Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The joys of the (older) mother!

The older mums amongst us might recognise the situation pictured by Charlotte Renon in her delightful Charlotte du Jour picture blog, reproduced here with her permission.
To see more of Charlotte's work:

Friday, 26 March 2010

Lingerie: Louise Feuillere

I made another welcome discovery during my short family visit in Paris.  A small shop, off the beaten track in the aptly named rue des Dames, proudly displays the credentials of its owner: "Meilleur ouvrier de France". That title is no mean achievement and inspires respect! The prestigious award goes to craftsmen who have achieved a "masterpiece" in the full sense of the word. Spending years perfecting their crafts, the "Meilleurs ouvriers de France" show technical ability as well as artistic flair in a master piece that will encapsulate their art and skills.
Only in her mid-thirties, Louise Feuillere, who started working in the field in 1992,  is a recent recipient of the award (2007) which recognised her exceptional use of colours, lace and esthetics.  She trained with a "corsetiere" in her sixties, who continues to share with her a lifetime of expertise and has helped her perfect her craft. I must confess that I am a complete sucker for skilled craftspeople. I am in awe of the patience, application and dedication required to fully master a craft. Such excellence, combined with lingerie, one of the most intimate and delicate of crafts was bound to appeal to me.
The old-fashioned shop-window and bossy sign specifying that callers would only be seen by appointment, intrigued me. Reading through Ms Feuillere biography, I learned that her first client was an 82 year old woman who wanted to have "a flat tummy" and look good for a man who had finally mustered up the courage to declare his love.
Talking with her on the phone, it soon became clear that Louise Feuillere takes a philosophical approach to her craft.  Her technical mastery is only a small part of what she does: "work and reflection" allow her to enter into a relationship with her clients and answer their needs and desires.
Those needs are varied and often require her to address pain. Pain as the result of a mastectomy and the need to create an "amazon's bra". Pain suffered by women whose skin is hypersensitive and find commercially available lingerie unbearable.  Pain caused to violated bodies that need succour from beauty. Whilst some clients only want a technical solution to a specific problem or an usual shape not found in shops, she finds the need for beauty is greatest in women who want to address ugliness or even horror in their lives.  She sums up her approach as : "To love and to give, to receive, to make".  In that context, her unusual list of inspirations makes sense: her mother, Hildegard von Bingen and ... the Virgin Mary, that she sees as mystical and spiritual creators. Bringing mysticism into lingerie places Louise Feuillere's creations to a very different level!
Louise Feuillere's clientele is aged between 30 and 90 years old. The made-to-measure process requires around 4 fittings. At the first appointment, she works with the client to determine her needs and desires, advising on suitable materials and shapes and provides a cost estimate. The resulting lingerie will be built according to the "corsetiere" techniques, finished to perfection and incorporating all the tricks of the trade such as tiny pleats that can be released to allow for slight variations in body shape. The following sessions will ensure a perfect fit and the bra, bathing suit or underslip will be delivered 3 weeks later.

She would not be pushed to give prices due to wild variations reflecting the materials used and the time spent... but made it clear that they belong to the couture world. When I threw numbers at her, from €500 to €3000, she confirmed that €3000 was way off. The idea of perfectly fitting underwear or bathing suits makes me dream  - I hope not to have to wait until I'm 82! Her ready to wear line ranges from €180 to €350 - a more affordable way to start. 
Louise Feuillere sees clients from Tuesday to Friday for the made-to-measure business and her shop is opened on Saturdays for her ready-to-wear line. She also teaches a course and seems to derive great pleasure in communicating her love for lingerie to creative women.
To learn more: 
Pictures from Louise Feuillere's website published with her agreement.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Paris discoveries - Mouton chic

A short visit in Paris yielded unexpected discoveries. Staying at my father's flat in the Western suburb of Boulogne Billancourt, Mutton stumbled across the appropriately named Mouton Chic.
Run by a dynamic (and patient) young woman whose previous career was in PR, the shop has only been opened a few months. Aiming at the well-heeled but not overly spendthrift nor adventurous local clientele, she stocks new designers Virginie Castaway or Gat Rimon, well-established Bruuns Bazaar as well as luxury Piazza Sempione. The unusual name for the shop has no other meaning than, precisely, its unusual and catchy nature.

From Virginie Castaway, a cute take on denim and Spring prints in a linen jacket (€190) and trousers (€130):
Elegant blouses from Gat Rimon in grey, black or white chiffon priced €78:

Piazza Sempione trousers were beautifully cut. At around €200-250,  they clearly were not in the impulse buy category but more a wardrobe investment.  The capri pants with a side zip are available in stretch wool and cotton at Liberty of London for £180-185.
In the shop window, I liked Alec Dore's organic cotton hand-printed pochettes but I thought their price tag was a bit steep at €25: an expensive peace sign!
To buy Piazza Sempione from Liberty on line:

Mouton Chic is located at 32 Boulevard Jean Jaures, 92100 Boulogne Billancourt.
Tel/Fax: +33146040234 email:

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Happy Coats!

Blessed with film star looks and armed with solid fashion credentials - studies in fashion design management in Milan and a family background in fashion retail, Tilla Lindig has just opened shop in Notting Hill.

She had been distributing her Happy Coats on line since November 2006 and took the plunge on a good space next to luxury glass and ceramics shop/gallery Vessel at 116 Kensington Park road, moments away from Paul Smith. I liked the shop which has a lovely cosy feel, its white walls enlivened by the coats bright colours. Tilla very kindly answered my questions but would not have me photograph the shop nor the coats as she is in the process of decorating, so I am using pictures from her website.

Tilla Lindig design coats and jackets mainly for women but also provides a small men's collection and an expending children's collection. The clothes are all made of Italian wool, Pura Lana and are produced in Germany. Whilst the collection is not  certified Fairtrade, Tilla was keen to insist on her Fairtrade approach. She controls the whole production chain, with fair wages and the certainty that no child labour will be employed. She has been in touch with Dutch certification body Made By which allocates its Blue Button to the companies it certifies.

She defines her style as : "timeless, fashionable." "A slim fit with flattering proportions, suitable for all ages: for an 18 year old or for the 45 year old mother who cares about her looks." I agree with her description as I felt very comfortable in the clothes at my advanced age!

She clearly loves colours and chooses beautiful shades from natural tones to brights - the type of colours that give you a good feeling for the day.
A comfortable or even a comforting fit is what she is after. She wants to make clothes that become your body shape and stay with you forever. As she said: "I feel naked in a super new dress!" She likes lived-in clothes that act as a protective blanket and described her coats as "the new pashmina". The wool fabric is unlined and intended to keep your body temperature - maybe not in blizzard conditions, though!
I saw the red jacket above in the shop in a grey and black version with a blue or pink cord to tie at the waist. It looked very elegant with a flattering slim bodice and flared hip line, a great Spring jacket.

Prices range from £280 to £350 for women's coats and jackets. Men's jackets retail at £350 and children's coats and jackets are a shade below £100.

The shop is located at:
116 Kensington Park Road
London W11 2PW
Tel.: +44 (0) 20 7229 0848

To shop online:

Friday, 12 March 2010

Boutique watch: return to Nancy Pop

You might remember from a previous post that I had spotted a fabulous party dress for New Year's Eve at a shop called Nancy Pop, but not acted on my impulse - the shop was closed and, mostly, the quiet toasting of the New Year at home did not quite justify the red silk jersey and sequins!  I have always been intrigued by Nancy Pop, a shop one can miss easily despite its huge shop-window on Kensington Park road.

I have "popped" in (sorry, but it is hard to resist a bad pun) several times and been intrigued by the range of clothes, from casual skinny jeans in bright colours (definitely too skinny for me) to Eley Kishimoto tops or wildly printed dresses. I could not quite figure out the style and focus of boutique. After talking with Sofia Johnsson, designer and stylist who runs the shop with manager, buyer and fellow Swede Helen Roysdotter, I am a bit clearer and definitely still intrigued.

Opened in 2006, the boutique mostly stores "occasion wear". Run by a small team "that does everything" and is refreshingly friendly, the boutique aims to provide original, individual clothes with both good fit and quality. What I saw as rather unfocused, they describe as "directional" and I can see a fun and playful element in the selection. The name of the boutique comes from Nancy Sinatra ("sophisticated elegance") with "Pop" bringing in fun and eclecticism. The wild and beautiful prints I had noticed are from Sarah Arnett.
From what I understand, Sarah Arnett, based in Brighton,  is now focusing her business on bridal wear. Her company sadly went bankrupt but you still have a chance of picking up one of her scarfs pictured above (£45) or a dress from her last collections, reduced to half-price at Nancy Pop. The dresse below is now £140.
Sofia, ever the stylist,  suggested that I try on a chiffon Sarah Arnett dress that I had not spotted - floaty and beautiful - I loved it.
The new designers currently displayed in Nancy Pop's window strike me as rather young in focus. Sofia, who looks about 18 but tells me she is 40,  assured me that some of the dresses work well on a 40+ woman. Olesia Makhonko's silk dresses below are not for me (£360 for the blue dress and £280 for the pink) but could work as party dresses, with or without a cardigan depending on how toned your arms are! Olesia Makhonko apparently has a loyal following (of older women in particular) and had to extend her production of the Dita Dress, shown below, due to high demand.

Another designer that they stock is Cami Cuckoo with a summery tie-dye cotton wrap dress (£154) that I could imagine wearing. Again, the cardigan might come in handy.
Eley Kishimoto will continue to be stocked by Nancy Pop whist Zandra Rhodes will make her debut there as well as well as a new designer called Valone Valone that I am curious to discover.

Nancy Pop is located at 19 Kensington Park road, London W11 2EU. Their website:
To learn more about Sarah Arnett:

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Kooples - the young couple

French fashion brand The Kooples uses couples of all types and ages in its advertising.
The tag line for the ad mentions that Jean-Francois and Tanya have been together for 2 and 1/2 years. Pretty cool in the biker gran category!
Have a look at their website:

Monday, 8 March 2010

Oscar fashion

Looking good at 40+!
Kathryn Bigelow
Meryl Streep
Queen Latifah
Helen Mirren
Mo'Nique (40 this year)
Vera Farmiga (still under 40)
Demi Moore (indestructible)

Oscar is a woman.

Much has been made in the press of Kathryn Bigelow's Academy Award for best Director, a first for women.
Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Greg Shapiro celebrate Hurt Locker's Oscars victory (Photo: PA)

I must confess that I have not seen any of her films so I can't claim to have a particularly well informed view on whether the honour is well deserved or not. I would just like to say that it is interesting that the first woman to win the best Director Award should do so with a war film, a typically male genre with an essentially male cast.

It is quite typical, isn't it, that women need to prove themselves in a way that men recognise and can understand in order to make it in traditionally male fields. In any event, congratulations to Kathryn Bigelow and let's hope she opens the way for more women directors, hopefully with films from all genres and even with women in their cast!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Tough fashion

Flying back from a welcome break in the South of France last weekend, I read Ruth La Ferla's fashion trend article in the International Herald Tribune (Sunday February 28, 2010) predicting a return to tough fashion for women: In a Tough Style World, No Damsels in distress.  From her observations and conversations with various fashion consultants/stylists/shop owners, she develops the notion that women are turning away from girly styles and adopting harder looks, "studs and leather, mannish jackets and rock-star jeans" with androgynous undertones and a blurring of gender dividing lines.

"a down and dirty kind of look" according to Andrew Bolton, curator at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art who is quoted in the article.

The "tough" look is also one of the trends highlighted by the Sunday Times Magazine (dated 28/02/2010), telling us to mix straps, buckles, zips and chains with sex and glamour.

I am all for a return to more assertive women, ditching the sex-object looks and footballer's wife vulgarity but I am not entirely sure if the shoes shown above, still sky-high and dominatrix-inspired project the right kind of forceful image! However, I have noticed lately that my eldest daughter - the ruthless judge, is sporting slashed, loose T-shirts instead of her usual skin-tight styles and studded (flat) boots - could it be a sign of an emerging toughness? In any event, a bit of rock star stance might appeal on days when we need a confidence boost and I'll be on the look out for a wearable version of the "tough" look for a 40+.

A good place to start might be Ash, the Italian shoe makers - their style can have that sexy but harder edge. Some of their designs are frankly slutty but I like their vintage leather boots and some of their sandals.
They also have a good line of trainer inspired shoes with heels and plenty of buckles. I am not completely crazy about them but they can solve the short woman's perennial dilemma of how to wear trainers without disappearing entirely from view.
The shoes are available from two shops in London and other retailers for selected lines.
To see the new collection:

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Clogging it

Consecrated the "must have" accessory by the French Elle and seen in a number of British publications, the Swedish Hasbeen clog is what we'll apparently all be wearing this Spring. The wooden soled clog-inspired collection spans the gamut from boots (€345 or 2795 SEK):

to sandals (£130 or 1495 SEK):
and proper clogs (1495 SEK):
Nostalgia and comfort might actually make us wear them!

You can find the sandals at Top Shop online:
The whole collection is available from Swedish Hasbeen and they ship worldwide:

Monday, 1 March 2010

Health according to David Servan-Schreiber

I don't know about you but I find that this time of year is simply the worst. Winter seems to drag on forever with the odd sunny day immediately quashed by the return of cold and rain. I also seem to drag myself sluggishly from lethargic day to cocooning evening in. My listless state is simply seasonal and I am ashamed not to be more energetic when family and friends are facing serious health problems and confronting them courageously. So, when I came across an interview of Dr David Servan-Schreiber, the author of New York Times bestseller Anticancer: A new Way of Life, I thought I should pay attention to his recommendations for a healthy life and spread the word.
His book, written from personal experience, is coming out in a new edition in France as Anticancer: les gestes quotidiens pour la sante du corps et de l'esprit (editions Robert Laffont). He argues that, there is a lot we can do to prevent cancer from developing and to help recover from the disease in following fairly simple guidelines:

  • Eat your veg: 80% of your meals should be made up of vegetable and 20% of animal product.
  • Turmeric: David Servan-Schreiber has a thing for that spice and recommends that we eat it together with black pepper which helps absorption. It is used a lot in Indian and Moroccan cooking, so lots of delicious dishes ahead.
  • Green tea and its great anti-oxidants.
  • The usual wholemeal bread, "good" oils (olive, linseed and flax-seed), garlic and onion, plenty of cereals, 2 glasses of RED WINE per day, organic if possible.
Stress-busting lifestyle
  • 30 minute walk 5 times a week
  • Social interaction: look after your friends and have them pamper you too!
  • Naps to recharge your batteries or 5 to 10 minute meditation or breathing exercises per day. Yoga is good too!
  • Early nights: Dr Servan-Schreiber hardly goes out for dinner and turns in at 10:30pm.
Nothing revolutionary but solid science-based facts that can help us all. The soothing music and the editing in the following clip is pretty corny but you might learn something!