Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Quoi de Neuf a Paris? (What's New in Paris?)

I have a confession. My trip to Europe last month was all about me, me, me and it felt really good! I did however take time to meet my fellow image consultants of AFIPP (Association Française pour l’Image Personnelle et Professionnelle). But being away made me realize the importance of claiming time for oneself. It’s not only good for the morale but recharges the batteries and helps one better serve one’s clientele.

I’m telling you though, after this trip, I have designated myself as the QUEEN OF PACKING! (The subject of another column soon I promise!) In my one carry-on bag, I managed to pack both business and pleasure attire that served me very well in three countries for fourteen days along with my cosmetic essentials!

After brief stays in London and Belgium where I worked with colleagues, I arrived in one of my favorite cities of the world, beautiful Paris. I was somewhat disappointed though, as it seemed the gray winter skies kept all the stylish dressers under wraps. All I saw were lots of hats, scarves, umbrellas and dreary raincoats.

But all was not dull. I met and shopped with clients and then took a few extra days to stroll the streets of the “City of Lights” to savor delicious delicacies, feast my eyes on dazzling designs in the splendid stores and of course--how can one resist--indulge in a little bit of shopping therapy. (Nothing like the limit of having only one carry-on suitcase to curb one’s spending!)

Day One. I hit Paris’ chi-chi shopping areas: Avenue Montaigne, Avenue des Champs-Elysées and Saint-Germain-des-Près. I visited Le Bon Marche (Paris’ first department store), Céline, Sonia Rykiel, Hugo Boss, Les Petites and Max Mara. As I was staying in Saint-Germain, all these stores were within an easy and pleasurable walking distance.

The historic and elegant Le Bon Marche has been wonderfully renovated. When I stepped inside, I entered a world of colors, femininity, and fluidity. For me these two “f’s”--la féminité and la fluidité--epitomize this spring season. Why? Because the collections are all about flowing movement, layers of gossamer fine fabrics, vibrant colors and exquisitely detailed accessories. Surprisingly, only fifty percent of the spring collections had been delivered to most of the big houses. Unlike us Americans, Europeans live much more in the moment and find it almost unthinkable to want to purchase spring items so early.

Céline, in fact, is only expecting its entire collection to arrive early April. However, previews of Ivana Omazic’s debut collection for Céline, indicate that fluidité is key to the drape of her dresses and circular skirts. Movement and suppleness make for very feminine and flattering clothes. Her collection is pure and clean with lots of white and subdued gunmetal interspersed with contrasting and striking colors¬ like vermillion and emerald green.

Sonia Rykiel’s new two-floor store on Boulevard Saint-Germain is stunning and a visit there is an absolute joy. I simply had to take a picture. The spring collection here is also all about color. The company will celebrate forty years of success this October!

Day Two found me walking under storm clouds, yet again, on the Boulevard Hausmann where I visited Les Galleries Lafayette. I then continued on to the famous Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré to Lanvin. Luckily the day I visited, the house was having a spring trunk show. Here marvelous colors also reigned: saffron yellow, dusky rose, jade green and smoky blue. The accessories alone deserved a standing ovation like this one, an instant favorite.

Hermes was a huge surprise. The store has been completely renovated and is three times the size it was when I last visited in July 2007. The famous house is progressing on all fronts. I took the opportunity to inquire about my dream bag, a 35cm Birkin in Hermes rouge. To my amazement, it takes less than six months to make it! (I’m still trying to persuade my husband to buy me one for our 25th wedding anniversary!)

Day Three. I returned to Boulevard Haussman to Le Printemps’, which apparently has the largest beauty department in the world. Then it was time to stroll back to the Avenue des Champs-Elysées to visit Guerlain’s gorgeous store, browse through its amazing collection of flacons de parfum and have a whiff of some exquisite fragrances.

The highlight of the day, and of my visit to Paris, was shopping at Louis Vuitton’s new Champs Elysees store. It simply was the best shopping experience ever. After having made a very small purchase Christine, the sales associate who had assisted me, offered me a personal tour of the new store and accompanied me through all the different departments. She then graciously invited me to relax on the upper floor with a glass of champagne! Needless to say, when I left, I had a sparkle in my eyes and a spring in my step despite the gloomy skies.

Day Four. I always allow time to wander through the historic and very charming Montmartre quartier, home to edgy artists and artisans. Not to mention that it has wonderful little cafes and restaurants. And a visit to Les Marais is also a must. Even though it is in the heart of the city, it still has a village feel with its narrow streets. Les Marais is very hip and fun and has many eclectic boutiques where one can find unique clothes and handmade jewelry.

But finally I had to bid adieu and return home. I ate too much but who cares, I am back on my Pilates reformer!


Michele Benza - Completely Confidential Image Consulting Featuring European Style and elegance. www.michelebenza.com