It's OK for intellectual feminists to like fashion

Blog title from Hadley Freeman's book The Meaning of Sunglasses : "Prada styles itself as the label it's OK for intellectual feminists to like".

The author is a bilingual fashion editor, writer and translator with a serious blog, cinema and magazine habit.

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Food, Fashion, Beauty and Culture: My Toulouse Coups de Coeur Addresses


Les Sales Gosses, 7 rue de l’Industrie, 31 000 Toulouse

Worth a visit for the concept alone, Les Sales Gosses is a booking-compulsory restaurant where dishes and décor are inspired by childhood memories. For instance, the round hand soap in the toilets is attached to the wall, as in every French primary school. The à la carte menu (€17.50 for two dishes at lunchtime, €29 in the evening) changes regularly. For starters, my sister and I enjoyed breaded Camembert with sautéed vegetables and a soft-boiled egg with mash potatoes and a mustard emulsion. Steak with old-fashion vegetables and Kiri soft cheese-ham ravioles with courgette spaghetti followed. The café gourmand looked really good too: a cup of coffee with a Kinder egg, cotton candy, Malabar-flavoured ice cream and a slice of cheesecake.

Le Paradis du Fruit, 10 place du Capitole, 31 000 Toulouse (photo 1)

The go-to place for healthy lunches, brunches, breakfasts and dinners, the Toulouse version of the Le Paradis du Fruit franchise doesn’t disappoint. I’ve had some bad experiences in Paris with restaurants in the chain, but this one serves fresh food at a good price point. The menu offers real choice: for instance, you can pick the base for a salad and the proteins to add to it. I had Chinese cabbage with avocado and grilled king prawns, my friend had spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes with salmon (both €11.90). The sauce is automatically brought on the side. Make sure to look at the dessert menu and its decadent ice cream compositions. My personal favourite: the Parad’Ice with whipped cream, strawberry and raspberry and mango sorbets as well as fresh mango and strawberries (€9.50).

La Gourmandine, 17 Place Victor Hugo, 31 000 Toulouse (photo 2)

Imaginative, tasty cuisine and swift service at this French cuisine restaurant. Each dish offers a take on traditional, often local, flavours - for instance a trio of foie gras, each cooked differently, or duck confit and duck filet spring rolls. If you go at lunchtime, don’t miss the great cheese shop offering French, local and international cheeses just opposite the restaurant.

Le Bibent, 5 Place du Capitole, 31 000 Toulouse (photo 3 and 4)

The most expensive of the four thanks to its incredible location, bang on Place du Capitole, and its Michelin-starred, Parisian chef-owner Christian Constant, Le Bibent mixes traditional French and Southern cooking. I had a foie gras-based starter and a beef stew for main, two tasty and comforting dishes. Located in a renovated 19th century brasserie, with an original Belle Epoque decoration, Le Bibent is worth a visit for the surroundings as much as the food.


Nude by Emi, 12 rue Léon Gambetta, 31 000 Toulouse (photo 5 and 6)

A new-ish shoe brand my sister swears by, the Nude by emi store is a bit off centre. It’s worth the few additional steps though: in the girly space, you’ll find ballerina shoes, lace-up brogues and Chelsea boots in an array of colours and prints. Everything is made in France and is of the highest quality. My personal favourite: the Bonnie (€59). This style comes in the same shape for the left and right foot; each shoe takes the shape of your foot as you wear it. I own them in three colours: lacquered turquoise, bright blue velvet and salmon leather.

Repetto, 25 rue de Metz, 31 000 Toulouse (photo 7 and 8)

Repetto stores are the same everywhere, so why this particular one? Customer service. The sale assistants are knowledgeable about the brand and helpful. As Repetto expands its range to include elegant, ballet-inspired womenswear, comfortable, pop colour trainers and fruity fragrances, the Toulouse store is a great space to experience its latest offerings. Make sure to try out the handbags (from about €500), which are perfectly finished and light to carry.


Spa Carita, 12 rue Ozenne, 31 000 Toulouse

A nice enough spa, served well by its employees and its products, but it lacks in serenity and is a bit pricey. As for the Spa Nuxe in Paris last summer, I went with my sister and we were disappointed. I chose the papaya face care (€69). The best part was a sunflower seed and essential oil exfoliating cream, sadly not available as part of the Carita offering because of how messy it gets: you have to rub it in until the essential oils have been completely absorbed by the skin and nothing but the sunflower seeds remain.


Le Musée des Augustins, 21 rue de Metz 31000 Toulouse (photo 9 and 10)

The city’s fine arts museum, this convent-turned-museum houses sculptures from Romanesque times to the early 20th century, alongside paintings covering the same period. Schedule about 90 minutes for the visit (€4), and be sure to stop at the small monastic garden that’s filled with aromatic herbs. My favourite part: a brick staircase where sculptures by local artist Alexandre Falguière feature, both in plaster and as a finished bronze or marble.

L’Utopia, Impasse du Château, 31170 Tournefeuille

A cheap, charming cinema in the Toulouse suburb of Tournefeuille, L’Utopia shows small films d’auteur you won’t find anywhere else in Toulouse as well as Hollywood successes in the original English. Here again, the décor is half the experience, with old-fashioned seating, beautiful wooden stairs and fireplaces inside the cinema. There’s also a garden and cafe to have lunch in between showings.

Previous Coups de Coeur addresses: Paris

Posted at 3:26pm and tagged with: france, address,.

“You saw nothing in Hiroshima.”

Watching Alain Resnais’ 1959 Hiroshima Mon Amour in the Maison de la Culture in Nevers, a few metres away from where some of the film’s harrowing scenes were shot, was quite an experience for my 15-year-old self.

Elle: Hi-ro-shi-ma. Hiroshima. That is your name.

Lui: Yes, that is my name. Your name is Ne-vers. Nevers in France.

I was reminded of Hiroshima, one of the few Resnais films I have seen, when the French director died last week. What I remember best, aside from feeling proud that my small town was on the big screen, is disgust. As Nevers is liberated, the German officer Elle (Emmanuelle Riva) had an affair with, is shot. Like thousands of other women accused of collaboration horizontale, her head is shaved.

Marguerite Duras, the Prix Goncourt-winner and Académie Française member screenplay writer, chose to set the plot in Nevers because the town’s name resembles the English word “never”. At least that’s how my French literature teacher explained it at the time, in a class dedicated to the links between the film and the Nouveau Roman literary form. Never again as everybody said after World War I, never again as the world said after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Hiroshima is about memories that wounded survivors and their attempts to forget and get on with their lives.

Resnais’ first feature-length movie takes place in Hiroshima a few years after 6 August 1945. Elle, in Japan to shoot a movie about peace, meets Lui (Eiji Okada), a local architect, and the two have a passionate, though brief, affair. The morning after their first night together, she scratches him, reminding her of her time with her German lover (Bernard Fresson).

Watching the film at 15, I was disgusted and shocked by the scenes of her being shaved, a feeling I didn’t find again in cinemas until I saw Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book in 2006, a movie focused on a Dutch resistance woman embedded in Nazi headquarters. At the end of the war, women are shown being shaved and showered in faeces.

Even George Clooney’s more recent The Monuments Men briefly deals with the topic of women’s treatment after the war. Matt Damon finds Cate Blanchett in a Parisian prison. In the worse French accent ever attempted by an Academy award-winner, she asks him - with more than a hint of sarcasm - if he hadn’t heard she slept with Germans, a false accusation based on her working for the German officer looking after the Parisian art collection. She was actually trying to save the art by informing her brother in the Résistance of convoy movements.

Fairness is one of the values I hold dearest, which is why the misogynistic treatment of women at the Libération disgusted me at 15 like it does today. British Historian Antony Beevor describes the ceremonies of public shaving as “a form of expiation for the frustrations and sense of impotence among males humiliated by their country’s occupation. One could almost say that it was the equivalent of rape by the victor.” (The Guardian, 5 June 2009)

An entire generation was born between August 1945 and my own birth, yet we’re still funny about who was on whose side, and even more weird about talking about it. My paternal grandmother, a young dressmaker in Le Mans throughout the war years, always spoke with the utmost contempt of her colleagues who had been “fraternising with the occupier”. I was quite young at the time so fraternising was probably an all-encompassing term, a euphemism for affairs and an exaggeration for conversations. As Beevor explains, the source of this kind of contempt was more likely jalousie than patriotism. “People envied the food and entertainment these women had received as a result of their conduct”, he says.

Uneasiness about wartime has unexpected consequences. For instance, after Edward Snowden leaked classified documents about global surveillance programs, French media tried to explain why whistleblowing just isn’t a thing in France. The most common explanation was that wartime denunciations, which affected everyone, Jews, résistants, or the neighbour who annoyed you, left such a collective trauma and shame that France, as a society, doesn’t like people who tell. Apathy and cowardice were other, more acceptable, reasons.

We all like to think we would have been brave during World War II, helping the Résistance, hiding Jews and so on. These behavioural fantasies align with what we see as right in retrospect, in the easiness of academic debate rather than survival conditions. France ended up with more claimed résistants at the Libération than it really counted between June 1940 and summer 1945. If any of the conversations I’ve had were to be believed, had today’s French population been alive during WWII, everyone would have resisted.

Yet it’s not that simple, which is exactly what those movies show us, and what we seem not to learn from them. For me, the real judge of character wouldn’t just be what you would have done during the war, but also what you would have done just after, to the people who hadn’t been on your side.

Posted at 8:19pm and tagged with: Classy film, france,.

Nevers, the making of a ghost town

Nevers was never a vibrant, busy city but when I was a child, it had over 6,000 more inhabitants than it does today. When I was a child, la Nièvre, the county Nevers is in, had given France its then President (François Mitterrand) and a Prime Minister (Pierre Bérégovoy). Under their government, the county gained the French Formula 1 race, which was held in Magny-Cours, barely 20 minutes away from Nevers, and the country’s latest hospital. But today, neither doctors nor Formula 1 fans want to come to Nevers. It’s too quiet, too complicated to get to. The circuit doesn’t host Formula 1 anymore and the hospital isn’t quite as much of an example anymore. 

The first thing to go, back when I was in primary school, was the caserne (barracks). Before the military left, I remember sitting in a traffic jam at noon, on the way from school to lunch. Last time I went back, during the 3pm, 5 minutes-long drive from the station to my house, I spotted just three cars and four people on foot. For every end-of-war commemoration, we would be woken up on bank holidays by a canon. Postings to Kosovo were real, not just another headline in the news, because some of my friends’ dads went. And then one day, the children went too. The disused caserne was meant to become the new nursing school, to host the county archives, to be turned into a real estate development. Over a decade on, it hosts a pharmacy and wild grass. So do a lot of houses, abandoned and never sold when the militia left. The city didn’t cry over it with as much to-do as Mrs. Bennet, but it really should have. Instead, Nevers became the perfect city to buy a manor for the price of a London studio. The problem is: hardly anyone wants to. 

When Mitterrand left and Jacques Chirac took power, Nevers, a traditional, anchored left-wing city, found itself on the wrong side of the political spectrum. The left doesn’t have to do much to win elections there beyond making sure its name is on the ballot. Mayorship isn’t as much earned as it is bestowed to pre-determined heirs who run the city until they feel like leaving. Didier Boulaud, who took over from Bérégovoy after his suicide by the Nevers Canal (most of the city believes it was state murder), held the job for seven years. The power check that’s meant to happen through the risk of losing elections has so far been close to nil. It doesn’t happen through the local rag either, since it is the kind of paper where spelling mistakes are considered acceptable – editing would be against editorial independence. 

The newspaper, which I even wrote for in high school, used to be printed locally, right by the train station. These days, fewer trains pass through Nevers, and the nearby restaurants and hotels seem to have a new owner every time I return. There was hope, at some point, that a high-speed train (TGV) linking Paris to Nevers would resuscitate the city. A support meeting was held; apparently, the turn out was so high, the highest of all the cities the TGV would be stopping at, that partition walls had to be taken down. The hope of an entire city, riding on a train. How very industrial revolution. The TGV project has been shelved until further notice because of a train derailment a few months ago. Reason: tracks might not have been taken care of as well as they should have. The TGV budget will go into refreshing the tracks, and Paris will remain two hours away.

Nevers is a beautiful city and I wouldn’t have grown up anywhere else. It has a rich history with a church, l’Eglise Saint Etienne, a model of Roman art which used to be pictured in the dictionary. They’ve stopped doing mass there though because they couldn’t afford to keep the heating on and nobody wants to pray when it’s cold. There is a cathedral, which survived a WWII bombing, revealing the presence of a 6th century baptistery. The very first Loire Castle, geographically at least, has been standing proud since the 15th century. Nevers hosts an incredible artisan industry, la faience, a high-end type of porcelain brought back from Italy during the Renaissance. It has been featured in classic movies, such as Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour and gave its name to a fencing thrust, or at least to the duke who invented it in the book Le Bossu, la botte de Nevers, guaranteed to kill one’s adversary with a swift hit between the eyes. 

Yet for all this richness, cows and pilgrimage are probably Nevers’ two strongest points. The cows: le Charolais, offer the best type of beef. The pilgrimage: Bernadette Soubirou, the saint who saw the Virgin Mary in Lourdes and came to the Nevers convent. Unearthing her years after her death, the nuns realised that her body hadn’t rotten and, claiming a second miracle, covered her in wax and put her on display in the chapel, where you can see her to this day. As a result, Nevers is something of a compulsory stop for people on their way to Lourdes. These are the days when the train station becomes busy again. 

Nevers definitely has the potential to develop again, but it doesn’t know how to capitalise on it. Stuck in the middle of France, far from the sea and the mountains, it hasn’t developed the writers’ or yoga retreat economy many fledging French cities are enjoying. Big city inhabitants crave country vacations, foreigners come to Burgundy for food and drink and a little bit of culture on the side – all activities Nevers is more than able to provide. There are enough destitute farms around to start up a high-end B&B chain, not to mention all the inhabited mansions within the city. Yet the local tourism authorities haven’t bothered to publish an English website, the city’s presence on social media, in any language, is non-existent and advertising campaigns to encourage people to visit are nowhere to be seen. Until Nevers takes an audit of its local strength and comes up with 21st century solutions to exploit them, the city isn’t going to revive. In the meantime however, I would strongly encourage you to go spend your holidays there. I can promise you peace and quiet, good food and a nice castle.

Posted at 6:04am and tagged with: first person, france,.

Classy Film: Un Prince Presque Charmant

Had Un Prince Presque Charmant been an American movie, it would have starred Katherine Heigl as a young, vivacious, naive Southern girl yearning for her Prince Charming. This is the level of this French rom-com, which borrows every banality of the genre and peppers it with a good dose of French societal clichés. 

I considered prefacing this blog entry with a spoiler alert but really, you can guess the entire scenario just by looking at the poster. Jean-Marc (Vincent Perez) is the overworked and misogynistic Parisian owner of an electronics company and the majority shareholder of a small factory in the South of France. For economic reasons, and without caring about the people about to lose their jobs, he decides the factory should relocate to Bulgaria.

The film was released last January, as relocations and factory closures were switching from being the hot topic on the evening news to the hot topic on the big screen. Another movie exploring potential relationships between the CEO of big companies and the employees whose lives he destroys came out three months later, Ma part du gâteau

Right after signing the relocation contract, a strike forces Jean-Marc to undertake a three-day-long road trip from Paris to Monaco to get to his daughter’s wedding. France is paralysed by a strike that criticizes, in the vaguest ways, just about everything evil about capitalism and reminds Jean-Marc at every possible crossroad why choosing to dedicate his time to his career rather than to his daughter was a bad idea. 

On the road, Jean-Marcs has a chance encounter with Marie (Vahina Giocante), a beautiful provincial girl much younger than him who dreams of meeting a prince. Rom-com twist: Marie is in the fact the daughter of the relocalated factory owner, though only the film viewer knows this from the start. 

Written and produced by Luc Besson, Un Prince Presque Charmant quotes the classic tropes of the rom-com genre: the two unknowns mistaken for a couple who face sleeping in the same bed, the CEO realising that he has missed out on the best of life, the big company eating a small one, the douche who becomes a gentleman when he meets the right woman…

In the first part of the movie, Jean-Marc is shown as an abusive boss who thinks it’s ok to be rude to his female secretary Evelyn (Judith Siboni) or to the woman delivering lunch. The film opens with him making fun of Evelyn’s suggestion that she could drive because really, how could she handle a car that powerful? Jean-Marc’s early world is split between the men who run companies and the women who make their lives easier, who entertain them and who they sleep with. Although this behaviour is easy to dismiss because the premise is that this is a redemption story, I don’t believe we should. The idea that abusive, misogynistic men can be reformed is about as likely as Edward marrying Vivian. 

Jean-Marc’s character turn-around is suggested by three changes of clothes in the whole film: at the beginning, he wears a classic, suave three-piece suit – alongside his car, his private plane and his threesomes, it suits his life of a CEO. As the road trip starts going south, as he encounters roadblocks and runs out of petrol, the elegance gets messier, the status symbols start being taken off one by one: the jacket, the vest, the tie. By the time Jean-Marc switches to a Renault electric car, considered “feminine”, he wears a casual double blue outfit of jeans and a shirt. Even though he finishes the film in another suit, it’s for his daughter’s wedding and it’s clear that this new attire is about finally making right by her rather than showing off power and money. 

I doubt Un Prince will be released in English-speaking markets. It received average reviews from critics and spectators alike in France. Its French-ness could, as is often the case, drag in some viewers, but not enough to justify many screens. If you don’t speak the language, you won’t be missing out. 

Posted at 10:29am and tagged with: Classy film, france,.

On 23 September, the French tribunal de grande instance, a Civil Court, ruled that the LVMH-owned fragrance and cosmetics chain Sephora couldn’t open its Champs Elysées store after 9pm. For the past 17 years, the store had opened until midnight Monday to Thursday, and until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays. 

The case was brought to court by the unions, despite heavy criticism for it from both management and employees. Firstly because they argued 20% of their revenue was made during night opening hours as tourists walked the Avenue, and secondly because they complained it would require a reshuffle of their schedules. Public radio France Inter interviewed a female employee who explained evening shifts worked for her because it enabled her to look after her sister’s children. Fifty employees even turned up to the hearing to support Sephora’s late night openings. 

Sephora management wasn’t the only ones who deplored the ruling. “The laws sometimes have to be open to the new world, and the new world is business that never stops,” Ventes-privées entrepreneur Jacques-Antoine Granjon said in a phone interview with The Business of Fashion on 8 October. “Where there is a need and where you have people who are ready to work, they should let them work.”

Granjon takes advantage of the no-Sunday work unless you are in the food industry law: his website is the third most visited in France, right behind Amazon and eBay. However, online shopping only works for people living in France, rather than for one of its first economy drivers: tourism

France needs to allow evening and Sunday work in luxury stores because tourists, who come to the country to buy its fashion and high-end goods, don’t care about French labour laws. If they can’t shop Printemps, they’ll shop Harrods or 10 Corso Como instead.

When Zadig & Voltaire first opened on Sloane Street, as a good little French brand, it was closed on Sunday, as I discovered one day,whilst doing my Christmas shopping. I went to the King’s Road instead, where all the stores were open. Zadig & Voltaire’s opening hours anomaly didn’t last long, although many luxury Sloane Street stores, such as Chanel and Saint Laurent, still close on Sundays. 

According to the weekly French management magazine Challenges, the grands magasins (department stores) generated 5 billion euros in revenue last year, mainly thanks to tourists, including Chinese customers who made up over 40 million customers in 2012. In Nice, on the Mediterranean, tourists account for 40% of local department stores turnover. 

Golden Week, the Chinese national holiday during which shoppers come to Europe en masse, has just ended. Last year, during that first week of October, one million Chinese customers came to Paris, over 800,000 more than the number who came to London according to a Business of Fashion interview with Gordon Clark, the UK managing director of shopping tourism company Global. Although many come with tour operators who would take into account department store opening hours, the lack of Sunday business is surely a miss for companies relying more and more heavily on tourist spending. 

I am not suggesting store management forces employees to work Sundays. It should be a choice. Labour laws provide financial incentives for people who elect to work nights or weekends, and days off are given later in the week. My summer student jobs included cleaning up the local hospital where I enjoyed working weekends or late shifts because the salary was significantly increased, and I got time off on weekdays instead. 

The Sunday work debate is representative of France’s current attempts to become more competitive without giving up any of its workers hard-earned social advantages, including the 35-hour working week. Buying French fashion in France holds a certain cachet (not to mention lower taxes and therefore prices than in many other countries), which the country needs continue to champion in order for the luxury industry to survive and flourish. 

Posted at 6:09am and tagged with: france, politics, retail,.

Book review: The President’s Hat (Le Chapeau de Mitterrand), Antoine Laurain

Does a black hat have the power to make a man stand up to his stupid boss and get a promotion, to convince a young woman to leave her married lover, to inspire a desperate nose to create perfume again, to turn a die-hard right-wing man to socialism? Five lives intertwined by one improbable hat is the premise for Antoine Laurain's brilliant short novel, Le Chapeau de Mitterrand (The President’s Hat). 

One night in 1986, Daniel Mercier, a Parisian accountant like so many, decides to treat himself to dinner in a high-end brasserie. A few minutes later, François Mitterrand, Roland Dumas and an unnamed fat man with a love of cigars and wine sit at the table next to him. On his way out, the President forgets his hat. Mercier decides to steal it.

Laurain describes his book as a fairy tale rather than a novel. He got the plot idea after losing his own hat in a café. When he went back to retrieve it the next day, the garçon told him they hadn’t found a hat, starting a series of hypothesis as to who might be wearing the hat and what they might be doing. 

Francofille warned me that it was a book she was militant about everybody reading after she lent it to me. And it is that good. It’s magical and sweet, powerful and funny. I had to stop reading it a couple of times on the Tube because I was laughing so hard people were looking at me weirdly. 

Laurain perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the late 1980s France. 1986 is a special year for me; it is the year I was born, so a number of events recalled I wasn’t around for. But the French society he describes rings perfectly true, if a little different from the current one. The fourth owner of the hat, Bernard Lavallière, moves in right wing circle where Mitterrand is so despised his name isn’t worth pronouncing properly, where men regret the time he could duel out disagreements, where names are synonymous with former glory and current poverty…

My only frustration was that once the hat changes head, you stop knowing about the previous owner and have no idea whether his/her life kept on its new trajectory. This issue however, is solved in the last chapter, alongside a very neat and unexpected ending.

Fanny Marquant, the second owner of the hat, compares the confidence it instils in her with the one she gains from her most expensive clothes, a pair of Sonia Rykiel pumps and a Saint Laurent skirt. “All she had to do was put on the YSL skirt and she felt immediately more attractive. The same went for the shoes, which had cost her almost a quarter of month’s salary: as soon as she slipped them on and did up the little straps, she felt taller, straighter and more significant. She walked completely differently, strutting along with confidence, and only she knew it was down to the hidden power of the Rykiel shoes”*.

Mitterrand’s hat had this power. Maybe not to change lives, but if you are to believe the Parti Socialiste, which has adopted the black hat-red scarf-black coat iconography as another symbol of its glory days, this hat is as much a source of success as Laurain suggests. 

The hat is the perfect gimmick. It stands for the womaniser Mitterrand was (take your hat off in front of women), for the man anchored in his land and for his dodgy World War II past when Résistants and Gestapo alike donned black hats.

From Kennedy disregarding the top hat during his inauguration address, as proof of what a modern man he was, to De Gaulle wearing his military uniform kepi as a proof of his authority, hats play a key role in the iconography of power. 

The President’s Hat was first published in France during the 2012 presidential campaign, won by Francois Hollande. He spent a good part of his canvassing trying to convince people that, not only was he normal, he was Mitterrand’s rightful heir. In 2008, when Mitterrand’s wardrobe was auctioned, Hollande asked the Socialist party he was then leading to spend over £5,000 to purchase one of the hats on sale. 

Donning a black hat and red scarf is something of an obligatory step on your way to left-wing political greatness, a symbol of leftist legitimacy ideas bordering on fetishism. There are pictures of Ségolène Royal and Laurent Fabius, two former ministers and presidential hopefuls, in the get-up. Even Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who left the Parti Socialiste to create his own dissident left-wing party, has often been seen wearing both accessories. They’ve all tried, rather unsuccessfully, to adopt Laurain’s theory: “The hat alone was responsible for the events modifying their lives”**.

* Translation Emily Boyce, Louise Rogers Lalaurie and Jane Aitken

**Translations my own from Antoine Laurain, Le Chapeau de Miterrand (2012)

Posted at 7:55am and tagged with: book review, france, politics, Accessories,.

Classy Film: Pauline Détective's vibrant colour symphony

In Pauline Détective, Sandrine Kiberlain (as Pauline) is forced to holiday in an Italian resort by her sister (Audrey Lamy) following an emotional break up from her long-time boyfriend. 

Her beach-side wardrobe is full of vibrant, saturated hues that blend in with the Genoa landscape and the hotel’s colour scheme: blue, yellow, orange, violet and green.  

Pauline colour-blocks everything. With the exception of her also bright hairbands, there is no pattern in her outfits. The clothes fit together as clearly as the pieces of the criminal puzzle Pauline is trying to unravel to pass the time. A serial killer has been spotted in the region and by the time she lands in Italy he has already killed three women. 

Despite these sombre events, the only touches of black come from accessories: the sunglasses, the large straw hat, the canvas beach bag and a recurrent pair of ballerina flats which look rather out of place, compared with the rest of Pauline’s summery wardrobe. They symbolise the fact that, even though her body is on holiday, her feet and her imagination are still firmly anchored in her day-to-day job as the editor-in-chief of a trashy weekly magazine reporting exclusively on crime. 

Costume designer Marité Coutard’s simplistic wardrobe choices echo the movie’s uncomplicated scenario. From the limited number of characters to the rationality of Pauline’s deduction, this is a classic whodunit story.

White mostly appears in Pauline’s Paris wardrobe, pre- and during break-up: a crisp white shirt worn with a pleated poppy full-skirt, and the white silk pajamas ensemble she wears in bed when moping over her ex-boyfriend. 

Yet overall, Pauline doesn’t give in to the traditional wardrobe tropes of women who have just been dumped. Real character evolution is mostly absent from Pauline Détective and the clothes reveal little beyond the fact that Pauline has a quirky personality and an overactive imagination. 


Posted at 7:09pm and tagged with: Classy film, france,.

I met Rachel Malcolm through a tweet, when the fashion company I work for was looking for an experienced sub-editor. She tweeted me, I tweeted back, she came for an interview… and she has been working three rows down from me ever since.

In addition to being incredibly detailed and able at her job, Rachel runs Francofille, a blog dedicated to French movies, old and new. She’s always aware of the latest releases, TV and cinema alike and has interviewed some of the biggest French actors and directors. 

She’s also incredibly generous with her knowledge of and contacts within French cinema. I owe her the discovery of Spiral as well as my attendance at a preview of Les Invisibles, which also happens to be the hundredth film she’s reviewed. 

How do you get your French cinema news and updates?

It’s a pretty random process. I’m a slightly obsessive Francophile so I read French magazines, subscribe to newsletters, visit France fairly often and follow a lot of French people on Twitter. I hear about new films in the course of this and blog or tweet about them when I can.

How did you come up with the brilliant title of Francofille?

It took me ages. The blog started off being called ‘French film challenge’ because the original goal was to watch 52 French films in 52 weeks. I was looking for a play on words and finally found one. Now I’m a bit older, and a mother, I don’t think of myself as a fille any more but never mind! I’m happy with the title.

Why did you choose Blogger as a platform? 

It’s ultra easy to use, which is essential as I am no techie. I like the clean layout too.

How do you combine being a freelance editor, a mum and writing Francofille? 

My daughter was born exactly a year after I started Francofille and my productivity nosedived – I only managed ten reviews in the second year of the blog, compared with 52 in the first. Things have picked up since then as I now get a reasonable amount of sleep and can stay awake through a two-hour film! Being unable to watch films, read books or write (due to exhaustion) made me realise how important the blog, and my creative life, is to me, and I value it even more now. Work wise, I’ve been freelance for six years, working in both magazines and online media. I love my job, but blogging gives me much more creative freedom as there are no deadlines, word counts, or clients. It’s enormously satisfying to get feedback from readers – I couldn’t believe it when I got my first comment, back in January 2010.

You’ve interviewed quite a few directors/actors for the blog - who was your favourite and why?

Clotilde Hesme. She was like a taller, cooler, more stylish version of me. She was friendly, open and considerate – at one point she got up to close the door because there was noise in the corridor, and she also offered to hold my Dictaphone to make sure it picked up her voice. She was about to start filming Les Revenants (The Returned) when we met, and it’s funny to see it now such a huge hit on Channel 4.

Your blog doesn’t just cover French cinema, it also dips into French series, particularly Spiral which you’re quite a big fan of. Why do you like it so much and also why do you think it’s working in the UK so well?

I love it because it’s gritty, raw, and has several strong female characters who aren’t defined by the fact that they are female. The cast also has a good range of ages and backgrounds. It doesn’t deal in clichés and all the characters are flawed in some way. I think it’s been a hit over here because it’s so different. There are certain scenes (like Pierre and Josephine outside the wedding in season 4 – regular viewers will know what I am referring to) that I’m pretty sure you would never see in a mainstream UK or US drama.

How do you want your blog to evolve?

I’d like to do more interviews and, of course, get invited to more premieres and previews!

And lastly could you please recommend your top five favourite French films?

La haine (1995) – my favourite film of all time, French or otherwise.

A bout de souffle (1960) – the first Nouvelle Vague film I fell in love with.

Le mari de la coiffeuse (1990) – a beautiful example of the way many French films focus on female desire and pleasure in a way that would be unthinkable in English-language cinema.

Intouchables (2012) – it made me laugh so much, and is almost ridiculously feelgood.

It was very hard to choose a fifth, but I’m going to go with Les émotifs anonymes (2010) – sweet, funny, quirky and typical of the low-key French films that I’ve come to love.

Blogger Adventure is a semi-regular column on Fashion Abecedaire where I interview bloggers I know and like about their inspiration, their creative process and their blogging habits. You can keep up to date with the most recent posts by previously featured bloggers by signing up to the Fashion Abecedaire newsletter

Posted at 8:14am and tagged with: blogger adventure, france, cinema,.

Is maje trying to bridge the Paris-province fashion gap? 

Growing up in Neversa city with a population of 43,000, 260 kilometres away from Paris, Fashion Carrousel and I often resented the Paris-province fashion divide.

It wasn’t just that fashion shows took place in Paris but that, from reading magazines, we felt that the best stores and all the cool fashion-related events were in the capital.

Brands have picked up on this general provincial fashion frustration. They are trying to cancel out the Paris province inequality thanks to a smart us of their website.

Today, French womenswear brand maje invited its entire database to an evening of shopping and pampering, in association with L’Oréal Professionnel and essie, in six of its Paris stores.

"Maje doesn’t forget any of its customers" promises the brand. For clients not living in the capital or unable to attend the event, it is offering a bright yellow passport cover, luggage tag and essie nail polish to the first 150 people who make a purchase on its digital commerce website.

The two offers aren’t quite equivalent, especially in terms of reach. However, I welcome the initiative and hope it will lead to an ongoing use of the digital space by maje so that no matter where you live, you can benefit from its commercial initiatives. 

Next step: segmenting the database so that subscribers only receive invitations to events that are geographically-relevant - ensuring they don’t suffer from needless fashion event envy. 

Posted at 7:35pm and tagged with: Best practice, email marketing, MAJE, france,.

Is maje trying to bridge the Paris-province fashion gap? 
Growing up in Nevers, a city with a population of 43,000, 260 kilometres away from Paris, Fashion Carrousel and I often resented the Paris-province fashion divide.
It wasn’t just that fashion shows took place in Paris but that, from reading magazines, we felt that the best stores and all the cool fashion-related events were in the capital.
Brands have picked up on this general provincial fashion frustration. They are trying to cancel out the Paris province inequality thanks to a smart us of their website.
Today, French womenswear brand maje invited its entire database to an evening of shopping and pampering, in association with L’Oréal Professionnel and essie, in six of its Paris stores.
"Maje doesn’t forget any of its customers" promises the brand. For clients not living in the capital or unable to attend the event, it is offering a bright yellow passport cover, luggage tag and essie nail polish to the first 150 people who make a purchase on its digital commerce website.
The two offers aren’t quite equivalent, especially in terms of reach. However, I welcome the initiative and hope it will lead to an ongoing use of the digital space by maje so that no matter where you live, you can benefit from its commercial initiatives. 
Next step: segmenting the database so that subscribers only receive invitations to events that are geographically-relevant - ensuring they don’t suffer from needless fashion event envy. 


* Please note this article contains potential spoilers for series 2 of The Hour.

"And this is my wife". Camille Mettier (Lizzie Brocheré), French wife of journalist, TV anchor and general show hero Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) is introduced at the end of the first episode of series 2 of The Hour, the Abi Morgan miniseries on the behind-the-scenes of a 1950s TV show.

The clues were there but they only fall into place at the last minute, leaving the viewers as shocked and saddened as Bel Rowley (Romola Garai), Lyon’s British producer, best friend and love interest.


The season (and possibly the show) is now over, yet Mettier’s role is still unclear. Trouble-maker for viewers meant to root for a Lyon/Rowley happy ending, Mettier is young, pretty and very Nouvelle Vague meets Beatnik. She has a Jean Seberg crop, swears in French when angry, says “oui” rather than “yes”, “can’t help flirting”, rarely wears pants and always wears her husband’s jumpers and shirts. When she goes out, it’s always in black: black turtleneck, little black dress, black coat. 

Mettier is the cliché Anglo-Saxon take on the gamine and androgynous French woman,  in sharp contrast with the British woman exemplified by Rowley, who lives for her story and her career.


Although both characters are typecast late 1950s women, their contrasting personalities filter through their fashion and beauty choices: Mettier’s loose, dark clothes to Rowley’s colourful, nipped-in suits, her dark crop to her wavy blond hair.

Both are women of their time, exercising their gender’s newfound freedom their own ways: Mettier sitting at home reading books and planning the next revolution and anti-nuclear war protest with her leftist friends is merely a study on how only Rowley, who understands and shares Lyon’s ambition and life goals, is best suited for him.

Posted at 7:59am and tagged with: Mad Men, TV series, bbc two, france, Classy film,.