Seeing things clearly

Friday, 31 October 2014

I was one of those geeky kids with the glasses. I became a little four eyes aged 5, with a pair of My Little Pony glasses. Remember those? I had all four colours. Aged six I had to wear a patch over my right eye because it was lazy. Not a look that endears you to other kids. As I got older I hated wearing glasses and throughout my teenage years, I would only wear them during class for lectures, so I could see the whiteboard. During breaks I would walk around half blind, totally oblivious if someone was trying to make eye contact with me or trying to catch my attention. Walking down the high street on the weekend was an obstacle course. University was the same. I'm quite sure I missed a few winks and sneaky looks from fellow male students (I wish), because I just couldn't see them. As soon as class was over off came the glasses, which made walking around campus a little tricky, if not dangerous.

Thank goodness for contact lenses. In my last year of university I finally got my first pair. I remember looking in the mirror, whilst standing in the lift on the way up to my room in the university halls, mesmerised at how big my eyes were. I'd never seen them in focus except behind a pair of frames. It took me six months to get used to putting them in and taking them out (they still make me cry today). But I was determined to look 'cool' and 'normal' - I used to wear my contacts 7 days a week for a minimum of 14 hours a day. Sometimes I even slept in them and in the morning when I woke up, they'd literally be stuck to my eyeballs. (I can envisage opticians shaking their heads as I write this). But as I've gotten older, I've started wearing glasses again, it might have something to do with a little thing called fashion. Glasses are trendy, and people look cool in them. Geek is good. So when I was looking around for a pair of new specs that I'd happily be seen walking down the street in, Oscar Wylee caught my eye, not just for their vintage-inspired designs, but also because when you buy a pair of glasses, they give a pair to someone in need. I love a good deed. And they don't take long to arrive. I chose the Stafford style in Ivory Tortoise as I wanted a bold frame that would stand out and match my usual monochrome look, sent off my prescription they made them for me in their factory, and I received them in just a few weeks. Fuss free, et voila. 

I hope you enjoy the little story that was shot in the Used Book Cafe at Merci, with the help of my friend and talented photographer, Carin. I wanted somewhere a little darker and moodier, and well bookish. Sadly I don't have much time to sit around drinking coffee, eating scones, reading books and staring out of the window contemplating life, but if I did this is where I'd do it, and with a good friend like Carin. I'd love to know what you think.

Photos by Carin Olsson, edited by me. 
Jumper from & Other Stories, lipstick 'All Fired Up' by Mac.

Margaret Howell

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

I just came back from another weekend in London to celebrate a friend's engagement party - so thought it apt to post a few photos of Margaret Howell's beautiful central London store that I took last time I was in the Big Smoke. I have a bit of a penchant for clean, modern clothing that supports a palette of grey, navy, white, black, and I particularly like wearing structured lines with minimal fuss that can be spiced up with a slick of bright lipstick. (And let's be honest, I neither have the inclination or time to spend faffing around trying to figure out what to wear in the mornings, so opt for a personal uniform of sorts). So I wandered off Wigmore Street and into the eponymous Margaret Howell shop to peruse a spectrum of greys, neutrals, browns and army greens, peppered with the odd pop of colour, checks and tartan. It's a lovely space flooded with light that streams in from the glass ceiling to showcase the collections, as well as the vintage furniture and homewares. It's more concept store, than clothes shop, creating a lifestyle rather than just offering apparel for the average clotheshorse. And boy, could I have happily bought everything in there. Or moved in. Luckily I had a meeting, otherwise I would have camped out for the rest of the day, in that grey armchair, asking the sales staff to bring me cups of tea in those pretty ceramics. 

Stylish Living: Stéphanie from White Bird

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

WHITE bIRD is tucked just behind Rue de Rivoli, only a few minutes from the Jardin de Tuileries in the 1st arrondissement, in an ideal location for locals, as well as tourists wandering just off the tourist track. I headed over there on a particularly warm September day to photograph and chat to the owner, Stéphanie - purveyor of fine, pretty jewels - in collaboration with my good friend Kate who runs the London-based jewellery blog The Cut London. If you're ever looking for an engagement ring, she's your girl!

Stéphanie opened WHITE bIRD a few years ago after the plug was pulled on an exciting project to launch a fine jewellery collection at Chloe because of the economic crisis. After putting a year of hard work into the project, only to see it cancelled, Stéphanie decided the timing was right to go solo - and it was the push she needed to set up on her own. 

She always wanted to work with luxury products and has spent most of her working life in jewellery or watches, starting at Cartier: "I had no special jewellery training. I just did some business studies, but I knew one thing when I was young - I lived with my parents in Bordeaux and I knew that I wanted to live in Paris. I also knew that I wanted to work with fashion or in the luxury industry." She later worked for Chaumet, and it was during her time there, whilst travelling to the US that she started exploring other jewellery designers. "I went to Barney’s when they'd just opened their little department of fine jewellery. It was just a tiny room in the beginning and they only had one or two brands. But every year it’s grown and grown, and it’s now a huge floor where they have a fantastic range of designers. One of the designers was Cathy Waterman and I loved her designs. So I started to think about what I wanted to do for myself. I didn’t want to work for brands anymore, so I decided that in France, there was a real need for a space to showcase new designers." So she opened WHITE bIRD, which is very different to most high end jewellery shops - she wanted to create a space that was cool and cosy, a place where kids could come, and where husbands could happily sit on a couch answering emails while their wives perused the designs. She's done just that - it's warm, welcoming, cosy and beautifully designed to show off the pretty jewels, without being too stiff or strict; it doesn't have the stuffy air of a place like Cartier, where you feel afraid to go in.

Scroll down to read the rest of the interview! 

Earliest fashion or jewellery moment? 
The first collection I directed at Dinh Van with a freelance designer. Jewellery is a small piece of art that involves a lot of emotion from the designer to the wearer. It’s on your skin. It’s like perfume, it’s very sensual and personal.

Describe a typical working day… 
When I’m in Paris, I take my youngest daughter to school, sometimes have a coffee with other parents, walk to the office which is half in the shop, half in a small office nearby and work non stop until 7pm, usually without lunch. I often meet and chat with some customers of the shop, which are delicious breaks 

What do you do to relax? 
Read and garden at our seaside house.

What piece of advice would you give someone who wants to launch their own jewellery brand or boutique? 
Have faith in what your doing, don’t let people discourage you and when there are tough days always think: "tomorrow will be a better day".

Who are your clients? 
People that come here are looking for something more personal – they are investing more of themselves into the piece, rather than buying it because it’s a particular brand.

What was the inspiration behind the boutique’s interior style? 
I wanted natural and rough materials to contrast with the jewellery, which is precious and delicate. I wanted people to feel relaxed, finding a cool sofa was key and authentic 50’s furniture to make it a bit like a home.

Where did you source the furniture? 
Vintage markets and online

Interior styles that have inspired you?  
English homes, the Isabel Marant shop in Le Marais, Astier de Villatte, APC in Soho New York, the decorator Ilse Crawford.

How would you describe your personal style? 

Last good book you read? 
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – it's quite dark, but I love historical books – this one takes place in Iceland in the 19th century.

What’s in your magazine pile at home? 
ELLE and the rest is online.

Evening drink of choice?  
Champagne and Chablis white wine.

Bedside table essentials?  
My Aesop hand cream and my book

Favourite Paris places for coffee, clothes shopping, dinner? 
Le Telegraphe coffee shop, Toraya for lunch, Septime restaurant, Acne, Pierre Hardy, Journal Standard (Palais Royal) and Stouls for leather clothes.

Words and photography by Marissa Cox. 

London Calling

Saturday, 18 October 2014

I lived in London for a long time before I moved to Paris (I used to be an East London girl and spent 4 years in Dalston & Hackney), so it's quite refreshing coming back as a tourist and staying in a different area to my old stomping ground. I didn't have much time to explore this trip and seek out new places, so I snapped a few shots near where I was staying, at a friend's in West London. I literally hot-footed it to Portobello Road in Notting Hill yesterday morning, to capture a few of the cute buildings and vintage teapots - apologies for the lack, but I'll be back next month (and quickly next weekend for said friend's engagement party), and will actually plan my stay properly next time. 

For more London, check out Park & Cube, Liberty London Girl and What Katie Does.

Cheeky new purchase - grey jumper from & Other Stories and previous blue clutch from COS

Wined & Dined in Bordeaux

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The last few weeks have been hectic to say the least. Flat-hunting, moving (more on that to come), a ton of work and a trip to Bordeaux. I started this blog when I moved to Paris, because I wanted to not only document my time discovering, getting to know the new city, and my personal style, but also how I and others can and are living better, whether that be through food, fashion, travel or interiors. It's been happening slowly but surely - often a case of one step forward and two steps back, but I'm heading in the right direction. Visiting Bordeaux was definitely one of those steps in the right direction. 

I've been wanting to visit this beautiful city and its surroundings for a while now, not only to take in the architecture and ambience, but also to discover the food and of course the wine. Let's just say I may have developed a bit of a taste for French wine since I moved to France. Hard not to. Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited by Bordeaux Wines UK on a fun-filled four days literally chateau-hopping my way around the region. I visited six chateaux, got wined and dined for lunch and dinner, and generally had the most amazing time learning as much as I could. The sun was shining, the weather hot, people lovely, food incredible and then there was the wine. I tasted around 70 different wines in total, and got to have a wine-tasting class at the L'Ecole du Vin, which I really recommend if you stay in Bordeaux as it'll give you a great overview. Although I do still feel a little weird spitting wine out in front of others, especially when it kept dribbling down my chin - not a good look (I'm sure this is just something I have to perfect with practise, which of course I'm not adverse to), but if I'd drunk everything that had been put in front of me, I would have been under the table by 11am! I'm admittedly a terrible lightweight.

We not only learnt about the wines, the different regions - Saint-Emilion, Graves and Medoc to name a few, the grapes - Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, but also the 'terroir' (the soil and land). It's just one region, but the land is so diverse - wine produced on Bordeaux's Left Bank is so very different from wine on the Right Bank because of the type of soil. Luckily every chateau owner gave us a tour of their property and talked us through their vineyards and how they make their wine. It was fascinating and eye-opening, and above all delicious. I left a little fried from trying to retain so much information, but I do now feel that if I see a Bordeaux wine on the menu I would be able to order it with confidence. The parents would be proud. Anyway enough of the chat, I will let the images do the rest of the talking.  

Le Bristol Chef Sommelier, Marco Pelletier, telling us about the vines
Chateau Candale owner, Jean-Louis Vinter talking about his wines
Chateau LaTour-Martillac in Graves
Harvest in progress at Chateau Pichon-Longueville in Pauillac
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