Bonjour Paris

image Here’s the view out of the apartment window of the best friends we’ve never met, the owners of our vacation rental in Paris. We’re staying in the 6th arrondisement, the left bank neighb where Hemingway and Beauvoir hung out, which has morphed into a high-rent district and primo shopping area, while hanging onto at least some of its artsy charm.

Having left my sewing machine at home, I plan to fill my days researching Paris mode and shopping for supplies for future projects. Fortunately we’ve been to Paris enough that I feel absolutely no compulsion to do anything cultural or historic and neither does anyone else in the family.

imageUnder the guise of “getting groceries” yesterday, I escaped the boys and wandered the neighborhood. About 40 feet down the rue des Beaux Arts, I came across this “gallery” with beautifully designed and handcrafted leather bags. Love the striped box bag on the top; very 40s.

image Turning onto the rue Boneparte, I passed the array of small galleries and high-end boutiques that have taken over the area. Some are well-known, like Azzadine Alaia’s shop, where I encountered this masterful suede and embroidered dress with cropped emerald shearling jacket (and matching boots and gloves) highlighting the sexy draping and construction he’s known for. Fortunately, most Paris shop windows helpfully list the price of items inside, saving you from going in and embarrassing yourself.

image  This area has a number of antique furniture galleries and shops for decorator fabric. I was mighty glad that the Hermes fabric and wallpaper shop was closed as I would have been sorely tempted. I’m not much of a home dec maven, but I do believe that a girl should have some Hermes scarves in her arsenal (my vintage collection came from Ebay and the Paris “depot vente” (consignment store) called Reciproque) and I might have convinced myself to make some Hermes pillows to go with them.

imageEverything in these little shops is so beautifully crafted and artfully arranged.

image  Everything.

image  I had long  passed the grocery store and the cafe where Hemingway hung out, so I wandered into the Monoprix, which is what Target would be if it were next to Armani, across from Cartier, and not stuffed to the gills  with off-shore crap.  I’m still thinking about the all-wool expressionist scarf on the right.

image But, honestly, I knew where  I was  going all  along.  I had to visit my old friend Agnes  b.  This French brand is  semi-culty  among hip American prep-school girls and the Japanese.  I’ve been wearing “Agnes” since my husband’s daughter introduced me to her line in the late 80s. Her sweaters and tops, made of cotton rib or merino, still work with my “urban boomer granny” uniform of black stretch jeans, black top, and colorful asides like the aforementioned Hermes scarves. There were a number of women in there shopping in pairs (like the women in the photo, one of whom has a massive Chanel bag slung over her shoulder). All around, women were exclaiming “jolie!” (pretty), “mignon” (cute) or “fou” (crazy). No one appeared to be shopping for gifts, and unlike the U.S. at Christmas, the store music was not blasting “it’s the MOST WUNNNDERFUL time of the year…” to inspire the legion of American women nearing holiday collapse.

image While I was there, I saw a version of the knitted “hoodie” that American Look designer Claire McCardell invented in the 40s and tried unsuccessfully to patent. She liked to ski, so she made it to keep her ears warm.

I picked up one of Agnes b.’s cotton sweaters with snaps, and wore it out to dinner with my husband last night. Having mailed off my Xmas presents before leaving the US, and having visited with family earlier in the year, chilling in Paris over the holidays IS the most wonderful time of the year.

I’m going to be shopping for fabric and notions over the next several days. Any suggestions?

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