VIP Shopping at Galeries Lafayette

Entering regal department store Galeries Lafayette at 40 Boulevard Haussmann feels much like entering a museum (more on its fascinating history, here). The difference being what’s on display are shoes, bags and a carefully curated selection of designer clothing. Much like a museum the experience can be intimidating. To avoid losing yourself in the racks of ready-to-wear, Galeries Lafayette now offers a VIP shopping experience. Curious to learn more, I decided to head over to my favorite store.

Walking through the majestic space, the first thing that caught my eye was the current art exhibition ‘Le Jour Qui Vient’. Various phrases in both English and French are strewn along the store, ready to catch consumers attention. What’s better than shopping in the midst of art? I also stopped by the Galerie des Galeries for a look at the ‘Africa Now’ expo, ending July 29th. But back to VIP shopping…

I took the escalator to the 5th floor concierge desk, presented my voucher and was led to a private lounge. Here began my VIP shopping experience. I settled in to enjoy the stellar treatment, champagne, and of course the shopping. I had a few key summer essentials in mind.

So what does recently launched Galeries Lafayette’s Parisian VIP shopping experience include exactly? Services that are perfect for a traveler or local with little time on their hands.

  • A dedicated concierge service
  • Fast-track payment and tax refund service
  • Delivery of your in-store purchases to your hotel or residence in Paris
  • Access to Personal Shopper service
  • Complimentary drinks and snacks (Champagne, anyone?)
  • International press
  • Private Wifi
  • Treats from one of their restaurants including Angelina and Vue sur Coupole
  • A Galeries Lafayette tote bag

If you’re still not sure about VIP shopping, I invite you to try it for yourself, and spend a day shopping like a vrai Parisian. You’ll be hooked! I’m offering two VIP passes (valued at 49€ each) for you and a friend. Just follow Galeries Lafayette on Instagram and leave a comment below. Winner announced June 23rd. Bonne chance!

Art + Fashion

What could be better than shopping in the midst of an art exhibition? Art and fashion, two of my favorites. Today I discovered both at Le Bon Marché, Paris’s first (and most exclusive) department store founded in 1838.

Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota‘s in-store exhibition titled “Where are we going?” begins on the ground floor where the artist has spun 300,000 yards of white thread throughout a designated space. It’s both calming and perplexing as you wander through this white abyss. I was so mesmerized, I almost forgot that I had come to shop. All 10 window displays too are filled with the artist’s web, some with ancient maps.

The celestial element of this exhibition by Chiharu Shiota is visually poetic. The symbolism stayed with me long after I had left the store. It comprises 150 white boats carried on a wave and invites us to be amazed but also to question. The artist establishes an analogy between human life and travel: people set off for an unknown destination, crossing an ocean of experiences, emotions, encounters and memories. Chiharu Shiota evokes a fresh start, while keeping the itineraries open: “Life is a voyage with no destination”.

For those in Paris, this exhibition that was meant to close on February 18th, will continue until April 2nd.

 

Nice: Top Picks

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After Paris, Nice is the largest city of art and culture in France. And if you like art as much as I do, then you must make a stop in this culturally rich city, where art finds a home, even around the city streets. There is so much to do and see in the capital of the Côte d’Azur, where does one even begin? By stopping in the Tourism Office you can certainly gather enough information to keep you busy for days. Or you can use this list of my top things to do, see and eat. Some of this advice comes from my Nicoise friend, and who better to trust than a local?

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SLEEP: To wake up surrounded by art and history, and with a view of the sea, stay at Le Negresco. This is the Art Hotel in Nice, and an experience you won’t ever forget. You can read all about my stay, here. If you’re on a budget, another artful option is Hotel Windsor, where each room is designed by a different artist.

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VISIT: With over fifteen museums and dozens of galleries, which are most worth visiting? That remains a matter of opinion depending on interest, but ones that I would not miss are Musée Matisse, exhibiting one of the world’s largest collections of Henri Matisse’s works, Musée Marc Chagall, dedicated to much of the artist’s religious work, and the Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art, highlighting the work of more recent artists including sculptor and painter Niki de Saint Phalle. I recommend picking up a 48 hour Museum Pass which will gain you affordable access to these and many other museums and galleries. Keep in mind that most are closed on Tuesdays.

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DO: To really get to know a city, stroll its morning markets. This is where you’ll interact with the locals and simply observe the life of the city. On Cours Saleya in the Old Town, there’s a market every morning from 6:30am. The most famous is the Marché aux Fleurs, or Flower Market, from Tuesday to Sunday. This market is the most well known, since it was in Nice that the first wholesale flower market in the world appeared in 1897. Here too you can purchase fruits and vegetables until around 1:30pm, with the flowers being sold until 5:30. If you’d like an expert guided tour of the food market followed by a cooking class, Rosa at Les Petits Farcis is your girl!

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EAT: The specialities of Nice include pissaladière, bread with a topping of caramelised onions, olives, garlic and anchovies, and socca, a sort of fried chickpea cake, much like the farinata I often eat in Cinque Terre. Both of these you can try at many cafes in the Old City. Here are food expert David Lebovitz’s favorite socca spots in Nice. As for where to dine, one local spot serving the best plate of pesto pasta I’ve ever eaten outside of Italy, is La Merenda. It’s a tiny restaurant in the Old Town that doesn’t take reservations, but worth the wait. Also be sure to stop by Maison Auer for the best candied fruit and chocolate covered almonds in France, among other delicacies!

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WALK: Be sure to walk around the Old Town and get lost in the maze of streets lined with pastel colored buildings. The Promenade des Anglais is the famous stretch in front of the sea. Follow it all the way to Castle Hill for the best views of the city and its surroundings. Climb the free elevator at the seaside; look for the ‘Ascenseur de la Chateau‘ sign. From the top you’ll have a view of Nice all the way to Antibes, and from the other side you can see Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

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Le Negresco

My last trip to the Côte d’Azur was in March. I spent a little time in Nice but was eager to become better acquainted with this, the region’s capital. Aside from its Mediterranean climate, it’s a city of art and culture, another reason to fall in love with it. To properly immerse myself in the world of French art, where better to stay than at the historic hotel Le Negresco. Centrally located between Cannes and Monaco, it sits on the famous Promenade de Anglais. It is here in this National Historic Monument, that the French works of art from Louis XIII to modern art, have a home. I knew I would be in good company.

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Upon entering, the grandeur of this hotel is hard to describe. I’ve stayed in many beautiful hotels around the world, but Le Negresco is in a class of its own. The Versailles Lounge alone takes your breath away, with Louis XIV’s portrait, marble floors, hand-painted ceiling, and elegant furnishings. The fireplace too, is original. I could imagine the decadent events having taken place in this salon since Henri Negresco opened the hotel in 1913, now over 100 years old.

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Next I entered the Royal Lounge, centrally situated beneath a large glass dome. This is Negresco’s soul, and you can certainly feel it. Once an elegant ballroom, it’s now an elaborate event space, displaying portraits of French royalty, including Napoleon III. A stunning Baccarat chandelier provides the centerpiece. Fittingly, the hotel’s 93 year old owner Jeanne Augier’s portrait also has a place on the wall. After all, it is she who welcomes each guest to her home, which she has taken great pride in decorating. She lives on the top floor with her cat, and ensures that this private, family run hotel remains at the highest 5-star level in comfort and cuisine.

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A good friend from Nice had often spoken about the restaurants at Le Negresco, particularly the vibrant and colorful La Rotonde. It’s in fact an 18th century carousel with wooden horses circling the restaurant. My eyes opened wide in amazement as I entered this space and understood immediately why it’s such a warm and welcoming place dedicated to families. The terrace opens up to the sea and this is where I chose to have lunch, accompanied by the sun. Breakfast would be enjoyed in the carousel.

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Le Negresco is also known for its haute cuisine. Le Chantecler is Nice’s finest restaurant, with two stars in the Michelin Guide under the culinary expertise of chef Jean-Denis Rieubland. He defines his cuisine and style as “inspired by Provence, with the respect of its products and traditions”. This is THE place for French gastronomy, boasting a wine cellar of over 15,000 bottles, with woodwork dating back to 1751. After dinner you can unwind at the neighboring bar with live music and a good digestif.

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With each of the 96 rooms and 21 suites uniquely decorated with period furniture, I was eager to take a closer look. Mrs Augier being an art connoisseur and collector, walking through the hotel and up the four floors feels much like being in a museum, with artwork from Salvador Dali and Sonia Delaunay, tapestries from Raymond Moratti and sculptures from Niki de Saint Phalle, to name a few. And the rooms? Timeless perfection.

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I felt very much at home in my room overlooking the Bay of Angels and knew I would return to this Art Hotel called Le Negresco.

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date with Paul Klee

Those who read my blog know that other than travel, art is my greatest inspiration in designing my bags, and simply, in living. Those who know me well, know that Paul Klee is one of my most revered artists. When I found out that he, I mean his work, was coming to the Pompidou for a retrospective, I was elated. I freed my calendar for an opening night date with the master. The last time we “met” was almost 6 years ago at his last exhibition. This time 230 of Klee’s pieces are on display, as his work is examined through the prism of irony. According to Klee’s son Felix, “He always had a great taste for satire, for irony, for everything that isn’t quite serious.”

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This show will be going on for quite some time, until August 1st to be exact. But for those unable to make it, here are a number of works that I carefully selected to share with you, many from his museum in Bern. Each one provoking unique thought, causing me to stop and stare. And often to smile. Enjoy the show!

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St. Germain near Tunis. 1914

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Green x Above Left. 1915

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Chosen Boy. 1918

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Adam and Little Eve. 1921

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Fire at Full Moon. 1933

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Snake Paths. 1934

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Intention. 1938

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High Spirits. 1939

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Following the exhibition I stood for a while and admired the view. Knowing Klee would have approved.

Côte d’Azur

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Last week I joined Mediterranean travel aficionado Megan of Bella Vita Travels for a whirlwind tour of the Côte d’Azur, leaving grey skies in Paris for golden hues in the French Riviera. I hadn’t been down south for almost five years, since our journey to Bormes les Mimosas. Six hours via train, there I was in Nice, ready to discover just what makes this part of France so enchanting. Our first stop was the Medieval village of Mougins.

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I was immediately smitten by this hilltop artists commune, once inhabited by creative elite including Jean Cocteau, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Yves Klein, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Winston Churchill, Catherine Deneuve, Édith Piaf & Jacques Brel. This too is where Picasso spent his last 12 years of life.

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From there it was a short drive to Cannes, where many of today’s film stars can be found strolling along the boulevards, particularly during the famed film festival. Did we spot any? None that I could recognize…

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The next stop was Antibes, a charming old town enclosed by 16th-century ramparts. Here we spent a glorious afternoon with a glass of rosé and views of the town Juan-les-Pins. Picasso too made his mark here; the castle where he stayed is now the Picasso Museum.

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Not far away was a small medieval village perched atop a cliff, 1,401 feel above sea level to be exact. Thus, Èze is often called an “eagle’s nest”. Again, I was smitten.

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Before returning to Nice we stopped in the harbor town of Villefranche. Now I understand why so many choose to make this colorful spot their home while visiting the riviera.

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Back in Nice I was eager to explore this Mediterranean city, feeling very much at home on the French Riviera. With the sun leading our path, we discovered delicious farm to table dining at Le Canon, and local cooking school Les Petits Farcis, should we choose to take a market tour and cook our own Niçois meal. Next time!

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I could have easily spent more time exploring this city of art and culture while savored more sunsets in the south, but it was time to return north for adventures in Burgundy. Next stop: Beaune.

36 Hours in Florence

Last week I had a meeting with bespoke travel company Bella Vita Travels at their home base on the Italian Riviera. Since it fell just before Valentine’s Day, my Italian and I decided to head to Florence for a quick stop. Having recently fallen back in love with Rome after over ten years, it was now Florence’s turn. With only 36 hours to spare, here are the highlights on where to sleep, eat, visit and shop. Feel free to follow in our footsteps!

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SLEEP : Just steps away from the famous Ponte Vecchio, in the very heart of Florence sits Gallery Hotel Art, a modern boutique hotel, part of the four luxurious Lungarno Collection hotels by fashion icon Ferragamo.

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EAT : Italy is all about the food, isn’t it? Recommendations are always welcome as not to get stuck in a tourist trap. Luckily, we met local artist and friend Kevin Berlin, known in Firenze as Giovanni Rossi, who directed us to traditional Florentine spot Osteria del Porcellino. Delicious! A more gastronomic favorite was Il Santo Bevitore, a tip from local expat Georgette, aka Girl in Florence. She also pointed us towards new hotspot Gurdulù where we enjoyed an after dinner drink.

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DRINK : The aperitivo is taken very seriously in Italy, much like the apéritif in France. Thankfully, Giovanni knew just the spot next door to his home in Piazza della Signoria. Rivoire is the oldest bar in Florence, and almost where the negroni originated (that bar unfortunately no longer exists). If barman Luca is there ask him to mix you a Negroni while you peruse the book he wrote on this very cocktail. Incidentally, some of the best chocolate and sweets can also be found here!

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SEE : With little time and much to see, we made a plan. Having already been to the Uffizi years ago, we paid a quick visit to Florence’s Cathedral, also known as the Duomo with it’s majestic dome, and set out to explore the city. We passed by Dante’s home (photo above) and south of the river Arno to the Oltrarno neighborhood. One afternoon was spent at the Basilica di Santa Croce, the largest Franciscan church in the world, featuring sixteen chapels. Here is the final resting place of Italian greats including Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Gentile and Rossini. The three cloisters too are worth a visit (photo below).

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SHOP : On my last visit to Florence I bought a leather jacket in one of the local leather markets. (I still wear it.) This time, I wasn’t looking for any souvenirs but did stumble upon the most beautiful perfumerie Aqua Flor, with scents unique to their shop. I couldn’t resist!

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After a last negroni we ran to catch our train, enroute to the riviera, while dreaming of the next visit to Florence.

 

Roman Holiday

The last time I was in Rome was the first time I was in Italy, 13 years ago. A good friend and I took a trip to visit this historic land. Little did either of us know that we would both marry Italian men years later. Foreshadowing? I had not been to Rome since, and those who read this blog know I travel to Italy quite often, so my Italian and I decided it was time to return to the roots of Italian history. Our Roman Holiday began in the charming neighborhood of Trastevere, with a view of the Tiber river. With only a few days to explore the city, and endless sights to fall back in love with, we hit the streets, guided by blue skies and our trusted Lonely Planet.

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Just steps away on the other side of the Tiber we found the sunlit and flower-filled Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona, one of the most enchanting of Rome’s many squares. I immediately fell in love with the vibrant colors, illuminated by the sun, a stark contrast to the neutral tones of Paris. Kasia Dietz handbags Rome collection?

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From one majestic fountain to another, we stopped to admire them all. Just don’t drink the water they say…

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The Fountain of the Four Rivers, one of Bernini’s masterpieces, depicts Gods of the four great rivers in the four continents as  were then recognized by the Renaissance geographers, including the Nile in Africa, the Ganges in Asia, the Danube in Europe and the Río de la Plata in America.

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The Pantheon, a Greek adjective meaning “honor all Gods”, built and dedicated between A.D 118 and 125, is one of the most preserved and influential buildings in Rome. Not to mention majestic!

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Newly restored and sparkling, I was tempted to jump into the Trevi Fountain La Dolce Vita style. I resisted.

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On one of our exploratory walks, we climbed to the top of the Altar of the Fatherland, also known as National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II in honor of the first King of a unified Italy.

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The views from the top were impressive, to say the least. Rome glowed in the late afternoon sun. I swooned.

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One day was spent with friends, a Roman power couple you could say. Erica being a travel journalist and Rome expert, and Darius an archaeologist who digs on this very land. Who better to explore the Roman Forum with?

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Once the center of Roman public life, we tried to imagine the events that took place here many centuries ago.

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By chance, we gained access to sights that haven’t been made public yet. For my (and your) eyes only…

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We walked from the Roman Forum up 40 meters to Palatine Hill… Our expert guide Darius Arya leading the way.

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From there we saw the Colosseum, the largest amphitheater ever built. An engineering & architectural marvel.

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I stood for a while admiring the Colosseum before we went inside, in complete awe. To the right of it is the apartment from film La Grande Bellezza, not a bad view…

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Enamored with sculptor Bernini, we spent an afternoon at the Villa Borghese. I’ve learned to always look down.

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Our last stop was at Saint Peter’s Basilica which will leave even an atheist marveling at this Renaissance structure, both inside and out. Already, we couldn’t wait to return. Rome had captured our hearts.

Hôtel de Ville

Often I walk past Hôtel de Ville, Paris’ City Hall since 1357, and always I wonder what the interior looks like. This neo-renaissance building houses the local administration, and since 1977, the Mayor of Paris. Rebuilt after the original burnt down during the Paris Commune in 1871, it sits close to the Seine, bordering the famed Marais and attracting all who pass by its regal structure. Very often an art exhibition takes place within or outside its walls.

IMG_2045Every September, Les Journées du Patrimoine or Heritage Days, envelop Paris. For these 2 days it’s possible to visit monuments & sites usually not accessible to the public, for free, if you don’t mind standing in line, sometimes for hours.

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Melenos Lindos

We arrived to Rhodes and immediately fell under the spell of its majestic medieval city, the largest walled city in Europe. We explored the tangle of roads which led to the Jewish Quarter and paid a visit to the impressive Archaeological Museum. But our main destination was the town of Lindos, an hour by bus and a world of difference.

IMG_0884Rising over the traditional white homes of Lindos sits an acropolis dating back to the 10th century BC. As we ventured up the hill, we arrived to our home, Melenos Lindos, what appeared to be a village within a village; a world of its own that I was eager to discover.

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bridge of love

I’m certainly an advocate of expressing love in it’s many forms, both privately and publicly, but when it starts to weigh heavily (in this case literally) even I, a diehard romantic become disenchanted. This is the case with Paris’ much loved bridge, also a symbol of love.

IMG_9632In 2008, tourists from around the world began attaching ‘love locks’ to the Pont de Arts. By engraving their initials & throwing the key into the Seine, their love was forever locked.

IMG_9635In February 2014, well over 700,000 locks were estimated to be attached to the bridge.

IMG_9646There was much concern about the possible damage caused by the weight of the locks. In June of 2014, that fear was justified when part of the parapet on the bridge collapsed.

IMG_9647In August 2014, the Paris Mayor’s Office began to encourage “selfiies” in place of love locks, with their campaign “Love Without Locks”. “Our bridges can no longer withstand your gestures of love. Set them free by declaring your love with #lovewithoutlocks.” Even a No Love Locks campaign was started by two concerned women who call Paris home.

IMG_9674Over 50% of the panels on the Pont des Arts had to be boarded over with plywood.

IMG_9677On September 18, 2014, much to tourists dismay, the City Hall of Paris replaced three panels with glass as they searched for a suitable replacement which could hold no locks.

IMG_9661Starting on June 2015, the locks were removed, with Health and Safety officials stating “the romantic gestures cause long term Heritage degradation and danger to visitors”.

IMG_9689As of 2015, over a million locks weighing around 45 tons were attached to the bridge.

IMG_9699These days, Pont des Arts has become less about locks and more about art. Artists Jace, El Seed, Brusk & Pantonio have been commission to decorate the bridge with their work.

IMG_9713As I walked the length of the bridge and around it, I admired the graffiti artwork and the stories being told, knowing that this will in time be replaced by padlock-proof glass panels.

IMG_9702 Love continues to reign in padlock form as tourists attach their locks to the sturdier sides.

IMG_9716 I couldn’t help but think that true love should be set free, rather than locked. Yes, I know it’s only symbolic. But there are many less damaging ways to express our sentiments.

IMG_9726What are your thoughts about love and locks and this new look of Pont des Arts?

through the looking glass

As I return to the art world of Paris, with so many must-see exhibitions going on, I reflect on an expo my mom and I recently saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. China : Through the Looking Glass was the most impressive show I had seen in a while.

IMG_3315What is it exactly? As stated by the MET, This exhibition explores the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion and how China has fueled the fashionable imagination for centuries. In this collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Department of Asian Art, high fashion is juxtaposed with Chinese costumes, paintings, porcelains, and other art, including films, to reveal enchanting reflections of Chinese imagery. Perhaps better if I explain visually what I saw through the looking glass…

IMG_3292Following are a few favorites, both the traditional costumes and their modern counterparts.

IMG_3281Semiformal Robe for Qianlong Emperor, 1736-95 + Yves Saint Laurent / Tom Ford 2004-5

IMG_3282Yves Saint Laurent / Tom Ford 2004-5 + Woman’s Semiformal Robe, 19th Century

IMG_3286Formal Robe for Guangxu Emperor 1875-1908

IMG_3289The three floors of the exhibition, including artifacts & films, transported us to another era.

IMG_3293Portobello Wallpaper / Alexander McQueen 2006-7

IMG_3299With more than 140 pieces of haute couture, including this gown by Guo Pei (2010) and avant-garde ready-to-wear alongside Chinese art, there was much to be inspired by. We left with eyes filled with visions hard to recount. Best to experience the richness of Chinese history for yourself, before it ends on August 16th.

galerie des galeries

Few people know that within Galeries Lafayette, one of Paris’ most prestigious department stores, lies an art gallery, aptly named Galerie des Galeries. I discovered this on a recent private tour of this fashion haven with Rendezvous en France. Can’t fashion be art?

IMG_8520Painter Karina Bisch has taken over the space with expo Arlequine, the walls covered in a 70 meter long canvas. Window-like openings within the canvas reveal colorful paintings.

IMG_8528IMG_8530_2IMG_8524IMG_8529_2Six characters stand within the open space, dressed in outfits created by Karina, named for select artists including Sonia, Varvara, Giacomo, Pablo, Ellsworth and Gustav.

IMG_8527The space is transformed into a theatre in which the mannequins are the spectators.

IMG_8522_2IMG_8531Thank you Galeries Lafayette, for inspiring the shopper. What’s next? Expo ends May 9th.

Andalucia inspired

Last week I finished my latest handbag collection inspired by recent travels to Andalucia, Spain. Who better to shoot these new bags with than one of my favorite Paris photographers, the uber talented Catherine O’Hara. We set the date for a clear and calm Sunday, and headed for one of my favorite settings, Île Saint-Louis. To avoid the crowds we descended the stairs and the heart of the city became ours, at least for a moment.

Catherine O-Hara Photography-Kasia Dietz Handbagskasia-bags-27 kasia-bags-31kasia-bags-37To celebrate the coming of spring, I’m giving away one of my new Andalucia handbags. {From left to right: Cordoba, Seville, Granada.} To enter, leave a comment with your favorite bag and where you would like to travel. Winner chosen at random on March 10th. You can also enter via instagram at: instagram.com/kasia_dietz

kasia-bags-56Here’s an outtake with Catherine’s adorable pooch Percy. I couldn’t resist a shot with him!

kasia-bags-78Thank you Catherine for such gorgeous photos! Had a wonderful time with you and Percy!

You can find all my handbags online at www.kasiadietz.com

colors of Andalucia

During our recent trip to Andalucia, I became enchanted with the tilework of the Alcázar of Seville. These press-moulded tiles inherited the Islamic love for geometry while taking on figurative compositions inspired by fabrics during the Gothic and Renaissance periods. I was inspired by the colors and shapes and sought to create a modern version in bag form.

IMG_3095IMG_3091IMG_3094The range of motifs produced in Seville was varied, and their use in architecture diverse.

IMG_3163 IMG_3200 IMG_3187 As soon as we returned to Paris I set to work on a new Andalucia handbag collection…

art into fashion

Artist Sonia Delaunay is one of the inspirations behind my handbags. Arriving to Paris in 1905, Sonia believed “modernity could be expressed through the primacy of color in art and the dynamic interplay of its dissonances and harmonies”. Due in large part to her beliefs and the quality of her work, Delaunay is responsible for bringing art into daily life.

IMG_2309I was overjoyed to spend an afternoon with my muse at her Musée d’Art Moderne retrospective in Paris, what was once her home. ( I often visit her paintings at Pompidou’s permanent collection.) Over 400 works were on display, including paintings, wall decorations, gouaches, prints, fashion items and textiles. A designer’s paradise!

IMG_2318Bringing together the fine and applied arts, Sonia Delaunay desired to liberate color, without restricting it to surface. Her art was brought into life, and into fashion.

IMG_2325Art and life became one. “It was my life and I worked the whole time, but I wasn’t working – I was living – and that is the difference.”

IMG_2336Delaunay’s textiles varied greatly from the naturalistic designs popular in the early 1920s. Her fabrics incorporated geometric shapes, often with strong, bold colors.

IMG_2347I often look at paintings and see them as fabric. That is after all, how I came up with my wearable art designs. For me, there is no better example of this than the work of Delaunay.

IMG_2348“For me there is no gap between my painting and my so-called ‘decorative’ work. I never considered the ‘minor arts’ to be artistically frustrating; on the contrary, it was an extension of my art.”
IMG_2349            Sonia’s vision was uniquely vibrant. For her “color is the skin of the world”.

Sonia Delaunay retrospective ends February 22

 

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Paris is a city steeped in history, with rarely a modern structure in sight. This is why the Fondation Louis Vuitton is such an important and monumental museum and cultural center for Paris. It not only houses art, but in my opinion it personifies art. It opened in late October in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne, and soon after that I was lucky enough to experience it. My last trip into the mind and work of Frank Gehry was at Guggenheim Bilbao and more recently NYC’s Guggenheim. This one was perhaps the most impressive of them all!

IMG_0504Frank Gehry’s vision was realized thanks to the generous funding of LVMH, at a cost of no less than $135 million. Within this 43 meter high private foundation of glass, concrete, timber and steel, you can find the art collection of Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s art-collecting owner and France’s wealthiest man. “You don’t put a price tag on a dream,” says Arnault. Eleven galleries provide 3,850 sq meters (41,441 square feet) of exhibition space. Pas mal!

IMG_0522From the top you can perfectly view Paris’ business district of La Défense in the distance.

IMG_0567I was enchanted by the mirrors and moat on the ground floor.

IMG_0581 IMG_0592Outside, the cascading waterfall creates a feeling of serenity amidst the concrete.

IMG_8670My Italian and I were so fascinated with the reflective structure and the way in which the light changed throughout the afternoon, that we stayed until nightfall.

IMG_8714THIS was a sight to behold!

united we stand

In an attempt to make even a small difference in the world, one that is often fraught with conflict, I designed the United Collection, representing people coming together in freedom, harmony, balance and unity. Twenty percent of all proceeds from sales of the United bags will go towards the global humanitarian organization, International Red Cross. With my mission in place, this was certainly a fun project to work on. Photographer Hélène Loire and I spent a beautiful late afternoon photographing the collection, beginning with that which we are all entitled to, freedom.

freedom (n): The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.

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harmony (n): A pleasing combination of elements in a whole.

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balance (v): To bring into or maintain in a state of equilibrium.

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united (n): The state of being united or joined as a whole.

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More images from the United Collection on Kasia Dietz handbags website.

In addition to donating 20% of United bag sales to International Red Cross, I’m giving away a bag to one of my readers (chosen at random Dec 1st) as an early holiday gift. Just leave a comment below stating which United bag is your favorite, and be sure to join my designing life on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Meanwhile, let’s all try to maintain a sense of freedom, harmony, balance and unity.

morning with Picasso

I first visited Picasso in Paris ten years ago, stopping to admire the 17th-century mansion known as the Hôtel Salé, on one of my many walks around the Marais. I remember thinking what a shame that so much of his personal work was in storage, as there was scant wall space to display the artwork. Little did I know I would end up living just a stone’s throw from this artist’s legacy, but with only the garden open for viewing. As anyone who is a fan of Picasso’s work knows, the Musée Picasso has been closed for the last 5 years (3 years longer than expected), undergoing extensive renovations.

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On Friday morning, October 24th, one day shy of Picasso’s birthday and the official opening, I was invited inside the newly renovated museum, now three times the size and much more impressive.

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I walked around the five floors in awe of the renewed space which now boasts over 400 of Picasso’s paintings, drawings and sculptures, as well as works from his personal collection.

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Musée Picasso plans to host one major exhibit each year. Next year, in collaboration with New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, it will be a show revolving around Picasso’s sculpture. Until then, I plan to spend many a Paris morning with Picasso.

Auvers-sur-Oise

This past spring when my mom came to visit, I thought about where to bring her. Last year we had explored Chantilly, and while it would have been a lovely time of year to visit Giverny, I opted to be more creative and we ventured to Auvers-sur-Oise. This commune, only about 27 kilometers northwest of Paris, was once home to the Impressionists. More specifically, Paul Cézanne, Charles-François Daubigny, Camille Pissarro, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and, Vincent van Gogh.

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IMG_1742This was a trip into Van Gogh’s life. It was incredible to be amidst the church that he once painted.

IMG_1744It is here that he rests alongside his brother Theo, who passed away only 6 months after Vincent.

IMG_1750The next stop was Château d’Auvers where we discovered a most insightful interactive journey into the lives of the Impressionists. A unique experience! Not to mention the breathtaking gardens…

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As the sun was setting we walked the length of the estate, reflecting on years long gone.

IMG_1820It was time to bid farewell to Auvers-sur-Oise. Like the artists before us, we headed back to Paris.

a work of art

My ideal holiday includes good art and gourmet food. Simple, no? When we decided to embark on adventures in the Basque Country, I knew there would be plenty of both. Our first stop on this whirlwind weekend away was Bilbao, which means the Guggenheim. I had dreamed of visiting this Frank Gehry masterpiece since it’s inauguration in 1997. Finally, it was time.

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I was in awe as we reached the museum, it’s scale-like facade illuminated beneath a cloudy sky.

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Every angle of the grand edifice uniquely reflecting the light.

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Anish Kapoor’s impressive Tall Tree & The Eye standing tall, and observing keenly.

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Jeff Koons’ Tulips filled the outdoor space with color.

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Throughout the day, as the light changed, so too did the reflections.

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One of the most interesting pieces was Louise Bourgeois’ Maman, a larger than life spider.

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What made me the happiest was Richard Serra’s The Matter of Time, a permanent installation of eight sculptures by this artist whose work I have admired for years. What luck to find him in Bilbao!

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Ernesto Neto, a Brazilian artist, was new to me. I enjoyed experiencing his work, quite literally.

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Yoko Ono too, was a featured artist, along with her wishing tree. Yes, we made a few wishes!

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We spent most of the day within and around this museum, itself a work of art. Unforgettable.

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But it was now time for San Sebastián, or Donostia to the locals. The beach and pinxtos awaited…

THATRue launch!

Last Sunday my Italian and I took to the streets of Paris for a treasure hunt unlike any other, joined by over 30 friends and Paris bloggers. We were searching for the likes of Montaigne and Rimbaud, among other hidden gems. This hunt amidst historic Paris being THATRue, the latest creation by Daisy de Plume, mastermind behind THATLou. You can read about my THATLou adventures here.

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Being a great fan of Daisy’s endeavors at cleverly educating while entertaining the masses on French culture and history, I was honored to be one of the co-hosts along with Forest of 52 Martinis and The Chamber. I designed a THATRue bag for the occasion, to be won & worn by the winning team.

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IMG_8158Our team included Erica of HiP Paris Blog, and though we did not win, we had a blast discovering corners of the left bank none of us had known, and my Italian even sang for us, to earn extra points of course! Though he seemed to enjoy it. As quoted in the latest feature in The Huffington Post, “This new Paris scavenger hunt is the perfect way to see the city.” I could not agree more.

art{ist} collecting

These days, while I visit Paris museums and galleries, admiring the masters, I’m also on the hunt for art and artists with which to decorate my home. During my around the world travels, it was often undiscovered artists that caught my eye, a lacquer painting by a local artist from the village of Hoi An in Vietnam (see below), or a Chilean artist whose work I became enamored with in Santiago. And then there was the Brazilian sculptor  in Olinda… and thus began my art collection.

art from Hoi AnSince I don’t currently travel to these remote lands, I search online. Most recently I discovered incredible abstract drawings by artists from around the world, from a favorite London based gallery, Saatchi! Not to mention paintings by talented emerging artists. A few of my favorites…

nr 185:2 by Hennie Van De Landenr 185/2 by Henni Van de Lande of Breda, Netherlands

Lovers by Jarek Puczel Lovers by Jarek Puczel of Olsztyn, Poland

abstract N 632 [emerald green] by Koen Lybaertabstract N° 632 [emerald green] by Koen Lybaert of Geel, Antwerp, Belgium

Through the international site Etsy, I’ve also discovered two artists whose work I admire, one of them a Danish girl living in Paris, and the other a Dutch artist based in Rotterdam.

ArtyGryParisSpringtime by Rikke Clausen of Copenhagen, Denmark

Ronald HunterBlue and White Buildings by Ronald Hunter of Rotterdam, Netherlands

The only problem now remains, which artist to add to my collection?

curating inspiration

As anyone in Paris is well aware, given the amount of fashion forward (and fashion faux pas) walking the streets of Paris these days, it’s Fashion Week. Rather than attending crowded shows to catch a glimpse of new trends that are often only seen on the catwalk, I chose a more inspired path. Friday night was the opening of the Dries Van Noten exhibition at Musée des Arts Décoratifs. I was lucky enough to join Anne of Ritournelle Blog, along with the who’s who of fashion, including Dries himself! This is the Belgian fashion icon’s first solo exhibition, aptly titled Inspirations. Not merely a fashion exhibition, but a look into the mind of a designer through art, imagination and creativity.

IMG_7217The starting point of a collection can be either very literal or abstract, a painting, a certain colour, a thought, a gesture, a smell, a flower, anything really. What matters to me is the journey from that first flash of inspiration to the final destination, the individual garments, the collection.

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I was impressed and inspired by this in-depth look into the mind of an artist. Here’s what Suzy Menkes of the International New York Times had to say, along with a video tour with Dries himself. This exhibition, which took 2 years to mount, will be on display until August 31st. Well worth a visit for anyone with creative sensibilities and a love for fashion, art & travel. Worth even a trip to Paris!

escape to Japan

Who says Florida only offers palm trees, sandy beaches and shopping malls? On our recent trip to visit my mom, we discovered a little piece of paradise, Japanese style. And we LOVE Japan!

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George S. Morikami arrived to the United States from Japan in 1906, to work as a pineapple farmer. He was one of the last surviving members of the Yamato Colony that settled west of Delray Beach at the turn of the century. It is thanks to Mr. Morikami, for his donation of 140 acres of land to the state of Florida, that the memory of him and his people lives on. Visiting the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens gracefully transports you to another world.

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Upon these grounds you feel free.

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With rock gardens in which to ponder life’s mysteries.

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And a museum in which to transport yourself to Japan.

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Or perhaps best to sit and contemplate.

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Surrounded by bonsai trees.

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expressive art

What is a trip to New York City without a visit to one of the many impressive museums or galleries? Since my Italian had never been to Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece, and one of my favorite spaces, the Guggenheim Museum, there we spent a chilly but inspired afternoon.

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Just in time to catch the last days of the Christopher Wool exhibition.

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Wool, an artist from Chicago who began his career in NYC in the 1980’s, developed an art style that used language as his subject matter. A fan of his work, I found these pieces most thought provoking.

IMG_4917Rendering a word or phrase in bold, blocky stencils arrayed across a geometric grid, he preserved the specific form and order of the language, but freely stripped out punctuation, disrupted conventional spacing, and removed letters.

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The resulting compositions oscillate between verbal communication & pure formalism, with their structural dissonance reflecting the state of anxiety & agitation conjured by the texts themselves.

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IMG_4844Next stop for Wool, the Pompidou? I can think of a few French words and expressions…

New York minutes

This year we decided to brave the cold and ring in the early days of 2014 at home in New York City.

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What good it does me to walk these streets, feel the energy, catch up with the lives of dear friends…

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As cold as it was, with a blizzard on the way, we loved sharing these minutes with New York.

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The Freedom Tower standing tall.

Pop Art bag goes to NYC

And art around every corner. Next stop the Guggenheim…

the happy show

Often I question, what is happiness? Is it something we can control? For me, happiness can be as simple as sitting along the banks of the Seine, watching the sun set behind Notre Dame. Equally, cruising around the spectacular Greek island of Milos on a catamaran beneath a clear blue sky, or floating in a hot air balloon above the natural wonder that is called Cappodocia. Both of these memories elicit great happiness. Come to think of it, almost anything related to travel, beauty, love (or nearly anything sweet), brings me happiness. I recently read an article that shed a little light.

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When I discovered an exhibition based on this very topic, I couldn’t wait to go. Stefan Sagmeister is creator of The Happy Show, a study of happiness, a topic that has long intriqued him and led him on his happiness hunt. This Austrian-born graphic artist, whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in New York City, asks “Is happiness a muscle just like any other?”

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The first question, what makes us happy? (Genetics, Activites & Life Conditions)

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IMG_5727How happy are you on a scale of 1-10? Looks like the gumballs are almost gone in #9.

IMG_4812What makes us unhappy? “Trying to look good limits my life”

IMG_5743It has been proven that taking risks increases happiness. I agree!

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My Italian and I attended the opening of the expo and were very happy to speak with Stefan about his studies on happiness and what inspired him to put together the show, as well as the film he’s working on. For those interested, here are 7 rules for making more happiness from Stefan.

The Happy Show is making it’s way around the world, from Philadelphia to Toronto to Los Angeles and now in Paris at La Gaîté Lyrique. Will the exhibition itself make you happy? You can bet on it.

art in the park

Traveling from Paris to London via Eurostar takes just as much time as traveling from New York City to my home in Westhampton Beach via LIRR. With a commute of just over 2 hours, whenever London calls, I answer. My latest chunnel journey was in search of fabrics. While in Londontown there was much going on in the art world (good timing!). In addition to a Paul Klee exhibition at the Tate Modern, followed by a chance Paul McCartney concert in Covent Garden (have I mentioned that timing is everything?), one of my highlights was an afternoon spent at the Frieze Masters.

IMG_2509Many great works to be found within the tents of Regent’s Park.

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Some of the most interesting artworks I discovered in the park itself. Looks like fabric!

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This piece reminded me of Richard Serra, whom I adore.

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Was most impressed by this larger than life face, changing as you moved around it.

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Reflecting on the artful day.

IMG_2559To accompany the art tour, the sun shone brightly. A perfect day in the park.

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for the ladies

What makes a perfect ladies night? How about champagne, macarons, nude men and good friends? That’s exactly the ladies night I just had the pleasure of indulging in. Following a Girls Guide to Paris soirée to launch their new magazine, I met girlfriends at the Musee d’Orsay. That’s where we found the nude men. Did I neglect to mention they were sculpted?

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Rarely in history has the male nude, the basis of Academic art training, been displayed the way the beauty of the nude woman has, and still is. The Musee d’Orsay decided to change this by curating the exhibition, Masculine / Masculine. Their aim is to take an “interpretive, playful, sociological and philosophical approach to exploring all aspects and meanings of the male nude in art.”

IMG_1981And how pleased are we women? And quite a fair share of men too.

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What most impressed me was the variety of artworks in view.

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From Rodin to Bacon, Warhol, Pierre et Gilles, Cocteau, Flandrin and many more masters.

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There was certainly a fair share of ogling by eager onlookers, but well worth braving the crowds.

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And worth snapping a few photos, even though it was forbidden. Shhhh!

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If you are in Paris, grab your girlfriends (or go solo) and head to the Orsay!

Exhibition ends January 2nd.

hidden romanticism

Clandestinely situated down a long alleyway on an unassuming street in the 9eme arrondissement, sits the house of painter Ary Scheffer, also known as the Musée de la Vie Romantique (Museum of the Romantics). How did I not know about this earlier? I decided to venture there on a sunny morning, with friend and fellow romantic Jacquelyn, to explore this artist’s home, dedicated to the arts and literature of the first half of the XIXth century. Truly a hidden gem!

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It is here that much of writer George Sand‘s memorabilia are displayed including portraits, pens, jewelry… even her hair! An impressive collection. Incidentally, this famous writer and mistress of Chopin, once lived on my street in the Marais!

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After touring the house’s many chambers, filled with landscape paintings by George Sand and portraits by Ary Scheffer, we took our romantic musings to the garden.

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A memorable morning spent with the romantics… and a new favorite hideaway in Paris.

Musée de la Vie Romantique
16 rue Chaptal 75009

lights. camera. action.

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Yesterday my Italian and I spent a hot summer day surrounded by lights and optical illusions at the Grand Palais. Light and motion in 20th Century art. What a unique and dynamic expo, aptly named Dynamo. Needless to say, we left illuminated! Following are some of those enlightened moments…

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For those in Paris, hurry, last day is July 22nd!

Château de Chantilly

During my mom’s recent visit to Paris, we decided to take her for a day trip. Where else but to a château? Less than 30 minutes by train lies the town of Chantilly, home to a spectacular château spanning the 14th to 19th centuries, not to mention chantilly cream, which in itself is worth the trip!

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Our first stop was the Grand Stables. Yes, horses do still live within this admirable structure!

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At first sight the Château de Chantilly exhibits an air of serene magnificence.

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The Musée Condé boasts the grandest collection of paintings in France, after the Louvre of course.

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I could not stop admiring (and photographing) the château from every angle, both near and far.

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Chantilly

A idyllically regal day spent beneath blue skies and the historic charm of France.

Pop in the Pompidou

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Recently I attended the opening of the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective at the Pompidou. How could I resist a major American artist from the Pop Art era? Though little did I know the breadth of his artistic skill until I walked through the galleries exhibiting his over 100 works. Many pieces were not allowed to be photographed, but I did my best to curate my own mini Lichtenstein exhibit for those who aren’t able to make it, or to entice those who can, to go. Capturing both his sculptures and his paintings, well beyond the world of Pop. Well worth the visit into the mind and life of an artist.

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“I want my painting to look as if it has been programmed. I want to hide the record of my hand.”

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“The subjects aren’t what holds my interest.”

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“Brushtrokes are almost a symbol of art.”

IMG_6124 IMG_6127“I’ve always wanted to make up someone as a cartoon.”

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Exhibition runs now until November 4th.

flying carpet

One of my creative passions (other than designing bags) is decorating. Finding just the right furniture and accessories to fill the space and create a home. Since moving to our new apartment, this is exactly what I have been doing. With the approval of my Italian, of course. (Thankfully, he usually agrees with my taste.) In need of a carpet for the living room I thought why not find one in Istanbul? And with the help of our local friends during our recent visit, that is exactly what we did.

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Rather than brave the Grand Bazaar with the tourists, Emre took us to the street of rugs. And there began our hunt for the perfect piece to complete our Parisian mid-century modern salon.

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The friendly sales people, who were busy mending a carpet when we entered, were more than pleased to help us, having many options of traditional woven kilims as well as patchwork rugs.

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We were shown dozens of rugs, mostly the patchwork style which I had quickly fallen in love with for it’s ancient yet modern allure. And then the bargaining began… Which was the chosen rug?

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An elegant black and white patchwork, that fits perfectly with our decor, and is the best souvenir we could have brought home. I knew this was our rug as soon as I saw it, but what fun to experience running around the carpet stores! Now perhaps a trip to Morocco for a lamp?

pique-niqueing & pétanque

IMG_2670 2When the sun comes out, so do the Parisians. On a recent spring-like day, moods were high and there was a lightness evident in the air. Now this is what spring is meant to feel like! My Italian and I joined a group of friends at the gardens of the Palais Royal for my favorite summer pastime, le pique-nique. It was here too that I played my first game of pétanque, the famous French sport so often played in and around Paris. Immediately I took a liking to this game of ball throwing, even winning a few times. Perhaps the champagne helped!

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It was beneath these blue skies that once again, I felt lucky to live within such immense beauty.

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On the way home, a little surprise in the form of fashion to end a well-spent day, la vie parisienne.

afternoon with Rodin

Every first Sunday of the month, Paris art aficionados receive a gift from the city. Many museums and cultural institutions in and around Paris are open, free of charge. Though I believe art should be free and museums should admit their patrons by donation only. On such a recent Sunday, the sun was shining over bright blue skies, and there was no way not to enjoy it, in the company of art. We chose one of my favorites, the ‘progenitor of modern sculpture’, Auguste Rodin.

Musée Rodin reveals one of the most spectacular gardens in Paris, home of The Thinker.

Sculptures amidst trees, strewn in the late afternoon sunshine.

The Gates of Hell, one of Rodin’s most notable sculptures.

I sat by the lake and thought of the life Rodin must have led, and what inspired him to create.

Perhaps withing this regal structure I will find the answers.

art inspired

These days as the sun sets early and the cold air settles in, I’m busying myself with designing. New Kasia Dietz handbags in the works! The question is, where does this inspiration come from? In a word: art. The sole reason I started my business. And aside from travel, my great love. As I did in NYC, here in Paris I spend as much time as I can carousing galleries and museums, even just stopping in the Pompidou, or in NYC, the MoMA, or in London, the Tate Modern, to visit my favorites. Paul Klee, Mark Rothko, Franz Klein, to name a few. It is these great artists that inspire me in my own, wearable art. Who says art and fashion can’t mix?

I recently featured the master Paul Klee on a guest post for THATlou.

Mark Rothko’s compositions will always bring me simple and natural bliss.

Franz Klein has a way of creating calm out of chaos. Minimalism at its best.

Stay tuned for Spring 2013, new collections of handbags influenced by abstract expressionism.

street poetry

As much as I enjoy frequent visits to local galleries and museums, some of the most unique and interesting art can be found walking along the city’s streets. Even the street art in Paris appears to be inspired by the romanticism of the city, at least in my eyes. There’s one artist in particular who I admire and have been following, whose work appears on numerous facades all around the city. Illustrations that come to life, and always make me stop to look. His name is Fred le Chevalier.

“Doing street art is a way to talk with everybody, not just with a specific audience.”

“They come from my feelings. I identify myself with most of the characters.”

“I try to do things that are optimistic.”

“What I like about my work is that people can create their own meaning.”

“I like mixing poetry with street art.”

“My characters never are adult or child, man or woman, it’s always a mix.”

Fred le Chevalier began posting his work in the Marais, where he is most familiar, and has since reached walls all around the city, numbering two to three thousand posted pieces in the last 3 years. He is gaining fame internationally and has begun exhibiting in galleries. I’m certain this is just the beginning. I for one, will continue to follow his poetic imaginings all around the gallery called Paris.

To learn more about Fred le Chevalier here is an interview, his blog and facebook page.

grand art

Every year the space within the Grand Palais becomes transformed by a select artist. To date, Anselm Kiefer (2007), Richard Serra (2008), Christian Boltanski (2010), Anish Kapoor (2011) and this year Daniel Buren. Considering that I’m a big fan of his columns at the Palais Royale, I wasn’t going to miss this! At first glance, the colorful circles impress by their sheer number… and colors.

It’s not until you look up, catching the light and mix of colors, that you really become mesmerized.

The view from above presents a completely varied and reflective experience.

Whether chasing light from below or admiring the view from above, I was impressed. As were the many wide-eyed children and enthusiastic adults surrounding me. A perfect refuge from gray skies.

Grand expo ending June 21st. Whose playground will it become next year?

wearable art

Art and travel. My two great inspirations. And one reason I design, combining these passions into something fashionable and functional. My latest Pop Art collection addresses the more playful side of art and fashion while the Riviera collection transports you to the French and Italian coasts.

The riviera bags speak for themselves, and were shot exactly there, on the Italian Riviera.

To help capture the essence of the pop art bags, I asked none other than art aficionado (and fabulous photographer) Stephanie of La Belle in France. First stop, Palais-Royal! Here are a few favorites from our shoot…

 Untitled. Simply because there are many interpretations.

 City. In the park.

Blue Coils. Very Richard Serra!

Spotlight. Simply because.

To feature these new collections, just in time for spring and summer, I redesigned my website! (Feeling very proud!) This is no easy task, and I would not have been able to do it without the help of my dear designer friend Suzanne, who created her own site, and helped me every step of the way.

To celebrate my relaunch, and to thank you all for your support of my growing business, I’m offering a promotion to my lovely readers and fans. With each purchase of a new Pop Art or Riviera bag receive a complimentary matching purse! (Offer ends June 1st) www.kasiadietz.com

Don’t forget to join us on Facebook and Twitter!

village in color

My last visit to Vernazza was on a hike just a month prior to the flooding. I was afraid of what I would find on my recent return. This village, the favorite of Rick Steves, was devastated, it’s famously picturesque port completely buried. Just recently life has returned to Vernazza, still not nearly back to it’s glory. Much rebuilding remains in the months ahead.

What I was most pleasantly surprised to find were the painted doors. On January 6th, 50 artists were invited to paint one of the many boarded up doors, a mission called “Un Arcobaleno di Solidarietà per Vernazza” — A Rainbow of Solidarity for Vernazza. To bring hope back to this shattered village. In the spirit of community, and art.

A last look from above as the sun set through the clouds, Monterosso far off in the distance. A view that could leave you breathless. And certain that this village will rise again.

For more on aid and progress of Vernazza click here.

The Dream Life of Nichole Robertson

Nichole Robertson is one of those women I look at and wonder, how does she do it all? (And so well!) Excel at a career in New York’s high-paced advertising world, manage a continual state of wedded bliss, raise two young sons… all the while living the dream of Paris, photographing this city by capturing it’s essence unlike anyone else. Recently she was featured on Martha Stewart, but there was more I wanted to know. And so I asked her how Paris became a reality.

My husband and I decided to move to Paris on a whim one night after a few glasses of wine. By all measures it seemed crazy – we had two toddler boys, wonderful friends, a network of business contacts – but something nagged us. Was this the life we were supposed to be living?

We hadn’t yet bought a house (we were living in the NYC suburbs) and we both were self-employed with flexible work arrangements. Nothing was holding us down, and our desire to shake up our lives outweighed any practical considerations.

So we stored or sold most of our things, and did it. I didn’t really overthink it, and looking back, I’m humored by the cavalier manner in which we did it. It was exhilarating and scary and wonderful.

As we adjusted to our new neighborhood, everything was a challenge in the best possible way. While I could sleepwalk my way through a workday with a client in NYC or at Whole Foods or Target, simply buying milk or navigating the post office presented challenges. I had about as much French as an 18 month old and the same wide eyes.

Being out of my comfort zone was good for me. It allowed me to slow down and notice things I may have otherwise overlooked. Even though I’m a writer, I had little interest in writing about my experiences in Paris, it was all visual. I carried my camera with me everywhere. I snapped photos of everything that caught my eye (I even have photos of trash cans!), simply because it was new. New to me, and that’s all that mattered.

That was three years ago, and what started out as simple snapshots of my life in Paris turned into a three-year project, a side business and a book. I’m still floored by that, and wonder why my life took this turn. I guess good things happen when you follow your bliss.

To experience more of Nichole’s bliss, step into the world of Little Brown Pen where she often captures Paris in Color, her book releasing on April 18th! My favorites being red and gray, or perhaps the elegance of white… You can also follow her visions of Paris via Facebook and Twitter.

New York in Paris

As I’m getting to know Paris more intimately and discovering it’s characteristic neighborhoods, each a small village in its own right, I think of how we come to identify with our hood (as the New Yorker would say it) or arrondissement to the Parisiens. The city is made up of 20 arrondissements, as decided by Napoleon III in 1860. Where you are on the map is evident when you glance up at the street signs and find a number ranging from 1 to 20. (Still easy to get lost, trust me!)

Much like in New York where one of the first questions asked ‘Where do you live?’ can create an instant bond, Paris too forms identities via neighborhoods. When I came across this map created by artist Vahran Muratyan of Paris versus New York, I couldn’t help but to think of how well these two cities compliment one another. From someone who shares my sentiments, “When I’m in Paris, I miss New York, and when I’m in New York, I miss Paris. It’s really impossible to choose.”

Even though I lived in the Lower East Side, via Paris I managed to find my way to the West Village bordering SOHO, my two favorite neighborhoods. Yes, I can attest to the accuracy of this map!

Fellow New Yorkers in Paris (and those still to arrive) where do you call home? In NYC and in Paris.

soul of New York

Anyone who knows me, is well aware that New York City resides deeply within my heart. Much like a first love that will forever be revered. Several months ago, via my blogging journey, I met a fellow New Yorker with a similar sentiment towards the city that doesn’t sleep. Phil Vasquez is a writer and filmmaker from Canada, inspired by classic and foreign films and American and French popular music songbooks, everything from Cole Porter to Charles Aznavour. He has resided for many years in NYC and soon… Paris. I quickly discovered that Phil possesses a unique sensitivity and depth that was revealed in his short film, Song of Relations, a beautiful tribute to the soul of old New York City.

Nested in nests of water bays. Superb, rich.
Hemm’d thick all round with sail ships and steam ships.
An island, 16 miles long, solid founded.
Numberless crowded streets. High growths of iron. Slender, strong, light.
Splendidly uprising toward clear skies.
The countless masts. The white shore steamers. The lighters. The ferry-boats.
The downtown streets. The houses of business of the ship merchants and money brokers.
The river streets.
City of hurried and sparkling waters, city of spires and masts.
City nested in bays. My city.
– Walt Whitman

I look forward to following Phil’s journey from New York to Paris, a city he and his wife plan to call home, where he will absorb the culture and no doubt make authentic French films with an American independent production style. And where his unique vision will continue.

To view his film and learn more about this writer & filmmaker in the making: www.tpapictures.com

Also be sure to join Phil Vasquez on facebook and connect on twitter.

 

Barca by night

Walking around Barcelona during the day is an experience in architecture, namely Gaudí, but by night the city takes on quite a different persona, particularly in the neighborhoods we chose to explore, El Born and Barrio Gotico. Bars and shops would close in the night (as well as much of the early afternoon) and the streets were filled with metal doors often advertising what lies on the other side. It felt as though we were walking through an outdoor gallery only visible to the night crawlers.

Just the right mix of shabby and chic.

Would I buy fruits and vegetables here?

I can only imagine what’s for sale behind these doors…

Pasta anyone?

My adventurous side is intrigued.

Next time I will return during open hours to discover the truth behind these doors.

New Year with Gaudí

Following a memorable traditional family Christmas spent on the Italian Riviera between Monterosso and Levanto, it was time for a new adventure. I had last been to Spain many university years ago and was eager to become reacquainted with Barcelona. Almost immediately we were greeted by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, considered by some a genius and by others a lunatic. Perhaps a mix of the two? For those 6 days we experienced Love in the City of Gaudí.

Our first stop was Casa Batlló (right), a modernist house appropriately called the ‘house of bones’.

I was mesmerized by the colors and effects, each detail fitting together creating a masterpiece.

The roof of tiled chimneys was particularly impressive. I was intriqued with the mind of this genius.

Next stop was majestic cathedral Sagrada Família, the Nativity facade by Gaudí began in 1882.

The Passion facade with controversial statues by Josep Subirachs sculpted from 1986-2006.

Intricate ceiling of the cathedral whose completion is planned by 2040, 10 towers still to be built.

Our self-guided tour, along with many others, continued to Park Güell, a garden city project.

We were first greeted by the iconic dragon.

A lone violinist accompanied by a washerwoman amidst the living stones.

It was here where Gaudí lived his last years, within this failed urban development turned park.

Our last stop was the statuesque Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera.

It was with the silent guardians on the rooftop that I became enamored.

The whisper of these chimneys confirmed that I would soon return.

travel meets fashion

I love to travel as much as I love designing. Thus, I decided to design a custom travel bag, revealing the three cities closest to my heart. A seemingly easy task, at least for the first two. Paris, since this is now my home and ever since that first visit so many years ago, love at first encounter. New York since it’s where I spent some of the most memorable (and formative) years of my life.

As for the third, that was a challenge. There are many cities I became enamored with, mostly during my journey around the world. Buenos Aires, Hanoi, Ubud (more a town than a city), Sydney, Mumbai, Kyoto, Luang Prabang, Krakow, London, Mexico City… the list goes on. But where was it that stood out in my mind unlike any other? Tokyo. Perhaps because I was there with dear friends on both my first visit and my second. Or perhaps it was due to the freshest sushi I’ve even eaten at 7am after a night of darts and karaoke… or simply, the unique energy and electricity in the air.

Whatever it was, Tokyo won a place on my bag. Along with Paris and New York.

What are your top three?

To make this equally exciting for all fashion savvy travelers out there, I’m giving away one custom hand-painted reversible travel bag to a lucky traveler and fan. With your initials printed on the inside pocket. To enter, leave a comment stating your three favorite cities and join my facebook fan page where I will announce the winner on December 15th. Bonne chance and many a bon voyage!

To order a custom bag or join a bag painting workshop and create your own: info@kasiadietz.com

next stop: Impressionism

My most venerated Paris museum was once a railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. Since then it was abandoned and later brought back to life 25 years ago, housing the largest Impressionist collection in the world. Not to mention my favorites, the Post-Impressionists.

I have wandered the halls of the Musée d’Orsay many a time, lost amidst it’s history both structural and that which decorates it’s walls. Though in the last year and a half, due to major renovations, much of this grand edifice was closed to the public, it’s space and artwork hidden from view.

To celebrate it’s recent unveiling, I decided to take a proper tour not only of the Orsay’s new galleries but also of it’s masterpieces. It was a Context Paris docent that enlightened me over an almost four hour long tour beginning in 1848 with Corot and the Barbizon School and ending in 1914 with Degas, Van Gogh, Cézanne and Monet, among others. I had briefly studied art history in the past, and tried to enlighten myself whenever possible, but an intimate tour with many of my most admired artists, where each of my questions was answered in depth and at length, THIS is art history heaven! Following the tour, I sat for some time in the sunlit space, thoughtful of all many stories I had been told, while gazing into the distance, grateful that this day at the Orsay was one of my own.

treasure hunting

The Louvre. The grandest museum in the world, and certainly the most intimidating. I tend to enter it’s glass pyramid on rare occasion only with a visitor in town. (Mona Lisa, Venus and I have shared more than enough moments through the years.) This all changed however, when my friend Daisy, an ex-New Yorker with a background in art history, invited me on a Treasure Hunt at the Louvre.

An activity she cleverly invented as a sort of art game, where people team up and set off to run wild amidst this grand corridors in search of hidden treasures. Where better (and more challenging) than the Louvre!

My Italian and I took part in these artful antics many months ago, with a dozen or so other teams. I found myself relying on mere luck to find our select masterpieces, most of which where not found. My strategic Italian had devised a plan but by the time we wrapped out heads around the museum’s floorplan, sands of the hourglass were spent. Thankfully I’m not too sore of a loser, as we all met to tally up the points an a neighborhood cafe. The evening resulted in both a lesson in art history and teamwork, and we all left in good spirits.

I have been waiting for the next THATLou event, and alas, it has arrived! Daisy is planning a treasure hunt for Friday November 18th. Sign up by the 11th, bring your competitive side and a partner, and prepare for a night of hunting for some of the grandest treasures to behold. If you can find them.

For details and to sign up contact Daisy: daisydeplume@gmail.com. Many more events in 2012…