Sunday, May 23, 2010

Something is awry in this City of Lovers.  It happened under the cover of night, unexpectedly, cruelly.  For more than a decade, lovers have been fastening padlocks onto the railings of the Ponts des Arts, the Napoleonic passerelle (footbridge) over the Seine river.  The lovers write or engrave their names on the padlocks, fastening them tightly and throwing the key into the river below.  It is a sign of their eternal love. The padlocks are in all shapes and sizes, some antique, some new and shiny, a beautiful representation of all kinds of love, and their auras filled the bridge with joy.  But overnight these odes to love were removed.  By whom and why?  The city authorities had previously announced they were going to remove them, but now that they are gone, they are denying their involvement.  Perhaps a scorned lover ravaged them.  I walked the bridge a few days after the travesty, and new padlocks, all testaments to love's enduring passion and tenacity, are fastened to the bridge. Hopefully to remain forever. Link to the article.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Having come from a place where logos abound — in-your-face, brightly colored logos trying to vie for your attention, where bigger is touted as better, I am delighted and awed to be surrounded by simple, beautiful communication.  Names of establishments neatly engraved into the façade of buildings, gilded in gold; or simple silver three- dimensional letters pinned onto the face; painted letters in soft colors on awnings.  They have a timeless to them, an elegance.  Many are in classical typefaces, others in a more modern sans serif, all perfectly letter-spaced. They set the mood for a gentle entrance into the store, whether it is a store with the latest young and inexpensive fashions, or an exclusive jewelry store.  All speak softly.  And when you enter, you are always greeted with "bonjour" , and when you leave you are bid a "merci, bonne journée".  It is so civilized.  You feel recognized, valued, and it sets the mood for a good day, indeed.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Avenue des Champs Élysées is one of the most famous streets in the world, lined with clipped horse chestnut trees, luxury shops, cinemas and cafés.  At the corner of Champs Élysées and Avenue George V stands the seven-story flagship store of Louis Vuitton, a stunning combination of Art Deco, modern architecture, and contemporary art. The opulent interior is the result of the collaboration of American architect Eric Carlson, who opened up the interior structure to create a spiral of floors, and the brilliant architect and designer, Peter Marino.  The displays are pristine — each bag, suitcase, shoe, displayed as a precious sculpture, lit to capture its beauty.  The LVs, the four petal flower, all iterations of the logo grace every item, seriously or playfully, to create a kaleidoscope of branding genius. There is a "traveling staircase", the escalator that slides you along a video wall of soft changing ethereal images.  The most surprising element is the atrium, Peter Marino's  20 meter high "waterfall" of sculptured steel rods and mirrors that create a dizzying and magical effect.  The piece was inspired by the Parisian fountains.  It has 1800 reflective rods, which, if stretched from end to end, would reach from this flagship store to the original Louis Vuitton atelier, and not surprisingly from these gifted designers, the store is 1800 square meters. Louis Vuitton has expressed the art  and heart of travel in this sensual ad / film by Bruno Aveillan.  The ad is here.  The longer film version is here. Beaux voyages.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We are still in the plastic bubble. In full color. Irreverent and playful. Plastic as an anti-luxury statement, sold in luxury stores. The Toy Watch, designed by Italian luxury watch designer, Marco Mivilla, dominates the window displays along rue Saint Honoré, the bright color and beautiful design catching your attention.  Then suddenly you see them dancing on wrists everywhere, peaking out from cuffs and jackets, waving in the air.  The watches are oversized, yet lightweight, and have apparently become the "it" watch among celebrities.  Wear one and you have permission to be fashionably late. The W logo is wonderfully lighthearted and flirtatious, and the watch designs themselves are constantly setting new trends in design.
The Toy Watch ignited a firestorm in the world of accessories, and a fast follower brand, Triwa, was launched.  Also colorful and playful, and in windows everywhere, Triwa takes a slightly more provocative and surrealistic approach to their brand. click here for a timeless journey into their watchworld!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Many of you Fashionistas may already know this brand, but I was just recently introduced to it in Paris.  It's Melissa, the elegant plastic shoes, the plastic shoes of Plastic Dreams!  And all the fancy girls are wearing them... on the catwalks, on the streets.
Melissa is a company out of Sao Paolo Brazil, celebrating 30 years in business. In that time Melissa has manufactured more than 50 million pairs of shoes, all on a sustainable platform.  The shoes are manufactured with a proprietary Injected Thermoplastic technology called Melflex and are 100% recyclable. They smell like mouthwatering candy from your childhood.  They are delightfully comfortable. Sophisticated and yet somewhat comical.
Melissa's design partners are a selection of amazing international design professionals — Architect Zaha Hadid; British Punk fashion designer Judy Blame, who is also part of the design team at Louis Vuitton; Karim Rashid; Vivian Westwood and fashion rebel Alexandre Hershcovitch, among others.
The brand's flagship storefront in Sao Paulo changes every 6 months and they have a dedicated space to showcase art and music performances.  The entire brand works as a platform for the diffusion of fashion, design and cultural information.  Their new SoHo store in NY is slated to open this summer.
We tried them on. Did we buy them?  Can you say "I LOVE Melissa!" ?
For an in-depth look at the brand and their sustainable platform, go their creative website

Monday, May 10, 2010

VELIB!  You see women dressed to the nines riding them; men in suits with their briefcases tucked into the basket on the front, peddling on the cobblestone streets; Parisians and tourists, young and old, beating the traffic. This is the brilliant bicycle system Velib — the name combines "velo" (bicycle) and "liberte" (freedom),  and it has transformed the way many Parisians get around.  This eco-friendly transportation system is free(!) for 1/2 hour trips from place to place.  There are over 20,000 bikes in the city, with 15,000 stations ... that's about 1 Velib station every 4 blocks, making this choice of transportation convenient and easy to use.
When you are on one of these bikes, you feel part of a smart and responsible community and you have an exuberant sense of adventure. The bikes are beautifully designed, sleek and grey, sturdy and comfortable.  And surprisingly, Paris is cycle-friendly.  The added benefit:  that second pain au chocolate you ate this morning ... those calories gone in the first 15 minutes of cycling!
click here for a short video of how the system works.  click here for an in-depth look at the positive ecological impact the system has had on the City of Lights.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Here is a journey inside of Notre Dame Cathedral.  Its opulence, tall gothic arches, gold gilt details and stained glass are truly humbling. I went there yesterday evening to hear a concert of sacred vocal music from the Renaissance, Ave Maria.  The candles glowed as several hundred guests gathered in the cathedral and then sat silently as the most beautiful voices began gently filling the air around us.  The sound came from everywhere, echoing in the tallest arches and raining down.  It sounded as though a thousand voices were singing.  And then the choir appeared, only 25 singers, of all ages, the texture of the a cappella voices weaving an ancient tapestry of music around us.  Click here to be washed in these melodic voices.

Every morning I am greeted by the beautiful sound of the bells from the Notre Dame Cathedral; everyday I walk by it to see another fascinating detail.  Construction on Notre Dame began in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII, and the work continued over the centuries until its completion about 1345.  Numerous architects worked on the site, and it is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in Europe.  The building, inside and out, is overwhelming beautiful.  But as you look up, one of the most fascinating features on the outside of the cathedral are the gargoyles and grotesques.  The gargoyles are bizarre figures that jut out from the building, and have long, reptilian necks and narrow snouts, with pinned back wings.  One might assume that these are placed  to ward off evil spirits, but some research revealed that the word "gargoyle" shares the root of the French word "gargouille", meaning "throat", and with the Latin word "gurgulio", meaning both "throat" and the gurgling sound of water as it passes through a gargoyle.  A gargoyle is a water spout, carefully placed to throw the water from the gutters out and away from the building. The creativity in these pieces is astounding.  An in-depth exploration of the history and legends of gargoyles and grotesques can be found here.

Pretty in Pink!  Here is a totally fun bar /café on Champs Elysees, screaming pink glitz from every surface. A Barbie heaven!  Crowded with shoppers from all over, the young and old gather here for drinks, food, throbbing music and laughter.  It is such a surprising place, pink tables spilling out onto the sidewalk, on this avenue where the chic-est of chic shopping is.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Saturday was the first of May, the Labor Day holiday in Europe, so very few stores were open.  A lovely chance to window shop, or as the French say, faire du lèche-vitrines.  The word lèche means "to lick", and some of the window shopping is just that delicious!
On one of the back streets of the Marais district, I came across this delightful little gallery, with an amusing show of birds.  They make me smile.
It rained last night and I woke to cool, crisp, clean skies.  An early morning walk on my little street toward the delicious smell of fresh baked goods took me past the I'lle Saint Louis church.  Its unassuming façade is grey and worn; the entrance, a large heavy wooden door with carved angels.  It beckoned me to enter. I pushed open the door and was greeted by a magnificent white marble and gold interior; a concert of Bach fugues was being played on the grand organ.  The music filled every space, every heart.  I sat there for the hour of music, transported back to the late 1600's when this church was built, when Bach composed this grand music. A Sunday morning to remember.
The musician was Benjamin Alard, a quite well-known organist.  Click here for a concert of his music.  Close your eyes and be transported.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Restaurant Georges is the ultimate in trendy restaurants. Located on the 6th floor of Centre Georges Pompidou in the center of Paris, it has beautiful panoramic views.  The design of the restaurant is the work of Dominique Jacob and Brendan McFarlane, and is a chic space that mixes contemporary sleek design with the industrial design of the building. Contoured aluminum walls create semi-private dining areas.  The restaurant is buzzing, full of international diners, all languages mixing in the air with the contemporary tunes spun by a live DJ. I had the pleasure of dining there last evening with my dear friends, photographer and filmmakers, Sophie and Manu.  Fabulous food, company and views!

The Georges Pompidou Centre itself, was conceived by Georges Pompidou, President of the French Republique, as a modern cultural center where the arts, a great library, music, cinema, and performance would occupy a single modern building in the heart of Paris.  The team of architects, headed by the British architect couple, Richard and Su Rogers, was awarded the Pritzker Prize.  The design turned the architecture world upside down with its skeleton of colored tubes.  The center houses the Musée National d'Art Moderne, the second largest collection of modern and contemporary art in the world.      click here for live webcams