked me if I wear make-up.  No, I said. Why, he asked.  Because I don't want to look made-up, I said.  Because I love the way classy Parisian women are all natural, I said.

He turned to my new Parisian girlfriend - a bare-faced beauty - and rolled his eyes. It's an illusion! he exclaimed in a very French huff, pointing out that the nation's best selling cosmetic item wasn't lipstick or liner but foundation.


At which point Olivier grabbed a big brush and began coating my face with something called Lingerie de Peau - lingerie for the skin - which he'd matched to the shade of my throat.  This was followed by eye-shadows in different shades of beige and browns, lots of liner (top lid only), a really cool mascara that came with its own clever mirror, and a bit of bronzing powder in the beautiful mosaic palette that Guerlain is famous for.

After just 20 minutes I was completely made-up without being over done.  The look was polished and sophisticated without feeling heavy.  Even the dreaded foundation was feather-light and flawless.

In the hands of the master, the secret of Parisian beauty had finally been confirmed: French ladies never leave home without nice knickers.

Style File Followers Take Note:
1. Credit where credit is due: That pic of Olivier making-up the uber-gorgeous face of Guerlain, Natalia Vodianova, (I know, I know, you thought it was me) came from here.  The make-up can be found ici.
2. I'm still shocked that I now own a bottle of Lingerie de Peau foundation.  Even more shocked that I've used it.  (The day I stop being slightly amused by the name will be the biggest shock of all.)
3. Make-up junkies should grab a copy of of Olivier's autobiography Colors of my Life. It contains an easy-to-follow section about truly beautiful make-up.  (No silly rainbow eyeshadows in sight.)
4. Fashion junkies should grab a copy of it too.  Olivier drops so many big names, you'll need to wear steel-cap boots while reading it.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Love in The Loire

If you're a Pepita Style File follower (which naturally, you are) you'll have noticed that I've been posting less frequently than when this blog began.  That's because I've been busy behaving like an attentive new fiancée instead of squinting in front of my screen.

And I've been away.

The magical moments of last week's balcony scene were cut far too short when Monsieur announced his intention to whisk me away.  "But can't I finish my champagne?" "But you need to pack and the car's booked for quarter to eight." Car? Booked? Friggin' 7:45 on a Saturday morning? PACK? 

Packing takes time; being a princess requires planning.  I do little diagrams with mind-maps and calenders to work out outfits and options for such variables as inclement weather and bloating.  Being told to pack and go within hours - without even knowing the destination - came as more of a head-fry than Monsieur's other ask that night.

Having downed that last glass of champagne (as though I was going to let it go to waste) my head was in spin-cycle by the time I got to my closet.  All I can say is thank gawd most of my wardrobe is black.  Black sweaters, black jeans, black boots and a little black dress.  Who cares if I'd look more like a widow than someone newly engaged: If I was going to bring the wrong stuff, at least everything would match.

The car arrived and took us to Montparnasse where we boarded a train to Bordeaux.  "Bordeaux?" "No." "Oh." "I'm taking you to The Loire! To the valley of grand châteaux!  Because you are my Queen!"


And oh shit, I didn't pack a tiara.

Style File Followers Take Note:
1. How most bloggers juggle life and blogging, boggles my mind.
2. That's Chenonceau. It's an outrageously exquisite château at the far end of the Loire.  If you're looking for design inspiration for your kitchen, the downstairs scullery is sublime.
3. That's not a random stray in the background of that next photo.  That's Archie Lewoof, our border terrier, cunningly captured in this rather miraculous one-armed shot.  Monsieur is a man of many talents.
4. I did have one non-black item of clothing with me:  A black & white striped BCBG Max Azria sweater.  A veritable rainbow for me.
5. Monsieur pulled out all the stops and treated this princess to a helicopter ride up The Loire.  Yeah, I think "yes" was the right answer too.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Why is Tonight Like No Other Night?

Last Friday, my girlfriend put together a lovely Passover Seder, using a downloaded Hagada that did the deed with concision, skipping through plagues and bitter herbs faster than it takes matzo to rise. 

Despite the peppery pace, my Monsieur fidgeted through most of the meal.  By the time my girlfriend served her homemade chocolate macaroons (the best I've ever had) he was reaching for his coat and out the door.  I made red-faced excuses, grabbed another macaroon (they were really good) and chased Monsieur downstairs, where I found him already in the car, engine idling.

This scene, as you can imagine, could have easily degenerated into one serious mo-fo of an argument.  "How could you be so rude..." "They're my friends..." "It's Passover..." etc.  But it didn't.  I figured he was tired; I knew he hadn't slept the night before, apparently fretting over a 'work thing'.  So I let it slide.  I also let slide the left turn he took instead of the right that would have gotten us home.  Maybe he needed to drop by the office? Who knew.  I kept my mouth shut and enjoyed the lights of Paris by night.  Nearly 2 years of living here hasn't yet dulled their dazzle in my eyes.

On the other hand, the evening's kosher wine must have dulled my brain, because I barely registered pulling up to The Crillon just before midnight.  Walking past the doorman and being ushered up the candlelit marble stairs didn't strike me at all as odd.  When Monsieur said 'The candles are for you.' I shrugged him off with a 'Yeah, yeah.' and imagined the grand event that must be taking place in a reception room above.

But the reception room - The Marie Antoinette Suite - was empty except for us; the curtains drawn back, inviting us on to the balcony that overlooks Place de la Concorde:

We got to the rail just as the Eiffel Tower started its hourly twinkle, a sight that never ceases to delight.  When I turned to share this magical moment with Monsieur - he was gone!  At least, he wasn't where I was expecting him to be.  Instead of towering above me (he's 6'4'') I found him kneeling next to me, carefully reciting the following words:

"Will you spend the rest of your life with me?"

Oh. My. G...

The words were followed by a little box, bearing the brand Buccellati.  

OH. MY. G...

Precious moments are unfortunately just that: moments.  Our time in The Marie Antoinette Suite went far too quickly, and these blurred images, captured by blackberry, can never do those precious moments justice. (Not that I'm about to lose my head over it.)

Style File Followers Take Note:
1. A Hagada is a special book that recounts the story of Passover with prayer and song.  Most Hagadas take several hours to complete.  It took us just an hour and a half to zip through my girlfriend's internet find. Mazel tov.
2. My girlfriend's chocolate macaroons were amazing.  I'll ask her to post the recipe.
3. Never, ever leave the house without your nails done.
4. Bucce-what?  Buccellati. Goes great with gefilte fish.
5. I said yes.

Friday, 6 April 2012

An Arctic Style Survival Guide - Part III

Size matters.  Not least when it comes to Arctic style.

Between my enormous space boots, humongous parka and those Santa/ukulele snowpants, it seemed that bigger is better when dressing for the far North.  This was an inconvenient truth:  Chucking streamlined for steam-liner was not something my style sensibilities could easily accept.  Moreover, if bigger was better for staying warm, why couldn't it also look cool?

Then I met Johan.

Johan owns The Guesthouse at Kangos, Sweden, along with his blonde wife Eva, and another couple, Peter and the brunette Maria.  (Think Abba, before they got bitter.)  Together, they've created a place from which polar adventurers and the not-so-adventurous can enjoy the Arctic's magic in comfort and style.

The Guesthouse is brimming with Swedish antiques and modern Scandinavian pieces. The old-fashioned sauna is a marvel and the outdoor jacuzzi is a fabulously indulgent place from which to be gob-smacked by the Aurora Borealis above.

But it was Johan's personal style that struck me the most.  The day we met him, he was wearing a rugged nordic sweater with patchwork sealskin trousers.  Compared to all the oversized Goretex I'd seen since crossing the Arctic circle, his look was relaxed, authentic and seemed pretty damn warm.   The next day he wore a belted leather ensemble.  I had, at long last, found true Arctic style.

Which is more than this Jewish Princess can say about the other royals that were visiting Lapland that week.

Style File Followers Take Note:
1. Size really does matter.  Anyone who says it doesn't is just trying to make you feel better.
2. If you missed the reference to the Santa/ukulele snowpants, read this.
3. You can't imagine how much I wanted to describe the two Swedish couples who own The Guesthouse as a super troop.  In fact, I found it impossible not to.
4. Details about The Guesthouse can be found here.
5. This concludes my Arctic Style series.
6. Before I go, I've gotta show you this:

7. Lapland is way cool.