Saturday, December 19, 2009
Italian designer Alberta Ferretti told Elle UK (Jan 2010) : 'A bag only needs to be big enough to carry your lipstick.' (I assume she means an evening bag but then there is speculation that the Queen has nothing in her purse!)
A woman who carries evening bags that hold nothing can mean any of the following:
1) I am so organized and/or wealthy and/or have such a huge and/or efficient staff that I don't need to bring anything. This is a result of the premise that the more powerful or wealthy the woman, the smaller her purse. Have you ever seen First Ladies carrying the Fendi Spy bag? Like my husband likes to say, 'If you are REALLY important or the issue is THAT important, people will know where and how to reach you.'
2) I can compartamentilize my life so well that I don't need to bring the blackberry. Either that or I have a PA trailing me who HAS my blackberry. See point (1) There is also a servant /driver with a garage clicker who opens my front door/Pentagon-level security gates. See point (1).
3) It's a European thing. Not bringing anything is a chance for flirtation. The chance to bum a cigarette off that cute guy (who turns out to be gay), the chance to ask for a pen and paper (you will only get it from a waiter) and the freedom of not bringing keys either because you are bent on going home with someone (such as your husband who HAS the keys and the bank account--this usually does not end in fliration but argument or worse, divorce).
This reminds me of my masseuse here who refuses to get snow tires or a 4x4 and often gets stuck in the snow. One time I asked her why she didn't just get even a cheap Fiat Panda 4x4 and she replied, 'I can always ask a man to help me.'
Take note feminists, not triple A but a MAN! (My husband always helps her so after his relaxing massage, he gets to flex his muscles. Then he gets angry that she doesn't have a 4x4)
Who woulda thunk?
But then I wonder, just to stay warm waiting for 'a man' to help her (like if my husband wasn't around) would lead her to AA.
This damsel in distress attitude may really work because once she was stuck with moi and no homme and get this---suddenly, a tractor show up driven by 'a man' who pulls her up my driveway!!
(The Secret in action!)
Meanwhile when I have to catch a flight, can't put the chains on and get stuck in a ditch , am snowed in without a shovel and....well, you know what happens.
Friday, December 18, 2009
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE and I apologize for not having visuals for this entry (not that they were ever any good...) because (are we surprised?) I don't know how to work my computer at home. But I can work the toaster and the lights.
KG: Exactly how good looking is he?
Friend: He is so good loking I can't play tennis with him because people might talk.
(Wow! Must he has to be cuter than Bradley Cooper!)
I thought of Chic and Death as a year ender because:
a) the demographic of Megeve is on the Alzheimer map which means that the population falls between chic and death. Geneva's is between 90 and death. No wonder assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland.
b) I just bought my husband a Hero Go Pro camera which you can stick onto any surface (including a ski helmet, which he plans to do) and record footage.
c) Then I thought: Last year, at about this time, Natasha Richardson (or whoever is the wife of Liam Neeson and the Natasha who is NOT on Californication--Im too lazy to google) died in a ski accident and she supposedlty wasn't wearing a helmet. I had a similar accident last year but obviously, and unfortunately for my enemies, I did not die.
(Plus upon advice of my husband, I did everything I WAS NOT supposed to do such as get up right away and not go to the hospital. Why ruin a ski holiday if you can get up, ski and entertain a chalet-full of guests? Maybe because you could die? )
Many people have told me to wear a helmet. Okay--maybe in America where ski clothes are unchic and they have unchic laws like having to wear helmets and speed police in Aspen---I would wear one.
But God forbid in France!! Mon Dieu!
People here ski in jeans or corduroy with cashmere sweaters 'casually' slung on their shoulders. Very Euro.
I am thinking of whether I should be seen skiing with my husband, l'etranger et le anglais who WILL be wearing a helmet, onto which he will attach his new toy! But he knows how to read the map and I don't, you see, so I need him.
The last thing I want is to be found as a cryogenic experiment on the piste the following morning like Michael Jackson and Bubbles. Except as we know, Michael Jackson had tons of other experiments done on himself.
This choosing between chic and death also reminds me of something one of my editors, a cancer survivor told me. She said one of the best things about cancer was that she lost so much weight that she was able to buy a whole new wardrobe out of necessity and was finally able to fit into sample sizes.
What can I say? The fashionable life is all about being able to shop the press sales!!
Speaking of the fashionable life, I highly recommend 'The Towering World of Jimmy Choo: A Glamorous story of power, profits and the pursuit of the perfect shoe.' I'm not a Jimmy Choo fan. In fact, I hate their shoes but I admire their business model and Tamara Mellon (even if you know she injects excess patent coating into her skin).
I can't bring myself to fork over 1000 USD for a pair of shoes only to see every secretary and her boss in HK wearing it. That also goes for Louboutin. But if there were only a few such as Verdura's pine cone where there is a limited edition of ONE....Then I'll have to sell my house.
The title says it all but for those of you who always want to see both sides of the story, this is it. Objectively written, well-researched yet reads like Dynasty. Am I dating myself? I don't watch Gossip Girl because I also can't work the DVD.
Oh well, there is always the calculator which I soon will have to use to find out how much I really spent this month!!
Friday, November 6, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
It's still real life but nothing any news on Victoria Beckham and her latest dresses come close to. (Now HER---Victoria Beckham---have have to admit, I read about!)
And these speak volumes on why I was quiet over the summer.........
Isabella de Medici--Catherine de Medici's distant niece--on the surface led a glorious and independent existence (for her time) in Rennaissance Florence. Until her brother wanted her dead with the help of husband. Can the Menendez brothers beat that? They only killed their parents.
A family of relentless social vaulters since they were the new rich of their day, Isabella's dad wanted to marry Mary Tudor and her brother (the one who killed her) wanted to marry Elizabeth I.
(On top of that, like Catherine de Medici and Empress Marie Therese before her, she managed very good political and financial matches for her children and grandchildren. Take that, Mrs Bennett and other social astronauts!)
Ah The Bolter!!! (As in she bolts from responsibility) Idina Sackville-West. Supposedly the shame of her family only for a great granddaughter (I think) Frances Osborne (Mrs George Osborne and for decorators out there, she married into the Osborne of Osborne and Little family) to be totally enamoured with her life like you will. Think the glamour and humor of Jeeves and Wooster but REALLY up to NO GOOD!
Now these TWO--one hardly ever travels out of the UK (but they have lots of homes) and the other is in a different country almost every week. Great rapport between two people who are not married (that's probably why they had great rapport) and didn't have an affair (really??). Deborah Duchess of Devonshire is aka the grandmother of super model Stella Tennant (who originally wanted to be a coroner).
NOW THIS! For all those impressed with Harvard and what it stands for. Unfortunately in my house, that was no one. Not even the dogs. But it's a great read, (McDonell is a great writer and storyteller but like Imelda Marcos, after you read the book you're like, "What?") will make a good film with Bradley Cooper and I want to read Twelve, his earlier work on Upper East Side life. If it's anything like this in tone, it would probably be a VERY dark version of Gossip Girl.
IN MY BATHROOM:
Not for the politically correct or bleeding heart liberal. But great to read amidst scented bubbles.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Fashion, like life, has a way of getting back at you.
I have wanted an Alaia dress for a very long time(specifically the one worn by Mrs Sarkozy to one of the EU summits last year). But fate has been cruel.
a) I was too fat
b) They didn't have my size
c) Nothing I tried looked good. See point a).
BUT THEN!!! Two weeks ago at Maria Luisa in Lee Gardens Hong Kong, I saw an Alaia calling my name. Of course I didn't buy it right away. Like with buying anything or encountering anything that just screams "This is it" there is a tendency for one to say, 'Naaah!!"
I went back the next day and it fit perfectly. Or so I thought.
When I came out of the dressing room thinking I had on perfection but with a few bits and blubbs surfacing because of the wrong underwear....(yes, and just MAYBE FAT!)
Carmen, my regular salesgirl breezily said, "I assume you'll be wearing a corset under that."
That bad, huh?
The last time this happened was at Lanvin in Taiwan where they salesgirl told me I needed to wear a girdle!! (When I complained to the owner, Wang Shaw Lan, she raised an eyebrow and said, "Maybe you should!")
I had to listen to Carmen because she had the foresight to put me into Haider Ackerman (on sale) three years ago when you couldn't give his stuff away because no one knew him! This is the same Carmen who told me to choose a dramatic Rue du Mail top over a Givenchy one because it was cooler.
Anyway, I'm not wearing a corset or girdle with it. Just seamless underwear.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Today's quote: "That is a very '80s question." -A friend's comment when I asked the Estee Lauder make-up artist if blush should go in a slanted line on the cheekbones instead of blended outward from the apples of the cheeks.
Probably because I work in the fashion industry, I didn't find RJ Cutler's The September Issue, particulary spectacular or informative.
(Why wasn't Anna Wintour's maid in a uniform?)
But because I watched it on DVD with my husband who has absolutely no clue about the business, that experience was in itself worth a blog entry. He with the big fashion career opinion that "if fashion is so hard, why do Patsy and Edina have such an easy life?" Perhaps he can also explain to me why Ari Gold has such a huge office and only one client in Vince Chase or why Lloyd worked for him for so long.
On the first scene where the camera pans the cosmetics and clothing press racks:
"WOW---I didn't think I would see anything WORSE than YOUR CLOSET!!!"
On the scenes at the beginning where they are discussing a 'color-block' story:
"Since when does Vogue actually do stories? I never saw any stories to read in there!!"
Me: "A 'story' is when they decide on a theme like color-block or work a fashion shoot around something like a jacket or a historical period."
Husband: Then what happens?
Me: You choose clothes, book the models and photographers then take the pictures.
Husband: So a story is just photos?? No wonder people don't read anymore.
On the idea of going to Paris for the couture
"I don't understand this timeline. Why are they in Paris all of a sudden?"
Me: They're going to the couture.
Husband: They have to go all the way there?? What kind of expenses do they run up?
(You really don't want this guy in charge of budgets)
Me: The couture is only in Paris.
Husband: No kidding. Every shop in the IFC mall says it's couture.
THEN he SEES the COUTURE
"THAT'S COUTURE?? They went to Paris to see those circus costumes? Who wears those?"
Me: The Chinese probably to the opening of a new property and the Arabs under burquas. They start at 50,000 euros.
Husband: I guess if you already have a Maybach and a Rolls.....
On Andre Leon Talley:
"How can you play tennis with all those designer logos? The towel takes up his whole body! Wait...his strokes are quite good!"
(Designer logos: The reason I can't wear Chanel on the slopes. But I can wear Moncler!)
On Grace Coddington:
"How can you be a fashion editor looking like THAT? Do you have to look like a witch to be a fashion editor??"
Me: No-- but you have to have the personality of a witch.
"Why is she dressed in a sack and sandals? Is that fashion?"
Me: Sometimes if you are surrounded by beautiful and colourful things, you get image overload and the best thing to wear is black.
"Why is her hair like that?"
me: "Her husband is a French hairdresser."
husband: "As in professional wrestler?"
me: "NO!!! HAIRDRESSER!!??"
me: Not only professional but also famous.
husband: Well it seems he's too busy to do his wife's hair. She might be wearing a wig for this show like when Meryl Streep dyed her hair white for that other movie.
On the last scene where magazines are lined up in the newsstand. Vogue is placed next to Harper's Bazaar:
"The Bazaar cover is so ugly. But if you do 'Fabulous at any age' you'll HAVE to use an old woman...."
(Stephen Gan, your days are numbered...)
Our next fashion feature conversation: Valentino: The Emperor of Fashion.
(I was already asked: Who is darker, Donatella or Valentino? I said that Donatella is NOT DARKER. She's more orange.)
I can't guarantee the same comments but I leave you with what he said when Josie Natori (who he does not know) walked past us: "Was that the night of the living dead that just walked past us?"
I THANK GOD and other major sponsors for his day job.....
Friday, September 25, 2009
I was in Manhattan early this week when the UN opened with speeches by Barak Obama (probably 30 mins) and Muamar Quadaffi who ranted and threw stuff (just like one of my former bosses!) for 95 mins. He LITERALLY camped out on a Trump property in Westchester--he has a very big and nice looking tent with 'walls'painted with Arabic art.
When my sister told me Obama would be in New York on Monday, my only thought was ÖMG!!! I hope MIchelle doesn't go to Bergdorf's on MOnday or Tuesday!! Those are MY shopping days!"!!"
(Of course, I would have LOVED to see Carla Bruni as I think she is so much chic-er than Obama who has a more contrived look. The French can never be beat in this area. But I am of course, part of the minority)
Last year, I left NYC not exactly loving it(for the first time I did not entertain the idea of buying a flat there) and in fact, I thought of not visiting this year but because my husband was in Boston and wanted to meet in London on Wednesday, New York started looking like a good choice of a stop. Indeed, for two days, I renewed my love for the city that doesn't sleep (because now business is bad but California is broke).
Walking home from a yummy FRench dinner at Jubilee, my friend and I saw Neil Simon taking a walk with his wife. The only reason we knew he was Neil Simon was because he and my friend are neighbors. THis is something that will not occur in any other city in the world. (So what if we see Jackie Chan or Jiang Zhi Yi at Landmark??)
I continued my walk along brightly lit streets (thank you Mayor Bloomberg) and buildings lit up to Vegas capacity then came home to a hotel room that overlooked yet more lights. This is when I fell in love with New York yet again.
But when I got to London, I enjoyed the old buildings lit strategically by spotlights. Even Buckingham Palace seemed dark compared to Park Avenue. On the surface, London's beauty comes out during the day but there is a serenity to it at night. But Paris and Rome are equally stunning day and night.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
BUT I can still give an opinion on what I THINK happened.
The problem with this well-intended shopping stimulus plan is that it comes at a time when people STILL either a) do not have money or b) even if they do, refuse to fork out for anything that is not an investment (and I am not talking about the fashion investment 'that you can wear forever").
Personally, I hate shopping events because everyone sees what you are buying and you have to get out of the dressing room quickly because there usually is a line. (Well, maybe not these days)
Central in HK did a property wide shopping event before the summer and I don't really know how much the shops made during those few hours but I was told there was more champagne quaffing by office people and the 'wrong people' walking away with freebies.
PEOPLE just TOLD me, okay???
Last Thursday, my hairdresser said his business is down 30% and this is in Hong Kong where unemployment is considerably lower than the rest of the world and where the stock and property markets have bounced back. He said, "The markets are good but I know people still want to save their money and spend it on something with long term value and that's not exactly a haircut." (Even HE KNOWS!)
The following, from the Financial Times of 9 Septemmber 2009, sticks the stilleto heel into a crack on the pavement:
"...Bruno Frisoni, the creative director of shoe brand Roger Vivier, who will be at the Milan event, said: “This will bring people into our store that maybe wouldn’t have come in. But certainly in Paris it will not mean immediate cash. They come, have a drink, meet people, see the collection and maybe, if we’re lucky, they come back during the week. Maybe.”
Another international luxury brand executive, who asked to remain anonymous, noted that the company did not expect to recoup its costs in terms of overtime, electricity, security and food.
“It is a big expense for us” to keep flagships in multiple cities open for an extra five hours, he noted, pointing out that they agreed to participate only because Ms Wintour asked."
Business is certainly bad but I have yet to meet someone in the fashion business who would talk on the record about how bad it is.
Word on the street (like Pedder Street, perhaps?) is that On Pedder, a shoe and accessories regional boutique chain owned by Lane Crawford is ahem...."consolidating, relocating, merging, absorbing staff and inventory..." with the mother company.
I can think one other simple word that begins with a C.
GAAK! Choke! Surprise! But then, when you think about it (and you don't have to think longer than the length of a fashion show), the signs were there even to Wal-Mart shoppers.
1) high prices - cheaper online or in Europe or the US - I walked in there last week and there were hardly any heels there under 6000 HKD (750 USD) and hardly anything I wanted to buy
2) ugly stuff - well, you can't blame retailers if the design houses are producing atrocious stuff made available worldwide
3) recession and/or a now financially conservative customer
4) the Lane Crawford Beijing store which should really be in a mausoleum (oh..uh..museum) than in a mall
Friday, September 11, 2009
"At our age, you'll be hard-pressed to find a guy with no kids, no ex-wives, no emotional baggage and no debt. What you will be able to find is a guy with no hair. Or worse, no job."
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
desperate measure: lymphatic drainage massage
breakfast: kefir, tea with milk no sugar and one banana
lunch@China Tee Club: chrysanthemum tea, 1/2 palm size chicken parmigiana (the rest I took home to the dogs), steamed veggies, 2 scoops ice cream (shared), coffee with milk, no sugar
dinner: pumpkin and orange spice soup, green beans (again!), the last of Nora's brownies, mint tea
Thursday, 10 September 2009
exercise: 1.5 hrs ashtanga yoga
desperate measure: haircut and highlights
breakfast: kefir, Awake tea from the Landmark mandarin, blueberries, dried friut
lunch@Shanghai Fraternity Club (by far the deadliest Chinese restaurant in town): fried eel strips, tofu and mushrooms in brown sauce, chicken and bamboo shoots in brown sauce 9which could possibly be the only brown sauce they use in that joint), 2 bowls of rice shared by three people--two of whom were thin and showed up in fitted dresses. I was NOT one of THEM!
dinner@Shiro in Pacific Place: sashimi salad, 2 slices mackerel sushi, miso soup, 2 glasses VERY GOOD rose (this was a VERY BAD idea)
movie: Bruno@Pacific Place sponsored by 'the world's local bank"--1/2 bag popcorn, two sips ice tea, the maltesers are still in my bag.....
My diet officially ends today not because I can't stand it and I haven't been getting any exercise (It will be worse in the next three weeks) but because---taddaah!! Seeing is believin'-----I can see TWO muscular lines on my abs. I also fit into my grey metallic Barbara Bui trousers and a Fendi chiffon top from, take note, a PRESS sale! (that means--- sample size come to Mama!)
NOW I'm happy!!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: (on the cement industry--hopefully my stomach will be THAT firm)
"Are you guys decorating? No one is buying cement. There is so much cement in China except where they really need it..."
"Uh..no..Unfortunately we are just painting our walls...."
exercise: 1.5 hours hatha yoga
other desperate measures: steam, sauna, dry body brushing, polar temperature water spray on stomach, butt and legs for cellulite
breakfast: kefir, handful of blueberries (for anti-aging and faster fat burning), small slice cranberry raisin bread shared with Tallulah who ate all the raisins, tea with milk no sugar
VERY LATE lunch: 1/2 portion of Indian takeout from 360-basmati rice, chicken curry, soup
dinner: Nora's lentil soup, chef Riccardo's grilled chicken with pesto, green apples, grapes and SMALL piece of soft cheese shared with Sammy and Tallulah (they ate the rind)
SUNDAY, 6 September 2009
new desperate measure: cellutox seaweed detox wrap@American Club- This has to be the best 700 HKD that I ever spent--you get dry brushed (I'm so experienced!), rubbed with firming body lotion (like it really works!), covered in a seaweed puree then wrapped in heated pads then after showering the gunk off, you get heat-wrapped again just to make sure you completely melt away. Meanwhile, as you cook, you get a facial and head massage.
breakfast: kefir and blueberries, tea with milk, no sugar. I am getting so desperate that I'm eating like a camper lost in the woods.
lunch@American Club: (sinful) turkey burger with swiss cheese, coleslaw and 2 dill pickle slices (about 1/2 of a whole pickle), no fries because they were horrible, 1 glass virgin mary (appetite suppressant but look what it got me!), 1 mug Carlsberg
dinner: leftover lentil soup from Saturday (that's what I get for having a burger), dessert- Nora's chocolate graham brownie (small square)---I know I'm gonna pay with a plus-size waist measurement!
MONDAY, 7 September, 2009
waist measurement (at navel)- surprise!!! 32.5 inches. Allah akbar, Buddha be praised! The miracle of the seaweed detox and the Thai healer has happened!!
exercise: 20 mins on the maximum incline on the treadmill (I hate the treadmill!!)
breakfast: kefir, large papaya shake from MIX
lunch with the KiTty@ HK-FCC: vegetarian hot and sour soup, hainan chicken rice no skin, ONE scoop Ben and Jerry's Karamel Sutra (sex and the starving....)
dinner: broccoli soup, grilled courgettes with lemon (v. exciting!), sauteed green beens and carrots, Chinese pear for dessert (This diet is the closest you get to death and disappointment within the same body at the same time)
The dogs and my husband had chicken stuffed with Thai basil while I watched with hunger in my eyes.
TUESDAY, 8 September 2009
exercise: 10 mins on the treadmill because I didn't know how to work it. By the time I plugged in the headphones, looked for a channel that wasn't sports, tried and failed to set the treadmill right, it was 15 minutes. I was sweating just from trying to operate the treadmill!!
1 hour Pilates Group Reformer
breakfast: kefir, ONE butter croissant, very little butter and honey, tea with milk no sugar, orange juice
lunch: cucumber salad, bean sprouts with carrots shared with dogs, fried tofu, 1 spoonful red (unpolished) rice, Chinese pear for dessert
Who knows what we will have for dinner or if I'll still be alive!!
Next week I will be in Los Angeles and New York where their dining motto is: Look, don't touch.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
"You DON'T KNOW?? That came out three months ago!!"
"In the PAPERS!!???"
"No, from my mouth."
waistline (at navel) - 33 inches (Gaak!!! At least it is not 666 or 88)
flab - unchanged at 2"
exercise: 1. 5 hours ashtanga yoga including 15 mins rest and gossiping while on headstand
Yogic-ally, this is not allowed but if you're not bitching and it's only you, a chatty classmate, the teacher and Shiva, it should be okay. This is in contrast to dinner, see below where you'll only be invited if you can't say anything nice about anyone.
Breakfast: kefir, masala tea and 1/2 banana cake from Spice Box@360
Lunch with the KiTty@home: 1/2 pc. grilled chicken (half the size of my palm) with the other half going to the dogs, salad with raspberry vinaigrette, more masala tea, melon for dessert
Dinner@FCC-HK: tapas (1pc fish cake, 1/2 gherkin, 1 sml slice pita bread with hummus, 1 pc fried mushroom), small tomato and onion pizza w/o eating crusts, 3 bottles chardonnay/3 ppl= 1 bottle per person (BIG mistake!!)
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Why 14 September? Because that is when I start travelling again and will have no time for daily torture.
Let's see if I end up meeting my target of qualifying for UN Food Aid.
31 August 2009, Monday:
waistline (at navel line for objectivity) - the diameter of East Timor not including forests and ocean rights
inches of flab: almost 2
exercise: 1.5 hours of ashtanga yoga
breakfast: kefir (live bacteria---the better to eat you, my dear)
Lunch with the KiTty @ HK-FCC (Foreign Correspondent's Club): vegetarian hot and sour soup, hainan chicken rice with cucumbers and chinese broccoli
dinner: (I can't remember---I can feel the diet is working already! On my brain)
01 September 2009, Tuesday:
Today's quote (on when rich families lose their fortune):
Confucius say, "When a ship sinks there are still nails left." I think in English it's better to replace nails with floating planks or lifeboats.
waistline - too scared to face another reality BUT my Lanvin jeans from Ete 2004 which was tight dernier Ete fit today!
exercise: 1 hour Pilates Reformer, 20 laps (15 mins) swimming bec I had lunch date---see below, 1 hour BEGINNERS ashtanga yoga
breakfast: kefir (it's alive!)
Lunch with the KiTty@Sevva, the overpriced and overrated restaurant at the top floor of Prince's building: 1/2 Ms B's Favourite Turkey sandwich (the B stands for boring because I have not had anything so flavourless in my life), 2 pcs salt and vinegar chips--I think they are cheap ones from Walker's, 1/2 serving Chinese fish broth with glass noodles and lemongrass, 1/2 serving of coffee crunch cake (a weak copy of the one from the Philippines), digestive tea
After you see the bill, you're going to need it. HKD 800 for 2 people. No booze, no soda, no cocktails.
press briefing at Kotur: 1/2 small bottle Perrier, refused macaroons from Robuchon
dinner@home: Nora's chicken soup with carrots and corn, melon for dessert
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I always thought that the French were rude to people who didn't at least try to speak their language. They are, after all, from streetcleaners to senators, extremely proud of their language. (Segolene Royal supposedly did not win voters with what they thought was her poor command of French)
By Pauline Harris and Simon Kuper
Published: August 29 2009 02:15 Last updated: August 29 2009 02:15
Almost every year some official campaign urges Parisians to be friendly to tourists. At one time, posters of smiling Parisians were hung up around town. Other campaigns have urged Parisians to show tourists around, or even to put up visitors in their own apartments. The Parisian response is usually disappointing.
Visitors continue to leave the world’s most visited city saying they liked everything except the people. In a poll this year by the website TripAdvisor, American travellers voted Parisians by far the unfriendliest hosts in Europe. Sally Bowles in the musical Cabaret speaks for generations of jilted visitors when she admits, “Actually, Cliff, I’ve always rather hated Paris.”
We have lived in Paris for over a decade between us. We won’t pretend that beneath the grumpy misanthropic Parisian exterior there lurks a heart of gold. More often, there lurks a grumpy misanthrope.
However, visitors do habitually misunderstand Parisians. For instance, they are not simply rude. Often, the sneering waiter is observing a complex etiquette, and if the visitor makes a few simple adjustments, they will become nicer. So for the benefit of international relations, here is a user’s guide to Parisians.
Learn their codes
When Parisians are rude to visitors, it is often because they think the visitor has been rude. This city has an old-fashioned etiquette, and unlucky tourists trample it with both white-sneakered feet.
Starting from babyhood, Parisians are expected to dress, speak and behave perfectly. This impossible task makes them uptight, and smirking at others who slip up makes them feel better. Foreigners are an easy target: they don’t know the rules and are therefore bound to say, wear and do the wrong things.
A few basic rules will diminish Parisian rudeness by about 40 per cent. Before saying anything else, say, “Bonjour” . When the French finance minister Christine Lagarde recently appeared on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show , she cut through his opening storm of questions with a, “Bonjour, first of all.” Stunned, Stewart replied in Spanish: “Hola.”
If a conversation ensues, don’t speak loudly, smile or use superlatives – all these are the marks of simpletons. On departing, always say goodbye. Yes, always: after an attacker held up a friend of ours at gunpoint in the lift of her apartment near Bastille, he left saying, “Bonne soirée”.
Don’t go around in sports kit, T-shirts with large logos or baseball caps. We did recently see a suspiciously French-looking gentleman wearing a cap on the metro, but on closer inspection he turned out to be mentally disturbed. (I HATE this Hollywood-director-NYer on the weekend American look!!)
On the other hand, don’t spend six hours dressing. Parisians aim to look effortlessly flawless. And don’t attempt flabby exposed midriffs or pushed-up cleavages (especially not if you are a man). Parisian women wear clothes that actually suit their body shape, age and style. (Like Christine Lagarde)
Remember: the server doesn’t want your money – he wants his dignity
An American friend recently tried to buy a newspaper at a Parisian kiosk. The stallholder, ignoring his outstretched hand with money, continued calmly putting his stock in order. “Why?” our friend asked later. “Doesn’t he want my money?”
No. He couldn’t care less. A Parisian shopworker or waiter has a mighty disregard for the turnover of the establishment he works in, and for the functioning of its Kafkaesque system. He isn’t “serving” a “customer”. He is an individual interacting with an individual. What’s at stake is what each can get out of the interaction – respect, power, or drama to pass the time.
Part of what is going on here is that the Parisian labour market is inflexible. You need exactly the right qualifications for exactly the right job, because employers here rarely understand the idea of transferable skills. That leaves lots of overqualified Parisians doing menial jobs they loathe.
Furthermore, inside every Parisian shopworker lurks a revolutionary who cannot be bought. It’s useful to remember that the quintessential Parisian form of group expression is the demonstration. You find the same sullen service in other countries where capitalism hasn’t always been the leading ideology, such as the former USSR or Castro’s Cuba.
The Paris Tourism Agency says that about 20 per cent of people working in this city depend directly or indirectly on the tourist economy. But to Parisians, that’s no reason to prostrate themselves before visitors. “The customer is always right,” sounds to them rather like the Italian fascist adage, “Mussolini is always right.”
That’s why it’s counterproductive to try to hurry a Parisian waiter. He is not your boy. His ethos says: the more they try to rush me, the more time I will take. If you treat the waiter as an equal – asking his advice on the wines, for instance – he might treat you as an equal, too.
Imagine 2.5m grumpy people packed into the tiny space inside the périphérique ring road, living on top of each other on creaking 19th-century parquet floors. Inevitably, the biggest Parisian pest is the grumbling neighbour. The biggest Parisian mistake one of us ever made was to buy a bottle of port to placate a grumbling neighbour. He took it as a surrender, like handing over the Alsace-Lorraine.
You get respect here by standing up for yourself. The very common Parisian “non” should never be confused with the less ambiguous English “no”. In Paris, “non” means, “Let’s see what you’re made of”. The more emphasis someone can place on a negative response, the more satisfying it seems to be. One of us once asked if there were any scarves in a shop in the Galeries Lafayette. The response was a 180-degree slow-motion shake of the head, accompanied by “Du tout, du tout, du tout,” which roughly translates as, “Not at all in any way, no chance, never”. But after a spot of arguing, as if by magic the scarves were produced.
Persist with dignity, and when necessary with aggression. In Paris, you never let anybody beat you.
It’s not because they’re anti-American
In the highest-grossing French film ever, the comedy Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis, a postmaster is told that as a punishment for a transgression he is to be transferred from idyllic Provençe to a terrible place.
The postmaster buries his head in his hands and moans, “Paris!”
His boss shakes his head sorrowfully: “Worse than Paris”.
The postmaster looks up, incredulous: “Worse than Paris?”
Parisians are grumpy to everyone, even each other. If they are mean to you, it’s not because you are a foreigner. It’s because you don’t know how to behave.
Escape tourist Paris
Tourist Paris is essentially a façade designed to punish people who transgress Parisian etiquette. Horrible waiters in waistcoats slam down €10 bottles of bad orange juice. They know they could hang the tourists upside down and flay them, and people would still be back next year.
But hidden beside tourist Paris is another city: the Paris of neighbourhoods. Most people there don’t have hearts of gold. They won’t be instantly chummy. Why should they behave like your long-lost brother when you’ve only just sat down in their restaurant? However, they do want customers to come back. Go to the same neighbourhood café every day, even if you’re only here for a long weekend. Once you have established some mutual respect – you like their café, they think your taste in cafés is excellent – they will soften up. Then Paris becomes really rather bearable.
Pauline Harris is a writer based in Paris; Simon Kuper is the FT’s sports columnist
Friday, August 28, 2009
I'm serious, boys and girls and gheys.
Shit has hit the fan big time as in from size small to GIGANTIC!!!
From the day I joined the fashion media, I swore to myself to keep my dress size down to model/sample size so I could buy editorial samples. As it is, press sales in Asia are heaven for me in the shoe department because unlike in the west, girls here have small feet and samples are all 39/40 which is my shoe size.
In the Roger Vivier, Tod's and Hogan sales I let the tiny editors battle for the bags while I take my time with the shoes knowing no one will ever fit in them until some foreign (read: white or northern Chinese) editor shows up. Then I take all the boxes to one corner.
However, in the dress department: As the years went by, I started to expand but still to a bearable point of being able to wear samples made up in stretch fabric.
Why, last winter I was still able to squeeze into Italian 40 white ski pants from Fendi. (Of course I had to get the matching white mongolian lamb Yeti boots and black mink ear warmers)
I was still a size 6 at Nathan Jenden before Christmas. Fitted. As in Roland Mouret/Victoria Beckham fitted. Dress AND pants.
Before the summer I was a medium at Sabina Swims for bikins and a 40 at Eres for bathing suits. Being a medium was the bad omen of a rapidly increasing waistline.
BUT ON WEDNESDAY I suddenly expanded to a point of embarrassment at the Loewe sale when I couldn't get into SSS---TT--R--E--T--C--H jodphurs AND crocodile belts!!
AND YESTERDAY I was up to a size 10 at DVF for a wrap dress!! (I screamed in shock in the dressing room) As in silk jersey!! I'm really going to have a word with Diane and Nathan about their sizing. Either that or kill myself this weekend. (But wait, I just bought four new dresses at DVF, an ostrich bag and cashmere sweaters at Loewe)
But then again, that might not be a good idea because when I couldn't squeeze into a French 38 at Lanvin in Taiwan, the salesgirl told me that I needed a girdle.
When I ran into Madame Wang Shaw Lan, the owner of Lanvin, I told her this and that her sales staff should be better trained with customer relations because you can't possibly tell a thin customer to wear a girdle.
She looked at me from face to chest to stomach and said, "Maybe you SHOULD!"
I realized there are certain samples that still fit me....those from the MEN'S collections!!
I have to admit I didn't want to just leave Fendi with one, no, two..okay--so much more items ---last winter so I also bought a MEN'S --men's!!--grey flannel coat.
It was voluminous enough to hide Andre Leon Talley and his tennis kit.
As they say in Espanol, que horror la gorda (fat)!!!
It has only been 15 years since I was last called esquelita lumbera (skeleton).
What a difference 15 years makes. (15-20 tonnes/inches, perhaps?)
For a fashionista in the media, going up one size is the difference between life and death.
And there are only TWO (two!) WORDS that would make me stop eating and exercise until I'm thin enough for UN Food Aid: Buy retail.
Next week, I continue yoga and go back to three times a week Pilates and I'm adding twice a week swimming. Hopefully by October I'll be too thin and too weak to type.
BUT I'll get to wear samples again!!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Not that the dogs will care.
This whirlwind journey involves major European and American cities, the mountains and the tropics, much like a Michael Jackson concert tour without the entourage and plastic surgeons but just as many costume changes.
Because September is a transitional time and I am going to travel through four different climates (six if you count London), I think I won't be able to get around the costumes. Therefore the beauty kit is going to have to suffer.
I have my wardrobe sort of planned out but my usual (read: heavy) cosmetic and wash bag need a major cull and I have narrowed my kit to five items. These five items have already been on my mind for sometime (with some changes over the years) because my husband asked me to be ready with ONLY THREE (but I bargained for five) beauty items to bring if we EVAH took the Siberian Express (his dream journey, my nightmare).
One of my friends actually took this trip on her honeymoon (they are still married) and from how she describes the accomodations, it was especially created in traditional German transport style from the time of the Nazis.....for the Jews.
Whether there is sun or not (it will be worse if there was snow), I'm going to need at least SPF 15 and this is by far the most expensive and important cosmetic I will be bringing.
A friend gave me a small bottle of this for bumps on my forearms and it works beyond that---a bath oil, cellulite oil, anti-scarring, anti-aging for face and body.
Friday, August 14, 2009
The Singapore-based clothing label alldressedup (www.alldressedup.com) has always been a winner to me and now it is showing signs of being accepted internationally with worldwide distribution at Lane Crawford in HK, Saks in Bahrain and Dubai, Aquaint in London, Isetan in Tokyo and Beige in Los Angeles among other smaller, more esoteric boutiques.
The ensemble featured above looks great but I didn't buy that because I would for sure look like a clown. I did, however, buy several tops that washed very well and needed abso-fuckin-lutely NO IRONING!! Not only that, all of them looked great and I didn't need to put a lot of thought into what to wear with them. I wore them layered with cashmere, silk or cotton for cool (or cold) English summers and on their own for Italian summers that could melt gelato in seconds.
The line is a bit of a hard sell because the pieces look very complicated but they are really easy to wear (pull your head through the neckline and slip your arms through the sleeves). Also, it is that very quality that makes alldressedup outstanding. All you have to do to balance their multi-colored and multi-layered tops is wear them with dark bottoms or leggings.
The clothes have worked out so fabulously that I am taking the whole lot (ok maybe only half!) including Gap t-shirts that I bought on sale for 3 pounds each to Laos next month. Never mind that I will have to spend days in a very poor area potentially building toilets. Or a bridge. (Who knows! I only follow orders)
I swear by caftans in the tropics but in some parts of Europe and America, summer weather can be unpredictable and I never got my travel wardrobe down to a science until now. The pieces travel very well, wash easily and dry quickly, all qualities that make an excellent capsule summer wardrobe .
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
He is living proof that yoga (and perhaps living in Boulder, Colorado) keeps you young. Wouldn't you want to look like this if you were over 60 and can easily do a back bend?
Meanwhile, life in the NEXT TWO WEEKS will probably be even more uneventful as we retreat to the French Alps, also known as our bunker in case the world goes into chaos which means we need to start stocking up on guns and ammo. Notice all that land where I can plant vegetables in case of famine in the free world. (Think: escape plan for 2012--or thereabouts...) Plus our dogs can enter France without quarantine.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Wasn't Oscar material (the film, I mean) but it certainly had the 'best-dressed' movie attendance. This is the controversial poster banned in France (because they have embraced a non-smoking law that also seems to apply to posters) but used in Asia, the last stronghold of smoking.
YES, We got given Coco Pops (corn). Isn't this cute? Of course we had a choice of sweet or salty. They also put a bottle of fizzy water in every seat but without a Chanel bottle holder which they did last time at the couture.
And this is what we got for braving the rains---a sample of Chanel No5. I think the taitais got a nicer gift (of course!) which I think could have been a pillow or large scarf because they had huge bags! Ah--what money can buy!!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
More models from the most un-chic of brands. Perhaps like many brands we love today it will be so unchic, it becomes chic.
Have any of you boys, girls and gheys heard of MONTAGUT?
One of my editors asked me what she should wear as a guest for a society wedding in Bali. The celebrations would cover three days (at least!) and she did not want to spend a lot of money but she had to look good enough to socialize next to the Matthew Williamsons and Alice Temperleys hanging on social X-ray bodies.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Japanese fall out of love with luxury
By Michiyo Nakamoto in Tokyo
Published: June 2 2009 19:17 Last updated: June 2 2009 19:17
Japan’s trend-chasing office workers and ladies who lunch are giving up Louis Vuitton handbags and Chanel jackets for Zara dresses and Gap jeans, making what was a favourite market for luxury manufacturers into one of their biggest headaches.
The downturn is forcing customers in Japan to scale back purchases of luxury goods, accelerating a long-term shift in consumer attitudes, according to a report by McKinsey, the consultants.
“This is not a blip. This is a long-term shift in the market,” said Brian Salsberg, the author of a McKinsey report on the Japanese luxury goods market, the world’s second largest.
Sales of imported luxury goods suffered a 10 per cent drop last year to Y1,064bn ($11.1bn), according to a study published on Tuesday by Yano Research, a Japanese market research group.
Yano Research forecast that the market would shrink further this year, falling below Y1,000bn to nearly half the peak of Y1,897bn in 1996 and then shrinking to levels last seen 20 years ago before it entered its era of strong growth.
LVMH, the group with brands ranging from Moët to Louis Vuitton, reported an 18 per cent drop in sales in Japan in yen terms in the first quarter.
While luxury sales throughout the world are being hit by the recession, Mr Salsberg said that the implications of the latest slump for Japan were likely to be more serious and long-lasting.
Japan became the world’s “only mass luxury market” in the 1980s and early 1990s, when Japanese consumers saw ownership of a Louis Vuitton bag or Hermes scarf as a middle-class rite of passage.
But the growing confidence of shoppers in mixing and matching cheap and expensive products, coupled with competition from a growing array of luxury services such as spas and expensive restaurants, have robbed the brands of their hold on such spending.
Mr Salsberg said the brand makers, which created “a luxury bubble” with “a ridiculous number of store build-outs”, bore some blame for their predicament. He warned that they risked repeating the mistake in China.
China was the “growth story” for luxury but if makers flooded the market with stores as in Japan and people were able to buy such goods on every street corner, “the industry is going to destroy itself” there, he said.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009