Marlene in Paris.

In 1936, Marlene Dietrich entered a jeweller’s shop in Paris and uttered some unforgettable words to me: “I would like to see some pearls”. Some pearls. Not to necessarily buy any, just to see some, in a tone that left no doubt about having some infinite riches on her hands, while suavely smiling, with that ironic twinkle of hers, not in her eye, but in her lips, unmatched sophistication and wit, the sort of smile that demands an IQ way above average, quite Einsteinesque a brain, just with a much better hair-do, or, in that particular case, a hat by Travis Banton, of course, later in that movie it turns out she’s utterly broke, anyway, I was deeply impressed. Deeply. In 1999, I entered the Hermès shop in Cologne, uttering the words “I would like to see some cufflinks.”, but it just wasn’t the same. I had aimed too high. But now that you know about my connection to Marlene Dietrich, I give you Flammarion’s edition of Pierre Passebon’s collection of some of the best photographs ever taken of her, the collection’s still on display in Paris, until February 25th at Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. But if you can’t make it to 5-7, rue de Fourcy in the Marais within the next 48 hours, you just enter a bookshop and repeat after me: “I would like to see some photographs of Marlene Dietrich.”

Patou revisited.

IMG_5485

Coco Chanel was cool, Jean Patou not so much, he looked like a dandy, some kind of Parisian Fred Astaire, smartly dressed but without any insolence, ever so uptight, to me, he lacked a great deal of casualness, actually Patou himself lacked the very casualness his dresses had, for some reason, the women he dressed looked way smarter than he. And they looked gorgeous. Emmanuelle Polle wrote a terrific book to show us all what made Jean Patou eternally famous: the elegant gowns, the sportswear, imagine, sportswear with an haute couture approach, Nike only dresses women on the brink of exhaustion, ever so prone to dehydration, if any of the women in Patou’s sportswear ever were dehydrated it was just from champagne, believe you me, or the juice called parfum, he offered plenty of stylish perfumes, Joy was the costliest fragrance of its time, well, you had to attack Chanel and Guerlain somehow, his world was leisure and luxury, and with this book, published by Flammarion, we are allowed a glimpse into this world, let’s take those stairs, they are every bit as stylish as Chanel’s famous staircase.

IMG_5490IMG_5477IMG_5482IMG_5484IMG_5487IMG_5491IMG_5498IMG_5496IMG_5474

Elle, Gabrielle.

IMG_4093

Over the years, I bought a great many books on Coco Chanel. Not only because I’m into fashion, her achievements in fashion are more than just outstanding, she was the designer of the century, there was no competition to question that, Balenciaga surely was an artist, carefully designed perfection-to-wear, he was born to give Mona von Bismarck her raison d’être, and Dior gave the world the New Look, a look so very old now, so very démodé, visited today by millions in a museum in Paris, next to the Mona Lisa, a woman whose mysterious smile has turned into a grimace when it had become that liveless cliché it is today, a smile so rarely if ever smiled back at, merely admired, like moth balled haute couture on mannequins, but Chanel’s iconic inventions live on, they are out, on the streets, they breathe and move, they were born free, copied, reinterpreted, updated, backdated, timeless, but all of that, all these hats, buttons, pearls, fake and real, all these two-tone shoes, suits and little black dresses, all that comfy beige tweed and that refined soft lace, these numbers 5, 19 and 22, olfactory revolutions, all of it bears the same genes. Style galore. We owe it to the little black-haired girl from humble beginnings whose genius outlived it all: the Belle Époque, the wars, the Roaring Twenties, the rise and fall of countries, people and fashions, she met and loved Dukes and Grand Dukes, Englishmen and Russians, she encountered Picasso, Stravinsky, Cocteau, Reverdy, Diaghilev, basically le tout Paris of the last century. Two books by Isabelle Fiemeyer, published by Flammarion in English and French, introduce us to some of the traces such a life left behind, we are allowed a glimpse, however long, of private belongings, on letters and jewels, on golden artifacts and worn clothes – these intimate details are treasures not to be missed.

IMG_4109IMG_4105IMG_4108IMG_4102IMG_4112IMG_4098IMG_4110IMG_4117IMG_4116IMG_4113IMG_4115IMG_4106IMG_4095IMG_4100IMG_4094

Voguing through Paris.

IMG_2971

After the war, when fashion was given the New Look by Christian Dior, the world was given Robert Doisneau as a society and fashion photographer when Michel de Brunhoff, the editor in chief of Vogue Paris, had the brilliant idea to hire him. I had not known about this collaboration and would never have seen the splendid photographs that illustrate post war Parisian high society life, I would only have known of his famous shot of the kissing couple in front of Paris’ Hôtel de Ville, I had the poster in my kitchen for crying out loud, if Flammarion hadn’t published this wonderful book. It shows it all: aristocratic weddings, parties, receptions, men in tails, women in ball gowns, the rich and famous, elegant home stories, restaurants filled with celebrities, Hélène Rochas, Jacques Fath, Jean Cocteau, Orson Welles and Elsa Maxwell, all in black and white and not once do you miss a single colour. Robert Doisneau captures it all in shades of grey. Don’t you dare buy it and let it gather dust on your coffee table, open it, let your eyes travel and take the most wonderful journey back in time.

IMG_3163IMG_3172IMG_3168IMG_3174IMG_3170IMG_3161IMG_3166IMG_3176IMG_3159