veni vidi visa

I came. I saw. I shopped... Actually, I didn't shop as much as originally planned, but with each delectable little cappuccino being 5 euros a pop, my budget for caffeine alone probably equalled the cost of one YSL shoe. However, when meandering around Paris on foot for days on end, caffeine is much more critical than one YSL shoe- no matter how lovely.

Before taking this trip, I thought that a week might be too brief a period of time to get into the rhythm of Paris. However, through fortunate circumstance, I was able to use my six days and six nights to carve out an extraordinary personal experience of the city. I was helped hugely by the fact that a friend let me to stay at his apartment in the 11th arr. This allowed me to get some sense of what it is like to live in central Paris- the ancient spiral staircases, the water pipes, the neighbours, the sounds of contruction work in the morning- and walk along quiet residential streets not frequented by tourists on my way back to his place.

Shopping for groceries to bring home to the mini-me of minifridges was wonderful- not only because there was every conceivable flavour of rich yogurt at the local Monoprix (hazelnut, prune and apricot, oh my!), and fresh baguettes (mmmm)... and an enticing range of stinky cheeses (mmmm with bells on)... but also because I didn't have to rely on the overpriced café food (although, on my first day I had what was quite possibly the most incredible "La Parisienne" salad ever at a bistro near the Bastille).

So, via notes scribbled onto napkins, I have compiled a short list of places and things I enjoyed most during my week in Paris. The list is hardly extensive, but I think much of the magic lies in discovering beloved spots for yourself- I can't wait to return soon and continue exploring this beautiful city.


9th floor of Printemps...

You can get a sense of the atmosphere on Thurday evenings here (when it is open for a weekly cocktail party through the summer) from style photographs taken by Yvan the facehunter (1, 2). What is perhaps impossible to capture on still film is the sense of extraordinary openness.... glass walls barely seem to enclose the terrace which sits on the very top of Printemps department store in the 9th arr. Standing at any one point along the chrome rails, with wind whipping around, you are met with a 360° view of Paris which includes its most famous landmarks. Sunlight washes over the maze of ancient streets and buildings, creating a landscape of soft pastels which changes dramatically as darkness falls, and the lights that Paris is famous for come to life. Suddenly, everything is glowing against the black night. Pools of light in every hue imaginable illuminate walls and roofs- even the cafés are so well lit that their brightness spills onto the sidewalk. The Eiffel Tower, miniscule in the distance, has a little sparkle seizure for five minutes every hour, and in between these episodes, a shaft of light beams from it's top, circling around Paris like a beacon, signalling to me that a magical night is just beginning.

The architecture is lovely, and so are the people. This being a cocktail party, many have shown up in style, and I'm in fashion heaven before even getting off of the escalator. I'm most impressed by the use of layering- it is chilly outside and the ladies have come prepared with knitwear and scarves. Shoes are fantastic- there are boots of all heights, a few colourful, retro style heels, and a veritable army of black flats (Moss feet). Most wear skirts or dresses rather than pants, and have a soft, oversized bag slung over one shoulder.

Free(!) martini in hand, I step out onto the terrace- my first impression is of the aforementioned breathtaking view- the next is of a short man dressed like Charlie Chaplin (sans hat) taking my arm and announcing loudly that a Russian princess has entered the building. I blush and try to sidle away, but he keeps hold and asks my name. I tell him, and he kisses my hand before letting go. Hokay! A few moments later, I discover that he is the party's host.

As at La Perle, I expected cold shoulders, and am surprised and grateful that while circling the terrace with my drink, people touch my shoulder and invite me to join them. The language barrier isn't too prohibitive- they use broken English and I use broken French. Topics up for discussion consist mostly of fashion, Chirac and Paris, so this isn't much of a problem!

Around 10 pm I end up in conversation with a Brazilian model. The Charlie Chaplin character comes over again and says that we should have children together- I roll my eyes, but Mr. Sexy Brazil seems to take the statement literally and kisses me goodnight as he leaves. Most of the attendees are trickling out onto boulevard Haussmann at this point, and after watching the facehunter take photos of a femme in a quiet corner of the terrace, I go out as well, down through the floors of Printemps and into the dark caverns of the metro.

La Perle...

cliquer ici.

Place des Vosges...

I spent a lot of time walking around this ancient square, particularly the uneven cobblestone streets, and listening to the live orchestra in Louis the XIII's park. Surrounded on all four sides by 17th century buildings, manicured hedges and elaborate fountains, it is difficult to remember that this is the 21st century. In my mind, the young couples sprawled out in their skinny jeans and huge sunglasses are replaced with courtiers strolling the lawns in silk gowns and tall wigs. Besides being a heaven for history buffs, there are also cafés and designer boutiques galore...'et vous' is particularly fab.


Mon Dieu! An edible paradise. Do you remember that scene in 'Beauty and the Beast' where Belle walks into a palatial wooden library where thousands of books on every topic imaginable are organized perfectly on floor-to-ceiling shelves? Well, that is Fauchon, but the books are replaced with chocolate and marzipan, wine and preserves.

The Pompidou Centre...

Very funky looking building that has great art and a view- perfect for stylewatching too.

The Seine...

Put some bread, cheese and wine in a tote bag and settle on the bank of this beautiful river for a picnic. I loved watching the sun glittering on the water.


I don't even like macaroons (the N. American version), but after hearing so many femmes raving about these French cookies, I knew I had to try one. It was a life altering experience. The deep dark chocolate and pale green pistachio are my faves, but they come in numerous flavours and are available all over Paris.

Finally, and best of all: stylewatching. The French deserve their reputation for being among Europe's best dressed. I think I've said quite enough about this already!


NY Fashion Week is just 7 days away!


facehunted femme

can you spot la femme?

(hint: trench and boots)

printemps à paris

Yes, springtime in Paris is beautiful, but I am referring to the department store 'Printemps' rather than the season. Let me preface this by saying that I have an aversion to department stores. My experience is based on the North American ones which rarely have labels of interest, and creep me out because the escalators and exits are difficult to find (I think the idea is that shoppers are meant to get lost, and therefore see and buy more). For this reason, I always bypass department stores, even when shopping in different countries. During this trip to Paris however, I wanted to visit Les Galeries Lafayette for the beautiful ceiling, and Printemps for its rooftop terrace. I was also hoping that I might happen upon the beautiful clothing of Vanessa Bruno and Isabel Marant- if only to gaze upon!- because both labels are ludicrously difficult to find in Canada. So, yesterday I went exploring to see these two Parisian shopping institutions. GL was first..... I gazed at the famous ceiling, trying to engrave it in my mind before heading nextdoor to Printemps. And oh my god, as I stepped off the escalator, the first words I see on the wall in front of me are "Vanessa Bruno".

As if my day could get any better, a few steps past the Vanessa Bruno section was Isabel Marant. I fell absolutely head over heels in love with a vintage cut white silk blouse that had clear, faceted glass buttons running from collar to hem, and a simple slim sash. Just touching it made me think of 1930s movie stars.

All around the elevators at Printemps are pictures from runway shows and fashion parties- my favourite was this one of Carine Roitfeld dancing with Hedi Slimane:

And finally, a night view of Paris from the rooftop terrace at Printemps:

* Sorry for the terrible picture quality. They are taken with a cell phone- I'm working on getting a digital camera. I have to wait until I get back to Toronto to develop my other Paris photos...


that devilish green fairy...

didn't show up at La Perle. The rumour that a shot of absinthe goes in the beer at this bar may be true, but she must have taken her liquid fire for a mini break this past Wednesday. Good thing, because the atmosphere was quite intoxicating enough without the addition of her magic.

And so... La Perle. Like all infamously trendy hotspots, it has received innumerable reviews, ranging from extremely positive to damningly negative. Many people seem to feel that the bar is all hype and no substance (John Galliano among them), but what everyone seems to agree upon is that La Perle is the 'cool' place to be. I'm not really a bar hopping femme- most nights I'd rather be curled up with tea and a book- so I knew I would have to keep an open mind, and at the very least just enjoy being in the presence of hip euro youth. However, I was not disappointed. It was a fantastic night...

>> After taking several wrong turns on the ancient, winding streets of the Bastille district, I finally step onto quiet Rue de la Perle and instantly see my target in the distance: a corner building with burgundy awnings, and people spilling onto the street. Even from a block away, the buzz is palpable. 10 minutes later, equipped with 'bière blanche' and a cigarette, I venture into the sea of beautiful people. The first thing that hits me is how friendly the Perlites are. Actually, that is the second thing... the first thing that really hits me (only because it is immediately obvious) is how petite everyone is! My heels push me well over 6', and people look up curiously (or perhaps warily?) as I pass. The latter is probably the case, because grievous injury could ensue if I were to tred on the feet of one of these très petite femmes. But back to the friendliness... Seeing as La Perle is such a hipster magnet, I expected tremendous attitude and insouciant Gallic shrugging. There is some of course- this is Paris after all- but I am pleasantly surprised by the lack of pretension. Chattering Parisiennes make room as I move around the floor, and within a few minutes a group of über cool 20 somethings (two of whom I first met on Monday night) kindly welcome me to a table and I try to follow along wih their rapid fire french. Many of the people milling around are somehow connected to the fashion industry- there are interns from Lanvin and Margiela, fashion journalists, photographers, stylists and two slightly seedy looking model scouts who are picking up guys for an upcoming Paul Smith shoot.

I would pay just to people watch here. There is a predictable abundance of dark skinny jeans, wide belts cinched tightly over blouses, and tunics worn with leggings, but most of this is worn with panache, so I have no complaints... There are also the style mavericks who sport a unique combination of vintage and new- I am sure the trend researchers for fashion magazines would kill to get an eyeful of them. Sitting in a booth across from me is a woman in her mid 40s (as far as I can tell, the oldest person in the bar). She seems very out of place in her plain burgundy skirt suit and no accessories, but sits with such supreme confidence and grace, that I can't help but wonder who she is. The three men sharing her table seem similarly engrossed. Outside, the style parade continues- a cobblestone catwalk.

I heard rumours that I would see a lot of people in white jazz shoes at La Perle (?!). Can't say I saw a lot of jazz shoes persay, but I did see a lot of white shoes. Perhaps this is an upcoming fall trend? Men and femmes alike sported white shoes of varying heights- there were also of course, a few tanned people from Madrid who had brightly coloured high heels.

Yvan the Facehunter was working the crowd that night and captured some good looks... Number eight is one of my favourites- his white rabbit sweater comes from a thrift store in Detroit. It doesn't quite come across in the photo, but he had pinned a sprig of fresh mint to the front of his sweater with a button featuring the face of a hissing cat. I love details like that.

Alors! That is my experience of an average Wednesday night at La Perle. If you have been there, please share your opinion!


on the morrow then...

Three words:


I'm finding it difficult to sit down and compose a legible entry about my past three days in Paris, because there is so much to do here, and whenever I attempt to write something, the only words I am able to muster are variations of "ooh la la!". Alors, tomorrow I will force myself to sit down and write a proper entry about this trip to the The City of Lights.

Thanks for visiting La Femme despite my absence- if you have sent me your address, a postcard is, or will soon be in the mail.

N.B. La Coquette is quite right about the prevalence of white shoes at La Perle. No sign of absinthe though.

N.B.2. Aargh. I'm not quite used to the computers here and accidentally deleted all of your comments for this post- thank you so much for leaving them- I am thinking of you in Paris!


big brows or bust

Ah. This is why my tweezers were confiscated at the airport. I take it that PETA has infiltrated the ranks of airport security in an attempt to make eyebrow hair the new fur. Who knew Frida Kahlo would become a beauty icon for fall 06.

well booted travelling garden gnome

The femme is in South England for a couple of days. There is a lot more in the way of scones and rabbits around here than fashion, but I am taking a quick break between leaving the Canadian North and arriving in Paris. Experience has taught me that taking a little time to acclimatise between the two destinations is beneficial... the last time I flew direct to Paris, I nearly passed out from suddenly being in an atmosphere full of people who looked like they had just emerged from the pages of Vogue. Women were actually wearing stilletoes, while men actually carried handbags. After Toronto, where schlumpy tends to be the name of the style game, it was too overwhelmingly exciting to bear. I remember stepping out of my hotel in the St. Germain district, my jaw dropping as I took everyone in, and my mutti saying "yes, giraffe, these are your people".

Alors.... Tuesday will find me prostrated in front of the altar of Colette (don't worry, I'll go exploring off the beaten fashion track too...) Thanks for your patience while updates are scarce- if you have sent me your address, a postcard from Paris will find its way to you soon.

Bisous. A (my miu mius send their love too).


bullseye on behnaz

Behnaz Sarafpour's line for target is now available for viewing and salivating purposes. I had not previously paid much attention to the news that Sarafpour would be creating a target collection, because the designs from Luella Bartley, Sophie Albou of Paul & Joe, and Tara Jarmon didn't really catch my eye, but she has my full attention now because these ensembles seem to fulfill the needs of francophile femmes on a budget (comme moi). If you have Irina bangs, a petite frame, and a penchant for ballet flats, then you will look the epitome of easy Parisian chic. Actually, if you have the aforementioned style characteristics, you probably already look the epitome of Parisian chic, but this clothing may help... The unused hangars in my closet have put in requests for Looks 1, 6, 10 and 20. I don't feel I can say no.


mocking the snej

Scene: my mother is channel flicking and comes to a pause- for my sake- at a station replaying the s/s 06 fashion shows. I am bent over my pre-Paris 'to do' list.

L, a longtime friend of hers and fellow, very sensible could-survive-(and has)-with-no-supplies-in-remote-African-village type person is sitting cross legged on my bed reading the newspaper. L glances up as Snejana Onopka comes down the runway, tanned to the hilt and wearing her trademark Eastern European sullen expression as she struts along in a short dress and ludicrous (but fabulously) high heels.

L (after a moment's consideration): Some of these women- and I don’t know if it’s them or the way they are taught to walk- but there is something seriously wrong with their feet.

I look up curiously to see what she means. My Snejana? Something wrong with her feet? Such blasphemy! (She is just reaching the end of the runway now and looks quite alright to me).

My mother starts to laugh as Snejana abruptly swivels on one heel, and continues her ferocious strut in the opposite direction, each leg crossing waaaay over the other one, creating that idealized X shape as she walks.

L (smiling slightly, but continuing on in her no-bullshit tone): I'm not kidding- they have the good sense not to show them [the feet] on the TV too much, but there is something radically wrong with the way they are walking.

My mother laughs harder.

L: I mean, what is THAT? (Snejana has finished now and does the kind of haughty little pre-exit twirl that only severely malnourished 6 ft femmes can pull off whilst tripping along on 5 inchers- Gemma enters in her wake, looking identical to the Snej, and repeats the routine)

By this point, we are all rolling around laughing; my mom and her friend, because they think the business of strutting down a runway wearing mini skyscrapers is the funniest thing since Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and me, because high fashion can indeed seem very silly when viewed from a practical perspective.

I'm only glad we aren't watching footage of Jessica Stam's infamous spill at Chloe. That would truly give these two midwives something to tease me about while I teeter around on my new noir and rouge peeptoes.


bonjour paris!

So, I would like to apologize for the lack of updates this week... I trust that you are all nose deep in fall fashion magazines, and haven't felt snubbed. The reason for this lack of updates is that la femme is going to Europe next week (yeah baby, yeah!), and in preparation for this sacred pilgrimage, I have been burning the midnight oil (or Vodka, to be more accurate) in order to acquire enough in tips to bribe Carine Roitfeld into giving me a job take Colette by storm.

I will, of course be blogging while travelling- in between chocolat chaud at Angelina's and breaking into deliriously happy song at the sight of Palais de Tokyo- but will rely on the availability of internet cafes, so updates may be a little spotty.

If you like getting postcards as much as I do, email me your address and I will be very happy to send one...



lemon on level nine

Even Kate Moss at Glastonbury couldn't make Wellies look this good. I love femmes like this- the kind that don all white to a terrace party at Printemps and bypass the flats or booties or whatever we are supposed to be pairing with leggings this month and elect instead to plunk on a pair of lemon Wellies. Gorgeous.

{from the facehunter- 9th floor of Printemps in Paris}


signal the mournful cello

sans Maggie Cheung, most unfortunately.

Yesterday I noticed that the Geren Ford kimono dress I had been admiring for some time at Le Train Bleu had gone on sale.... the clouds parted, a ray of sunlight shone through, and I thought: YES. That is what I am going to wear on the plane to Europe! It is calling to me with its portability, scrunchability and- most importantly- its imminent wearability. For a marauding, light packing femme, it is perfection in a piece of black and blue dotted fabric. Even more fantabulous was the fact that it had just been reduced from the absurd $314 to the slightly more reasonable $157. I just knew that the fashion gods were rewarding me for working hard and saving my money in the six month lead up to my trip. Or so I thought. It turns out that the fashion gods are sadists and don't care at all about my shift schedule because this morning, the lovely and apologetic Bria of Le Train Bleu emailed to inform me that my dress was sold out, having been picked up by other femmes who were faster on the sale uptake. Very sad indeed.

So, I've become a little obsessed with finding a replacement for my almost dress and am on the hunt for travel friendly Asian inspired pieces. Preferably by Geren Ford, because I love her design aesthetic. The one pictured above is from Zara and reminded me of the infamous corset dresses from Roberto Cavalli's spring /03 collection and seemed passable until I noticed that the seams were coming undone as I pulled it over my head. A big non, non in my books, unless the item in question is vintage. I cannot stand buying badly made clothes, so I put my imitation cheongsam back on the rack and must pursue this quest elsewhere...