Yves Saint Laurent in Paris

In early October, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris opened in the 19th century mansion  at 5 Avenue Marceau.  The company headquarters and location of Mr. Saint Laurent’s and his partner Mr. Bergé’s office since 1974, this was also where Yves Saint Laurent would meet his clients for fittings. In 2004, it was transformed into a foundation for public view, with three to four exhibitions annually. It was Pierre Bergé, once the chief executive of Yves Saint Laurent, who decided to dedicate this space to the late designer, and open a museum. Lucky for those of us who admire the work of this visionary man who changed women’s attitudes towards fashion. As Yves Saint Laurent once said, “Fashion fades, style is eternal.”

Not only do we get a glimpse into Yves Saint Laurent’s chic fashion creations, but his design process too.

From collections inspired by artists including Mondrian and Picasso; to faraway travels to Morocco, sub-Saharan Africa, Russia, Spain and Asia; to haute couture gowns, Yves Saint Lauren knew how to dress a woman.

The highlight of the museum is Yves Saint Laurent’s workspace set on the second floor. Here you find his many inspirations as revealed in his collections of books, fabrics and fashion trimmings. A designers paradise!


A dedicated fan of Yves Saint Laurent, my next stop will be the newly opened Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakesh, the location of his and Pierre Bergé’s second home and a place close to their hearts. Stay tuned…

Downtown Inspired

With fashion week taking over the streets of New York, London and soon Paris, I thought what better time to launch a new Kasia Dietz handbags collection. During a recent trip to New York City, I became inspired by the colors and energy of the city, namely downtown, my stomping ground. Thus, the Downtown Collection was born, representing the West Village, Soho and the East Village (also included in that is the Lower East Side, of course). As always, all Kasia Dietz handbags are limited edition and made in Paris. And perfect for travel!

The shoot took place on a late afternoon in the charming West Village. Clothes by designer and friend Yumi Kim.

By the end of the shoot I made an adorable and very fluffy friend. How well does he fit with the Soho bag?

I hope you enjoy the latest Downtown Collection! Stay tuned for more exciting design projects ahead…

Date with Dior

“I think of my work as ephemeral architecture, dedicated to the beauty of the female body.”  – Christian Dior

Did you know that prior to becoming a fashion designer Christian Dior was a gallerist with a deep love for fine art? This was only a fraction of what I learned at the most recent exhibition to open at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, honoring 70 years of the House of Dior. With a carefully curated selection of 300 haute couture dresses alongside artworks, this expo pays tribute to the master himself Christian Dior, and those who followed in his vision including Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri. This was without a doubt, one of the most impressive fashion experiences of my life.

Following are highlights from my recent ‘Date with Dior’, just in case you can’t make it to the show yourself.

Haute Couture / Fall/Winter 2012 / Embroidered organza evening gown / Raf Simons

Suzurka-San / Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2007 / Embroidered and painted linen coat / John Galliano

“After women, flowers are the most divine of creations.” – Christian Dior

Muguet / Haute Couture Spring-Summer 1957 / Organdy dress embroidered by Barbier

“True luxury needs good materials and good workmanship; it will never succeed unless its roots are profoundly embedded in sober influences and honest traditions.” – Christian Dior

Deep in every heart slumbers a dream and the couturier knows it: every woman is a princess.” – Christian Dior

A must see when you’re next in Paris, this exhibition Christian Dior, couturier du rêve ends on January 7th, 2018.

Story of a Sweater

Following my day and night discovering the secrets of Mont Saint-Michel with Centre des monuments nationaux, we headed to nearby factory Saint-James, one of France’s oldest and most famous brands which continues to manufacture locally. Being a designer myself, I was interested in discovering the history and makings of this label, located in Saint-James, a commune in Lower Normandy, 20 kilometers from Mont Saint-Michel. This is the brand that made nautical stripes famous, and I was about to find out how it all began.

How and when was Saint-James born? Around 1850, the Legallais family started to spin and dye locally produced wool. They resold this wool to the haberdasheries of Brittany and Normandy, later as woolen shirts which turned into the now famous fisherman’s sweater.

In 1950, the company changed hands and new owner Julien Bonte began manufacturing cardigans and sweaters, including the famous “Real Breton Fisherman’s Sweater” knit in pure wool. This became “the seafarers’ second skin”. Along with his son and much determination, Julien grew the company, renaming it “Tricots Saint-James” in 1970.

Julien’s son Bernard grew the company further in 1977 by building a new plant with an 1,800 square meter workshop and 300 square meters of office space. Tricots Saint-James also expanded its product range to include sea-themed seasonal attire for women. They were known across France as the knitwear leader, including a 100% cotton collection.

In 1989 Saint-James celebrated its 60-year anniversary as well as 100 years of Léon Legallais. In commemoration, they modernized their logo and knit the biggest sweater in the world, 8 meters high, and 14 meters from one sleeve to the other. Impressive! In 2001 the company further expanded and shirts, jackets and trousers were added to its wares.

In 2005, Tricots Saint-James received the trophy for “Ethics and Governance” following a company staff buyout. In the words of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, “The Company was chosen to recognize the good governance represented by Mr. Bernard Bonte (President until December 5, 1990) transferring power and capital to the employees, as well as the significant development of the company in France and abroad. The company’s takeover project of 1990 was declared a success for both its development and staff growth.”

What I noticed while touring the factory was the meticulous attention to detail. Every employee trains for over a year, taking pride in their work as each piece is carefully crafted by hand. Observing the process from weaving the wool or cotton to preparing the final product for shipment was fascinating. It’s no wonder Saint-James has such a stellar reputation!

These days Saint-James sweaters, shirts, scarves and dresses are available not only in Mont Saint-Michel, but in Nice, Paris, Saint-Malo, Strasbourg and Lyon, as well as  around the globe. Their timeless stripes and style continue to dress the world! What’s more, when you buy one of these shirts, you’re supporting the cloister restoration project! “The Tricots Saint James company is also associated with this major national heritage project with an exceptional and unique product-sharing operation. From 15 April to 15 October 2017, the “Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey” striped jerseys are on sale in the Saint James distribution network in France and abroad (Korea, USA and Japan), and in 3 bookshop-boutiques of the network (at Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, the Alignments of Carnac and the Towers of La Rochelle). For every striped jersey sold at the price of €45, Saint James pledges to donate €2.50 to the Centre des monuments nationaux for the cloister restoration project.”

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.

 

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.

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

 

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.

supporting the small

Today is Small Business Saturday, the day following the largest shopping day in America. Even prior to starting my own handbag business I always tried to support small enterprises, those with the courage, passion and drive to start a venture of their own. One such Paris-based, chic, eco-conscious scarf company I recently learned about is Krama Heritage. Here’s a little background.

The Krama, which has been traditionally worn in Cambodia for centuries, is the Khmers’ belonging sign and a very useful scarf in their everyday life. For us, it’s the best way to develop a social project in Cambodia: all our Kramas are woven by a cooperative of weavers in fair trade conditions and, for each Krama purchased, we hand out €3 to the Non Governmental Organization Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (For a Child’s Smile).

Krama Heritage

Launched 11 months ago, these unisex scarves are making a statement around the world. I share one with my Italian, and each time he or I wear it I think of Cambodia and it’s people. Having been to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh during my travels, and meeting the locals, I know how greatly such a business can benefit it’s people. Bravo to Krama Heritage for thinking globally and acting locally!

Krama scarf

On our recent trip to Bruges, a little piece of Cambodia proudly accompanied us.

Find out more about Krama Heritage on their website and Facebook page.

And thank you for supporting small business!

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.

waiting for the spring…

It’s April in Paris, yet spring still feels far away. It’s been tough to stay motivated during this seemingly never-ending winter (I heard it even snowed in France today!) I’m doing my best to keep busy with designing, and am working on a new summer collection (soon to be revealed…). But until then, I wanted to share my latest video, to creatively demonstrate the versatility of my handbags.

To inspire the coming of spring, I’m offering a special promotion to my lovely (and fashionable) readers. Purchase any bag or purse from the Riviera Collection and receive another of your choice, as a complimentary gift! One for you, and one for a friend. Perfect for your summer travel plans!

Riviera Collection

Wishful thinking that spring (or at least summer) is right around the corner…

 

indie elegance

When it comes to French fashion, Paris tends to overwhelm with endless designer boutiques lining the streets, particularly in the Marais. The question is, how NOT to look like all the mannequins peering out the windows, enticing you to fall in love with the latest trend. Not to mention the women parading around the city, an ever changing fashion show. Thus, when I discover an independent designer that suits my (classic with a twist) fashion sensibility, I become a loyal follower.

One such designer I met by chance, as she happens to be my manufacturer’s wife. On first glance of her ‘elegant yet casually chic with just a touch of masculine’ ready-to-wear collections, I was smitten.

Suppan is unique not only in it’s Indo-Austrian roots but in it’s philosophy.

Our approach is to reconsider production standards. We build our collections through a humanistic point of view, starting from the conception up to the manufacturing process and propose a selection of timeless and handmade items in a limited edition, entirely crafted in Paris. We try to distance ourselves and our creative process from cultural and social conditioning and conformity and propose a bare aesthetic, contrasting with fine materials, refined treatments and handcrafted finishing details.

Yes, it’s all about quality and details.

This weekend join us in Paris for a VENTE PRIVÉE, as we showcase our limited edition pieces, womenswear by Suppan and handbags by Kasia Dietz. Many of my new handbags will be featured!

VENDREDI 30 + SAMEDI 31 MARS : 11 H À 20 H

DIMANCHE 1 AVRIL : 10 H À 17 H

9, RUE TAYLOR 10ÈME

95 years young

Since I was a little girl I always appreciated (and often preferred) the company of elders. If given the choice whether to play with kids my own age or accompany my mom to a friend’s, I usually chose the latter. Perhaps I knew early on how much more you can learn from those older and wiser.

During my colorful New York chapter there was one particular uniquely wise and eccentric woman I often encountered, also perhaps the oldest fashionista to grace the New York nightlife. I first met Zelda Kaplan during my film debut. Aren’t we all entitled to 15 minutes of fame? Along with many other young women we starred in a film directed by Elise Bennett, Beyond the Ladies Room Door. Incidentally, the screening took place close to home at the Hamptons Film Festival. It was a bonding experience, spending time getting to know so many woman, filming for days in a bathroom… Zelda being the wise sage we all sought advice from. A role well suited her.

I write this now in tribute to Zelda Kaplan who passed away last Wednesday, very fittingly in the front row of a fashion show, 95 years young, and filled with life. An example of how aging does not mean living any less vibrantly. Zelda always made a statement in remaining an individual. After all, she designed all her own clothes, very beautiful fabrics might I add, and lived by her own rules. And her advice was always worth listening to. “One must be interested in the world, not in one’s self.” Rest in peace, Zelda.

 

fashion forward

Every Paris Fashion Week I have the glamorous good fortune of going to at least one of the fashion shows, défilés de mode as they are called in this part of the world. Always an interesting and often inspiring experience, both for the fashion as well as for the setting. Last year found me at the Galerie de Minéralogie for Amaya Arzuaga with Melissa of Prête Moi Paris. This year the lovely Melissa invited me on another fashion adventure, this one taking place in a boat on the Seine. And for none other than one of my favorite French fashion designers agnès b. The setting alone was magical!

What fashion trends were revealed upon this grand bateau? That the little black dress I often associated with agnès b. is no longer a dress, nor is it black. 

This was only the beginning of what turned out to be a show of colors… and fairytale peasantry?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After what felt like a theatrical performance, the elegance of agnès b. resumed. With a modern twist.

Following one more surprise… Who says the fashion world has no sense of humour?

Agnès herself took a humble strut to a cacophony of applause from a well entertained crowd.

Black is still black.

For more on Paris Fashion Week Spring 2012, take a look at Moon Young Hee and Agonovich!

New York, New York

New York City. My first love. The one who taught me most about myself. And the one who I will always hold dear. These Paris days, as months turn into years, I look back on my New York chapter with great nostalgia. As a designer and forever a New Yorker, following the success of my Paris Collection, it feels only natural to create a New York Collection to express my affinity. As Paris is becoming a part of me, so too will New York remain. And now (drumroll)… the grand unveiling!

Upside down or rightside up, it’s NY NY!

Forever a downtown girl.

With a high regard for Brooklyn.

Home in the Lower East Side. Available with UES, UWS, Soho…

On the inside a NYC girl. The bag reversed.

All New York bags hand-painted {with love} in Paris. Available soon on my website. If you MUST have one now, contact me at kasia@kasiadietz.com! And let me know your favorite below…

a la mode

 

Many years before I first stepped my well dressed foot in Paris, I loved Parisian fashion. I found it to be timeless, elegant and classy. Had I as a child, watched too many films starring my beloved Audrey Hepburn? Perhaps. Nonetheless, for anyone who has ever been to Paris, there is definitely a ‘look’. Depending on the neighborhood of course, but in my designing eyes, Paris is the city of fashion. Once the home of Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent (to name a few), how can it not be?

Fashion week is upon us again yet I am losing track of it’s dates as every day can easily prove a fashion show. I tend to rely on basic black adopted from my NY days and select accessories, constituting my ‘Parisian look’.

For more of my fashion musings, here’s something I wrote for the ladies at HiP Paris: ‘Parisian Fashion‘.

 

And take care when you run to the boulangerie for a baguette, there does exist a dress code!

the art of the sale

The sales are on in Paris! (Unless you’ve been home in bed with the flu anyone living in Paris is very much aware of this). With the sales comes temptation. Especially considering I live within meters of some of the most fashionable boutiques in Paris. I am basically cornered on all sides. Even below me is a shop which I occasionally mistake for my closet (wishful thinking?). Is it really possible to walk by these windows screaming ‘SOLDES’ and not enter? Not really. And so yesterday I tried my hand at shopping at the height of the sales, which I normally never do, alongside women who are not simply determined but on a mission to buy that one item they simply must possess. The result? I spent about 2 minutes in each shop, namely IroVanessa Bruno, & sita murt/, feeling sudden hot flashes and running out, completely overwhelmed with the limitless selection and almost affordable prices. (I come from NYC, the land of the eternal sale, after all). I tend to favor the sales in weeks 3 and 4 (the sales last FIVE weeks), believing that with fewer options and lower prices (they continue to plummet weekly), I will find that one special item that was hidden in the back, and leave feeling lucky.

That being said, today I went to one of my favorite shops bimba & lola and accidentally bought the last pair or shoes that 3 other women (also with a 39.5 size foot) looked ready to pummel me for. Perhaps better not to wait until week 3, and instead follow temptation and not ignore the big red signs. Or, time to go into hiding. I will make another appearance in the shopping circuit sometime in early February.

If you choose to brave the sales, here are a few January Must Haves from Girls Guide to Paris. And a top 10 list of never-ending Parisian trends from HiP Paris.

And if you choose to hide, or don’t live in Paris, perhaps online shopping will satisfy your craving. One place to begin is the stylish site Je Ne Sais Quoi. (Even the French internet is on sale!)

sharing the bag love

It’s been 17 days since I launched my new handbag business. I hadn’t planned on writing a post about it, but with so much attention, interest and orders from around the world, I simply can’t resist. Mostly, to thank everyone for all the love and support. Where to begin?

I was honored to be interviewed by friend and fellow expat Lindsey Tramuta of Lost in Cheeseland who writes a weekly column for BitchBuzz, a highly reputed women’s lifestyle site. It’s interesting (and challenging) to delve into your own mind and find out exactly what makes you tick, and in my case, design. Here’s our Q&A: from NY to Paris, also featured on her blog!

Nirit Sumeruk writes a very fashion forward blogazine Paris Popcorn featuring new and emerging trends, my handbags being one of them! She is particularly fond of the Paris Collection and asks the eminent question of anyone living in Paris: are you Rive Gauche or Rive Droite?

Speaking of Downtown/Rive Droite gals, friend and fellow NYer/Parisian (you can surely claim to be both, can’t you?), Amy Thomas of God, I love Paris, has chosen her favorite side, and bag.

My Francophile friend and blogger Andi Fisher of Misadventures with Andi generously included my ‘I heart Paris‘ hand-printed bag in the grand finale of her 12 days of Christmas giveaway. (You still have time to enter, winner will be randomly chosen at midnight PST on December 19th!) It’s also great to know which bags are favorites from both old and new collections!

Little did I know who else was sharing the love. Maggie Battista, part of the lovely HiP Paris blog, is coveting one of my bags on her ‘wish list‘ (perhaps her husband will get the subtle hint?)

I’m very proud to be a featured designer on Swelle Boutique, a showcase of clothing & accessories that bring the dreamy and romantic into our daily lives in tangible, wearable form. How fitting!

Please let me know if I am missing anyone, as I would like to offer personal gratitude.

Stay tuned via my Facebook Fan Page and twitter @kasiainparis (and for special bag promos @kasiadietzbags) for a lot more news and bag love in 2011!

fashionably speaking

Paris is the world’s fashion capital. And nowhere else is this more evident than on the streets of this fashionistas gone wild city. I’m lucky to be living in what I consider one of the most fashionable neighborhoods, the Marais. The streets keep me informed of the latest styles and colors, keeping me inspired in my own world of creation and design. I’m not one to follow too many trends, in my personal style nor in my designing, but do appreciate what’s ‘in vogue’ and enjoy this ever evolving creative medium called dress. I shared a few thoughts upon arrival one year ago during my first Fashion Week in Paris. And again in ‘the look of a Parisian’, as another Fashion week approached. 

The streets of Paris will remain my all-time favorite perpetual fashion show. Here are a few recent ‘street looks a la Parisienne’. This year however, at the invitation of Melissa, a fellow expat and blogger, I finally had a chance to see what goes on behind closed doors. Specifically, the doors of Galerie de Minéralogie. Where else but in Paris do you attend a fashion show in a history museum?

Spanish designer Amaya Arzuaga proved to have chosen the perfect venue to reveal her geometric designs evoking caterpillars, butterflies and other fauna. More on Melissa’s blog: Pret Moi Paris.



Ready to fly yet?

a hidden paradise

Before moving to Paris I could not get enough of the Parisian bistros found on nearly every corner. To sit and imagine my life as a French girl. These days, I no longer need to imagine as I sink further into my mostly blissful reality as an expat in France. I still revel in the cafe culture and often find myself sitting at a cozy cafe with every intention of studying French but much too preoccupied with studying faces and street style of the passersby.

Recently, on my way to such a cafe I discovered a doorway leading into a hidden paradise. A place to hide from the world and that could quite honestly be anywhere in the world (apart from the fact that there are floor to ceiling shelves of used French books lining the walls, a minor detail). This is my new haven. A place of tranquility and refuge in my beloved neighborhood of the Marais. A place to study, meet a friend or make a new one, peruse a French comic book (that’s about my level these days), splurge on coffee and cake, or simply dream. And should you need a new designer shirt, a Liberty mug, a dining table to put it on, or a lightbulb, voila! To the creators of this conceptual one-stop wonderland all I can say is Merci!

Passing the Fiat Cinquecento and stepping into the 3-story loft space that creates Merci, you feel like you are entering someone’s dream, if not your own. In fact, Merci is the realized dream of Marie-France and Bernard Cohen, the founders of the famous children’s clothing line Bonpoint. What makes this store so unique and even more highly venerated is that that all of it’s proceeds are donated to a co-op for young women in Madagascar. Thus, it’s impossible to feel any guilt while shopping! Not to mention that much of the unique, fashion-forward men’s, women’s and children’s clothing has been designed exclusively for this space and cause.


I’m wondering if they would mind if I moved in…

Merci, 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris 75003 http://www.merci-merci.com

the art of work

My curious nature often leads me on an adventurous path. Not always one I am pleased with, but surely a lesson is learned along the way. Such was my morning today when in the darkness of a pitch-black motionless escalator in Les Halles, I made my way to the North of Paris, to the Parc Des Expositions in Villepinte where the world of fashion was congregating. Today began one of the most respected of textile industry trade shows. A friend of mine was involved in organizing this grand event and so I thought why not join in the colorful chaos. Did I actually think it could be fun? Maybe. Did I love the idea of running around the expo ogling the many new fabrics on the market, perhaps seeking new inspiration as a designer? YES! Most of all I was excited to be part of something bigger than the endless thoughts circulating in my head. I was needed by someone (in the line of business) for something (potentially interesting). This made me happy. Until the actual thought of having to speak FRENCH sunk in. My stomach hurt for days prior and I prayed the international fashionistas would all speak English.

Needless to say, I was (mostly) fine. Meeting and greeting the ‘this must be a new trend started in Milan’ Italians, the ‘so simple and yet so chic’ French, the ‘we flew in just for this event, spent the night clubbing and still look completely rested and stylish’ New Yorkers (yes, I’m a little biased), and the rest of the world which proved a very interesting crowd. I spoke as much as I could, and smiled to compensate, quickly realizing I need to do something drastic to improve my French proficiency. (Study perhaps?) To pass the time, I tried to read the minds of the Calvin Klein designers (hmmm…a color palette of grey, black and white with a hint of pastel for Spring 2011?), and I was planning to very subtly stalk the woman who designed for Givenchy. In the end, I was content. To be in a creative environment and observe the intense passion for color and texture that takes place in a room filled with thousands of fashion makers (some may refer to this as lunacy). I was mostly impressed by the many small design companies, creating ‘wearable art’, a concept I elaborate on in my accessory designing. I left the expo much more certain that I need continue to be a part of something creative and engaging, and keenly aware of the romantic mood of Spring and Summer 2011. “…to embrace the lightness of futility, the capital in dreams, the freshness of fanciful energy.” I could not have said it better myself.

the look of a Parisian

French women always look stylish, even more so in the midst of fashion week. In an attempt to discover their secrets (as surely they would never divulge such privileged information), I decided to consult the mannequins, leading me to carouse almost every boutique in the Marais. This was not an exercise in shopping (though each week the prices are falling and temptation is rising), but more of a research project, in which I would occasionally purchase a select piece that will remain in my (French) closet for years to come. This is no easy task. The art of looking ‘Parisian’. Upon leaving NYC my dear stylist friend Evelyn, to whom I am forever grateful, assisted me in project ‘Pack for Paris’. I only allowed myself two (very large) suitcases, did I really need more than that? (I traveled around the world for 13 months with only one bag, after all). Together we strategically selected what I would be wearing in this fashion capital, on those occasional evenings to the Opera, frequent dinners at trendy bistros, imagined strolls along the boulevards, but most importantly what I would need to feel stylishly comfortable in my new life. With expert cajoling, I bid adieu to half of my wardrobe, unworn tunics from India, my favorite faded shorts custom tailored in Hoi An, vintage coats from Portobello Market. I dressed as many friends as I could and donated the rest. In the end, this proved a great lesson in detachment and the art of minimalism.

Now, five months into my life in Paris, I am attempting to understand the French fashion culture. Faced with the blank stares of stylish mannequins luring me into their windows I ask myself, where is Evelyn when I need her? Admittedly, I buy much less and appreciate each addition to my wardrobe much more. I am no doubt a classicist, revering the creations of Givenchy, Chanel, YSL, Pucci, to name a few. If only this were the Paris of the 1960’s, fashionably speaking! Alas, in this fashion forward era, I continue to admire elegance and simplicity with a personal twist. The ever changing fashion trends intrigue, but seldom appeal. There exists much more inspiration in the unique living and breathing ‘models’ walking the streets of Paris, than behind the store windows.  My ‘chic et branché’ look now consists of Petit Bateau T-shirts mixed with classic couture. And black will always be the new black. (I am a New Yorker after all!) In conclusion, what I have learned through this exercise in observation is the following: simplicity paired with very carefully selected accessories makes the greatest statement, and ALWAYS wear a scarf!

SOLDES!

The word on the streets is SOLDES. All of Paris is on sale. Apparently this is quite an event, happening only twice a year, as regulated by the government. The sales continue for five weeks, a Winter cleansing of sorts, in preparation for the new Spring styles. Finally I can shop in this fashion capital! Prior to these seemingly never-ending sales, I merely stared glossy-eyed into the windows of the many boutiques lining the streets of the Marais and Saint-Germain. The price tags in the windows often prevented me from entering, considering the less than ideal exchange rate. Why tease myself? I would look, but dared not to touch. And now, prices are almost equivalent to those in my favorite Nolita or Soho boutiques in NYC. Somehow the ‘Made in France’ label makes shopping in Paris more of a cultural experience. Might I even consider the additions to my wardrobe an investment?

in vogue

It’s fashion week in Paris. The surrounding galleries are transformed into showrooms, previewing new collections that hang much like works of art. Occasionally this art will come to life upon the form of a walking and breathing mannequin. This is all very exciting I must admit, finding such an eclectic fashion show outside my doorstep.

Though it appears to me that fashion week is an ongoing event in Paris, the only rule being don’t follow any rules. Is this a trend I am not aware of? The look on the streets belongs to the ‘bourgeois-bohème’, commonly known as the ‘bobos’. These locals of the Marais exhibit a strategic melange of ‘high-end designer meets starving artist’. A look that appears thrown on in an apartment lacking lights or a mirror, yet in reality much time was involved in the final composition. I am constantly inspired as I carouse the streets, my designing mind longing to create, to take apart and put back together in a most casual elegant manner, playing with shapes and forms. Amidst the bobos there exists a freedom to express which suits me.

Whether or not I am accepted as a member of this seeming elite is another matter, not one that I preoccupy myself with.

Shirt: ‘my Italians’ closet; Belt: collection of Kim Cattrall; Bracelet: flea market in Jaffa; Beret: hat shop in Bogota; Leggings: American Apparel; Bag: gift from Evelyn Espinal; French Scarf: missing

Nikka in New Delhi

One of my favorite designers happens to be a dear friend. I met Kanika in NYC four years ago, as her passion for design led her to create her first of many Indian inspired collections, gaining her a reputation as one of New York’s hottest young designers, www.nikkanewyork.com. In addition to my role as a fit model, in which I very eagerly tried on pieces that I hope to add to my collection, I gained much insight as to the workings of a factory in India, and how skillfully each piece is created. I even joined Kanika in her pursuit of trim and assisted in designing the new collection. Or so I like to think!