Saturday, December 29, 2007

Brooklyn made jewelery

Randi Mates is an up and coming jewelry designer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her company is called Aesa, a Greek word whose meaning can refer to hope; a personification of a destiny; or an ancient Greek muse who inspires, delights, protects and accompanies you on your path.

Her recent collections seem to fit exactly into these ideas. There is something romantic, ancient, modern, delicate yet strong about her designs. Using mostly sterling silver and 14 or 18 karat gold, her inspiration and aesthetic suggests a direct influence of the natural world with such motifs as leaf like patterns, geological structures or aquatic plants. In her Fall 2007 collection these structural components where offset by super delicate chain links, whether for long necklaces or dangly earrings. In the Spring 2008 collection the strong, Brooklyn girl seems to be more present. The chains are sturdier, the silver maybe more tarnished for a sexy, yet solid appeal. At heart though is a handmade approach to the jewelry and a real uniqueness in the contrasts of her interests that produces beautiful and eventually classic pieces you will keep in your collection for a lifetime.

Items are available at select stores in New York and hopefully soon in Paris. Check the website for details,

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas in La Jolla

With a warm, Santa Ana wind coming through and bright, sunny days, Christmas seems to be about what is always is here, gorgeous. Coming here from cold, gray Paris makes all sense of holidays disappear and interest in sunbathing takes over! There have been super low tides hitting around 3pm making for extended walks on the beach. I never remember seeing star fish like this in tide pools growing up, so I was totally excited about that. The rocks, many unacustomed to being so revealed with the low tides, look like mummified seals or some prehistoric beast. Huge amounts of mussles and clams and sea anenomies were covering the tide pools as well. I went crazy with the camera and here is a taste of LJ in winter...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sound Waves

On view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla, CA, is the exhibition, "Sound Waves: The art of sampling," a group show of artists for whom music and sound play an integral role in their visual art making process. More than just music and
sound, the subtitle of sampling is important here because most of these
artists work with the notion of dj samples, mixing, recycling, and borrowing and relate them to ideas of seeing, form, and aesthetics, rather than straightforward music references. Artists I was expecting to see included Christian Marclay, Dave Muller and Steven Vitellio, who are most frequently represented in this area of contemporary art, as well as the French artist, Celeste Boursier-Mougenot whose large installation piece of the inflatable pools with resonating dishes, a piece which I had seen several years ago at Barbara Gladstone and enjoyed. But there were several artists I was not famililar with whose work was particularly interesting- a fantastic 16mm film of inked notes by the LA based artist Steven Roden, a weird boite -en valise-type piece (although it's actually a music case), by Helen Cohen, of a teenagers black lit room with rock posters, bed and furniture, and "Sonic Fabric," by Alyce Santoro, which resembles a boat sail and is made from recycled, prerecorded audio tapes and thread.
Also of note were the works by Dario Robleto, whose meticulously crafted and composed work is always a layered composition of recycled and recontextulized imagery and materials.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Miranda July at Colette

A few weeks ago I stumbled across the website for Miranda July,, the writer and performance artist probably best known for the indie film "Me You and Everyone We Know," which she wrote and starred in. It was a lucky stumble because it announced a reading she would be giving at Colette, the ultra-hip (although way over hyped), concept store, I had bought her book of short stories,"No one Belongs Here More than You," over the summer in the US and loved reading just a couple a night before going to sleep. I love her mix of humor, honesty, oddness and darkness. So it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to see her read in person, but unfortunately it was a little disappointing. The reading took place on the lower level of the store and throughout the reading the cafe guys were washing dishes and preparing drinks, people were talking on cell phones and you could hear the high heeled ladies above clanking along the aluminum staircase. She read two stories and a French version was also read, which was cool, but then there didn;t seem to be any plan and it fell apart. Rather then try to open a question and answer session and/or signing, the event kind of just ended and Miranda went to talk to friends. Oh well, her writing is a treat and so I'll take it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cartier Foundation

Lee Bul and Robert Adams, the two exhibitions on view now at the Cartier Foundation, on Boulevard Raspail, are complete contrasts in style and medium, but they work well together on some level and it’s definitely worth a stop by the museum.

On the main floor are the seductive, glittery, gorgeous sculptures by the Korean artist, Lee Bul. Lee Bul has been exhibiting regularly since the mid 1980s, doing performance and collaborative based work that involved a lot of costume and set design, as well as sculpture and installation. The exhibition titled “On Every Shadow,” at the Cartier Foundation consists of about twelve large sculptures made primarily with crystals, aluminum and resin. Some of the work is suspended from the ceiling while others are set on the floor, which has been covered in a mirrored surface to allow the work to reflect and resonate throughout the space. Set in the beautiful glass box building by Jean Nouvel, these works are like shimmering jewels with a dark edge. In one sculpture, a clear resin rock formation, lies a body (fake), of a man wearing sunglasses-like a modern day cave man, while in another, a sublime pool of black ink sits in a tub surrounded by small, white mountains. It feels like the fjords in Norway surrounded by oil. This museum works best when the work presented looks good with lots of natural light and open space. As you walk through the space, with the reflected floor, the glass paned walls and the surrounding garden, there is a sense of vertigo- a sensation of being both in and outside at the same time, which is a welcome experience in wintery, gray Paris. Sadly there are no photos allowed indoors so the image is my attempt to photograph from outside.

Downstairs, in the “proper” white walled gallery space is a large exhibition titled “On the Edge,” by the American photographer Robert Adams. Adams has been working since the 1960s, documenting land and space in the American West. His work is classical, formal and simple, but in a very poetic way similar to photographers like Steven Shore or more recently, Tim Davis. But Adams is even more refined, more documentation for documentation’s sake. Like Al Gore, he was way ahead of the world in pointing out the harm being done to the earth by all the development and deforestation. His work has captured early housing developments across the west, desert landscapes in phases of destruction as well as documenting details of leaves and trees. This exhibition brings together a series of landscape images of the Pacific Ocean and the deforestation that borders the ocean in British Columbia. He states that if you stand on the shore and look east, you see the massive forest which is becoming less dense and less massive day by day thanks to the lumber industry. Trees that once stood for 500-1000 years are now cut down for wood chips after 35-50 years. If you turn and face west you behold the vast Pacific Ocean, not immune to its own destruction, but also seemingly filled with hope, change, infinitude. All of the images are 8x10” and in black and white. This is an exhibition for contemplation and serious reflection.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Interview with Barbara Kurdziel, Plagg Paris

This is the first in a series of interviews I hope to do with designers, boutique owners and other interesting characters here in Paris or elsewhere around the globe.

Barbara Kurdziel at Plagg is a real inspiration for me and my future fantasies of opening up my own space. After my initial visit with this store as I mentioned before, I became semi-obsessed with tracking other designers from Scandinavia. On Friday of last week we met in her boutique and had a fun and fruitful dialogue about the boutique and her vision.

Deux Frontières: When did you open the boutique?
Barbara Kurdziel: August 2006-- so it’s been a year and a half already.

DF: Are all of the designers in the boutique Scandinavian?
BK: Yes. They come from Denmark, Sweden and Finland, and there is a Japanese and Norweigan design team who live in London.

DF: How did you get interested in Scandinavian fashion and design and what is it that particularly attracts you to it?
BK: Although I am Polish by birth my parents moved to Sweden when I was a child. I grew up in the city of Malmö and so the influence of Scandinavian culture and design has always been a part of my life. I have friends who are designers and I like the style of Scandinavia so it was a natural choice to focus on this for the boutique. Paris has fantastic style with a culture very steeped in fashion, but I found that a lot of the stores had a similar look. I felt that there would be a need and an interest in presenting something new and a bit different. Of course there are risks involved with this and it takes time for some people to get familiar and comfortable with some of the designers that I show.

DF: Tell me how you ended up in Paris.
BK: I had traveled a lot in France and studied in Grenoble for a time. I moved to Paris about eight years ago and took a job with H&M but after a awhile I decided to leave and start the boutique. I love Paris and consider this to be home now though I regularly go back to Sweden to visit for family and work.

DF: In your opinion, do you think there is a particular style or look with Scandinavian fashion design?
BK: Yes, I do. I think there is a different approach to fashion there, part of which is rooted in the climate and land. It is a sensible and functional approach combined with an eccentric, creative spirit. I think there is maybe more of an open spirit there. It is not too serious. The history of design, art, and fashion is more recent and fresh and so there are less pressures, traditions and references, which allows a freedom in which designers can create.

DF: In my opinion you work like an art curator here. There is a very creative sensibility to the designers you have selected and they way things work together. Do you rotate some designers while continuing to work with others long term? Tell me about some of the designers on view here now.
BK: Yes. There are some designers I have worked with since the beginning and will continue to work with, such as Ivana Helsinki and Best Behavior. Ivana Helsinki is Finnish (lives in Helsinki), and works both as a fashion designer, visual artist and performer. She has been working for many years but continues to produce on a smaller scale, which she seems to prefer. There is a strong visual and artistic influence which comes across in her designs. Best Behavior are from Denmark. They are a growing company and I am working as their agent here in Paris to get them in other boutiques. Another longer-term designer I plan to work with is Swedish designer Camilla Norback whose label, ecoluxury, combines just that: a sensible approach to materials and process of fabrication with sophisticated, elegant designs. Some other designers I have in stock for the Autumn/Winter 2007 line include Izaak (Denmark), Eluise (Denmark), Dagmar (Sweden), and Gudrun & Gudrun from the Faroe Islands (see earlier blog).

DF: Where/how do you do your research and how do you come to a decision to present someone’s line in the boutique?
BK: Because I work basically seven days of the week right now it is difficult to get out and see things, but I attend some fashion shows when I can. I make lots of store and designer/atelier visits when I am traveling in Sweden and Denmark-particularly Denmark which has a very strong fashion scene right now. My friends who are still living in Scandinavia will send me information and tell me about people to look out for. I like to have relationships with the designers I work with. Also of course I think of my clients- what they might be interested in and what their needs are and then I will make decisions based on this.

DF: For the boutique, was it not even a question to seek out a space in the Marais? And would you consider doing a boutique online?

BK: It wasn’t only the Marais where I was interested in having a boutique. I really considered the area of Canal St. Martin in the 10th, but this beautiful space was available (amazing garden included), and the foot traffic and attention towards rue Charlot confirmed the choice to settle here. As for an online boutique, perhaps in the future but no plans as yet.

For more information submit a comment or see these links below:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Rue Charlot

Five Independent Designers: Rue Charlot- From top to bottom
You know that the Marais is filled with too many great looking boutiques, so here is a list to narrow in on some unique, chic, younger designers giving it a go on their own…

Emilie Casiez
is a young, Parisian designer and artist whose intimate boutique features simple items such as t-shirts and loose fitting off-the shoulder sweaters with black printed designs of people, buildings, swirls of clouds or stars that she has originally drawn herself. They are kind of cutesy, almost Japanese-esque, making it no surprise she sells in several stores there. She also designs casual but sexy, strappy dresses and shirts. There is also a line for men, of t-shirts, tops and sweaters. She tweaks certain classic styles to make them hipper, funkier and more original.
57, rue Charlot.

Vincent Jalbert and Yves Andrieux
are fashion designers and stylists who have a small boutique specializing in transforming old fabrics, primarily former military uniforms in wool and linen into beautifully tailored jackets, skirts and pants, for men and women, as well as bags and pillows. The fabrics take on their semi worn texture but they are in perfect condition and flatter the couture-like designs that come mainly in muted tones of brown, blues and greens. Military-chic could be appropriate, but its not a hard look rather the cuts are quite feminine for the women and classic for men. They also source other vintage fabrics, including plaids and patterns. The prices are somewhat expensive but you know that they will last a long time in your closet because the fabrics are so solid and they are very well structured.
55, rue Charlot

Pauline Pin, is a great source for bags. As we all know there is a huge purse frenzy around the world right now, but most of these seem to run upwards of $500. It’s kind of insane and a bit annoying for some of us on a milder budget, but even if you aren’t counting dimes, you’ll want to check out Pauline Pin. Her handmade, unique designs are all made in Paris. Leather is a prime material for the sleek clutches, mid-sized, semi-slouchy shoulder bags and weekend totes. Colors range from standard shades of black, dark green and red as well as metallic gold, silver and bronze. Also available are hand printed fabrics with stripes or flowers, some with a waxed coating to make them waterproof, an excellent concept not only for travel but for the frequent rainy day. The boutique also features handmade jewelry from designer Diane de Navacelle. 51, rue Charlot

Now that you have loaded up on purses and clothes, the only thing missing is of course, the shoes. Check out Cindy Glass. Cindy Glass is a fun, quirky, sexy shoe designer who recently opened up a boutique in Paris. Other outlets include Lebanon and the UK. A majority of the shoes take a form similar to the classic pump with a heel not too high so that you can walk comfortably, but this is where the traditional ends. The fabrics and colors make the shoes very one of a kind. The new collection features tartan plaids, cut-out hearts, polka dots, images of pin-up girls. In addition, there is a nice selection of knee-high boots in leather, some with a leg-warmer like look around the calves, or cream colored patented leather. Also on sale are a small selection of purses and t-shirts. The online boutique will be opening in January 2008 if you can’t make up your mind at the moment.
47, rue Charlot

Dominique Picquier
is a boutique specializing in hand printed textiles made in France, in a tradition that comes from Lyon. The mostly cotton, linen and silk based fabrics have names such as Ginko, Vanilla (the plant), Marguerite (French for Daisy). They are beautiful nature-inspired patterns and abstractions of leaves, flowers, branches and rocks in a variety of soft palette colors. At the store or online,, you can buy lengths of fabric, order coverings for furniture, or any of their fabulous accessories which include wallets, purses, both clutch and with handles and sturdier tote bags which are great for travel.
10, rue Charlot

Monday, December 3, 2007

Wooly Wooly

After my recent discovery of Scandinavian fashion design at Plagg boutique in the Marais, I was doing a little Internet surfing and came across the site of Gudrun & Gudrun, Set on the remote Faroe Islands, which are located in the far North Atlantic Ocean between Norway and Iceland, Gudrun & Gudrun is a knit based design company owned and operated by two Faroese women, Gu∂run Ludvig and Gu∂run Rógvadótti. These two innovative women create designs that are inspired by the myth and history of these misty lands as well as a dedication to its traditional knitting techniques and materials. But don’t imagine those bulky, cable knit sweaters, rather Gudrun & Gudrun’s Fall 2007 line showed sexy, sleek, totally contemporary styles that look good on the streets of Paris or New York, while always maintaining an interest in serving their local clientele.

An island that boasts more sheep then humans, knitting was and remains a fundamental and practical method of keeping warm. As their website explains, when the Vikings came to the Faroe Islands a thousand years ago, sheep were set free to roam the lands and have been there ever since adapting to the rough terrain and weather. Obviously there is a huge respect for the sheep and the women of Gudrun & Gudrun have developed their products with a sustainable approach to this history. Skins and wool are taken from the sheep farms that are for food production, and they also developed a fish leather from fish skins for a line of jewelry- the fish skins also being a waste product in the fishing industry. The wool used in the clothing is either untreated or colored with natural dyes.

As the demand increased for their original designs, the women expanded production levels by employing women from Jordan, a country that has a long-standing tradition with knitting as well. They state on their website that they are proud to know every knitter by name and that this is an essential component to their work and company ethic. In October a knitting workshop took place in Jordan in which about 40 women attended. This type of collaboration is an ideal of globalism and though it would be amazing to have a company like this in all the department stores around the world, the beauty of this group is very much in its small, accessible and grounded nature.

Take a look online: