Archive for March, 2009

Let’s Eat!

Monday, March 30th, 2009
Lunch Anyone?

Lunch Anyone?

The Frères Costes have opened another trendy eatery in Paris, this time in the heart of the Left Bank. The Costes Saint-Germain follows the usual Costes formula: high design—this time by Monsieur Minimalist Christian Liaigre—and a monumental space—the old Bilboquet jazz club on the rue Saint-Benoit. This is where Juliette Greco wowed the beatniks in the 1950s and is on the ground floor of a government building on the place Saint-Germain-de-Près. They knocked down the wall between the two and created a sweeping, block-long space with loads of windows and natural light.

This being Costes, the menu is more or less the same as the group’s other dozen eateries in town (George, Café Marly, Avenue, Esplanade and the Hôtel Costes ((http://www.hotelcostes.com)) to name a few), which means classics with a modern spin and an expense account price (Chilean Sea Bass in spicy Thai sauce: 34 Euros). The shoestring frites are pretty fab, but honestly, the rest feels very chain-like. It’d be nice if the restaurants each had a distinctive cuisine to match its décor. In homage to both the Bilboquet and the arty history of the quartier latin, the Costes have sprinkled contemporary art—primarily sculpture—throughout the dark wood setting. They will also have live jazz in the evenings, starting at 10 p.m.

A Touch of Whimsy

Saturday, March 14th, 2009
Photo by E. Deroo

Photo by E. Deroo

Stopped by to see Marie-Hélène de Taillac’s new jewelry collection in her shop on the rue Tournon today. De Taillac, a lovely, quiet French woman with beaucoup de gout, has designed her new collection with the economic crisis in mind. She’s veered away from record-priced gold and platinum and is currently using lower cost materials such as quartz and crystal that evoke the 1980s-revival fashion trends—bangles and beads—without the 1980s opulence. (We forget the 80s were opulent too!)

There’s loads of whimsy and humor in her designs, such as little crystal butterfly pendants studded with tiny spinels in bright colors or smoky drop crystal earrings flecked with little brushed-gold hearts. My favorite: a one-of-a-kind giant quartz bangle studded with pale sapphires, which runs $12,000 and weighs a ton. Are you listening, Santa?

A Pretty Thick Shake

Friday, March 13th, 2009

American celebrities just don’t get it. 

During an early morning layover in Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport on his way to Malaysia, N.E.R.D. frontman Pharrell Williams put on a little show–and a pretty weak one at that, considering the Grammys–to try to sway a pair of McDonald’s workers to sell him some Frankenfood before the place was open.

But as Oprah Winfrey  learned when she was turned away at Hermes a couple of years ago, when a French business is closed, it’s closed, and they do not care who you are.

The workers, obviously unimpressed by Williams “Big Mac-Filet O’ Fish-Apple Pie” riff, complete with a spin and slide, walked out as the shocked singer sputtered, “Where are you going?”

My guess: to have a smoke.

Note: Unlike Winfrey, Williams can’t claim racism as the reason the workers decided to follow company, union and national employment rules and deny him service: they were of color too.

Classic Chic from Down Under

Thursday, March 12th, 2009
Martin Grant in his Atelier

Martin Grant in his Atelier

Martin Grant is a women’s designer. He’s not making street clothes, he’s not designing with 25-year-olds in mind. This Melbourne-born, Parisian makes wonderfully feminine, highly architectural clothes that are timeless, tasteful and always beautiful.

This collection, which I saw in his showroom on the rue Charlot in Paris, is among his best in his 15 years in the industry. Grant’s reference points are Balenciaga, Dior (when Dior was designing) and Yves Saint Laurent. His background and education in sculpture show through so well too: dresses follow the form of a woman instead of trying to reshape it. Taking the economic situation into consideration, he used less expensive materials this season, opting for wool jersey, for example, instead of leather. But there’s still lady-like refinement, such as the belted Monk coat in pale gray angora wool with a silver fox collar, and a draped navy silk satin gown with tiny-button front and a broad neckline. And his friend Christian Louboutin kindly designs shoes to go along. Cocktails, anyone?

Fashion’s Freshest Voice

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009
Wu's Inauguration Dress

Wu's Inauguraton Dress: Photo by Getty Images

How much do we love Jason Wu? First, he designs the best inaugural gown that a First Lady has worn ever. And then, when I met him at a fab fashion dinner thrown by top Chicago retailer Ikram Goldman at RATN, our new favorite Indian restaurant in Paris, I discover he is humble, polite and delightfully charming too. In the sea of black and trendiness—including Sally Singer of Vogue, Tim Blanks of Style.com, Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy (who the New Yorker are profiling in its September Style issue) and British designer Duro Olowu —Wu arrived in skinny suit and skinny tie. (He’s just a wisp of a thing too.)

Over chicken curry and naan, the 26-year-old designer gushed about Paris—it was his first visit—and how he wished he could stay longer. I could gush over his pretty, feminine dresses all day long. With rumors that Wu is up for the design job at Valentino—now that would be the smartest move in fashion in ages—chances are we’ll see him in the City of Light a lot more in the future.