April in Paris

April in Paris

February 21, 2011  |  inspiration  |  No Comments

April in Paris is the name of the charming boutique of master leather craftsperson, Béatrice Amblard, located at 55 Clement Street in San Francisco. The choice of the name is full of significance. It sounds like a melody — the beauty of  Paris in the spring, the joy and love that permeate the air. And love is what she feels for her craft. Trained as a leather artisan in the old French tradition, Béatrice perfected her skills at Hermès before opening her own shop. Today she is the only artisan to have worked for Hermès as well as own her label and boutique. Her custom leather pieces are so sought-after that if you would like to order a leather bag, there is a three-month waiting period. Her clients come from all over the world, admiring her savoir-faire and her technique.

Béatrice talks about leather as having a soul of its own, as being her constant love and passion. Every piece she makes, whether a bag or an accessory, is uniquely crafted and hand-sewn with the promise to last and enchant. The leathers she uses for her creations are of the highest quality. With her craft, she breathes life into the dying luxury of investing in your looks, of choosing the color and the feel of your leather accessories, of feeling the pride of owning a dream piece. Only the imagination is the limit to what she can accomplish, she tells me in her soft and agreeable voice.

Men and women alike find their happiness in her store. She makes handbags with the classic saddle stitch and carries pieces you can purchase immediately without the wait. She also designs accessories — wallets, checkbook holders, iPhone cases, briefcases, and belts. Her beautiful bee logo is displayed on all her creations. She can even transform your car interior with the touch of a magician! And as an accomplished artist and designer, she also makes jewelry and furniture. How lucky we are to have such a incredible shop in San Francisco, where a woman with a vision and love for beautiful and lasting things makes life feel like April in Paris!

  • April in Paris, 55 Clement Street, San Francisco
  • (415) 750-9910
  • Visit website!
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“What French Women know” by Debra Ollivier

February 21, 2011  |  inspiration  |  No Comments

I decided to talk about his book, because I bought it as a Christmas gift for a good French friend of mine, and she adored it. It gave her validation for who she is, where she comes from and that, oui, she exudes this chic elegant French flair, and will never understand American dating. I will never forget a Bill Maher stunt, when after a long soliloquy of contrasting Franco-American differences, he finished by saying…. “Can’t we learn something from the French?” Indeed, there is so much one can learn from French culture that life will never be the same again. And that is the beauty of this book. It is educational and illuminating, giving you tons of references to continue your exploration.

I met Debra Ollivier last year in San Francisco when this book came out. While American by birth, she is married to a Frenchman and looks like someone who has lived in France for a long time, simply revealed by her clothing style and the certainty in her attitude. She feels comfortable demystifying cultural differences, and that’s what she does in this book. In the preface, she refers to Descartes and makes the point that the purpose of writing a book of this genre is not to judge one culture against the other, but to point out the differences in order to understand one’s own culture.

What I love most in this book is how well it is researched. Ollivier cites Edith Wharton, Véronique Vienne, historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, and others. She refers to contemporary thinkers, conducts interviews, and draws from her own experience with popular French culture to give us the affirmation that France is still “a place of sensual and cultural refuge, intellectual freedom, hot sex, high culture and fabulous food.” Throughout the pages, one feels how deeply ingrained the cultural makeup of the people and their appreciation for aesthetics are, how important bringing pleasure into one’s life is, and that sensuality is indeed a French word.

We learn that French women prefer a living over making a living, and that joie de vivre is actually an external matter. “You derive this kind of joy from acknowledging greatness outside yourself — in things, in nature, in others.” The book gives one the impetus to go out, find a French restaurant or a wine bar, and start enjoying life In French Style. What should matter in life is having joyful experiences and cherishing the memories of the good times. In the words of Véronique Vienne, cited by the author, it boils down to the “holy trinity of essentials — a simple bottle of wine, a loaf of bread and a good company — is all that’s needed for a deeply satisfying moment.”

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Nurture your sense of style

Nurture your sense of style

February 3, 2011  |  inspiration  |  No Comments

“Dressing well, looking your best, and feeling good in your clothes is not an impossible task,” a fabulous French woman, Mélina, who lives in San Francisco, explains to me. It is a well known fact that French women know how to dress well. Many books have been written about it. And there is always something more to say, because dressing well is a skill that can be learned, and women are eager to learn.

Choosing the right pieces of clothing — the textures and colors — are a reflection of the woman you are or would like to become. An energetic, independent and confident woman who knows who she is, lets her clothes reveal her story. She looks at herself in the mirror before she leaves the house — she crafts her image to try to please the people she meets. “This is the secret of French women,” says Mélina. “They love to please others, flirt, laugh, and enjoy themselves, because they are aware that their image is communicating to the world who they are.” And this is not vanity; it is an art de vivre, a lifestyle, self-respect. Anyone who has seen the film Coco and Igor would know what I am talking about.

Choosing the right pieces of clothing — the textures and colors — are a reflection of the woman you are or would like to become.

Dressing well is also knowing how to dress for different occasions. Please, buy yourself flat shoes to wear to work instead of pairing your suit with sneakers! It always hurts my eyes when I see this. Show your femininity, pay close attention to details, buy the right accessories, and always dress appropriately for work, parties or dinners! “French women are reluctant to show nudity because they don’t need to,” adds  Mélina. “They will be sexy but never trashy.”

There is a scene in the movie Coco before Chanel, where a client of Coco desires a dress revealing her breasts and her body. Coco has the following advice for her: “Let them imagine. It is more exciting if you (your body parts) are desired.”

“Style and chic can be learned,” Mélina adds. “Women just need advice and help.” How do you learn to be who you would like to be in your clothes? Make an effort, think about what you buy, buy a whole outfit instead of a lot of separates you don’t know how to put together, stay curious, look at magazines, buy accessories, do research, follow fashion! Get a whole new education! Be very, very curious and pay attention to detail! I promise you that your style will improve to align with the woman you are inside — a fabulous woman to be discovered by the world. And when someone tells you that you are elegant, you will respond like Coco Chanel: “J’ai des goûts très sûrs.” (“I have very certain taste.”)


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