Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I am filling in a few days at Plagg, the great little boutique at 41, rue Charlot, which features all Scandinavian designers, the majority of whom practice an eco-friendly approach, and they are having great sales by the way...hint hint to any Parisians reading this and in the mood for shopping...However, wanted to share a new discovery, shoe designers PJUX, who design sustainable shoes using vegetable tanned and chrome-free leathers, wood is solid beech wood which is sourced from sustainable forests in Europe. The designers live and work in Copenhagen but the shoes are made in Spain--which is not only famous for its long history of quality shoe production, but this is where they found an artisan shoemaker who would adhere to their eco-requests. The A/W 07 collection featured short boots (bottines in french; i love that word), heels and flats that have a semi 1940s or 50s feel. Also a line of mens wear is available. Plagg has a great pair of the black leather bottines available..I think the only store in Paris that carries them as well or visit their website www.pjux.com

Monday, January 28, 2008

Modern Design in the 18th

K.O.P.F is a tiny boutique in the hilly rue Lamarck, on the non-touristy side of Montmartre.
I don't actually know what the name stands for, but the store stocks
second-hand, mostly mid-century modern furniture, including a lovely
square, glass coffee table, a laMies Van der Rohe , a beautiful
Danish-style writing table, a slick, black leather lounge chair and
more. Also on hand is a small selection of vintage clothing and
accessories. The only non-vintage aspect is the contemporary jewelery
by a local designer which uses leather and silver. The owner is in the
process of moving to Brussels to start a store, therefore, all the
pieces are not only on sale forles soldes, but are marked down further (maybe even negotiable?) until all of the stock is gone. You don't find deals like this on classic modern furniture. KOPF- 87, rue Lamarck. metro: lamarck. www.kopfparis.canalblog.com

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Other Music

Yesterday I ventured over to Belleville in search of an independent music store I had read about in Monocle, www.monocle.com. The store, called Ground Zero, a reference to the diminished state of affairs in the music store/CD buying business, recently moved into a space shared with Calif, the Club Action des labels independants francais, because they couldn't afford to maintain their own space. In this way, they now have government assistance to keep going and are also teamed up with the calif sponsored music store, so there is a double bonus to those who still enjoy a browse through of CDs and vinyl. Ground Zero has an emphasis on rock and alternative music of independent labels from the 1970s-today, and the calif section is dedicated to, for lack of a better term, world music, i.e. fantastic sections of Afro-beat, Reggae, Dub, blues, jazz, latin. They have a large selection of recordings from Studio 1 in Jamaiaca, full of the best of 1960s-early 1970s reggae recordings by Sir Coxsonne Dodd, a Bob Marley album full of previously unreleased recordings, a large selection of the ever delightful series, Ethiopiques, which features recordings between 1969-1979, with each volume focusing on a different group/style/etc. I bought a fantastic Bessie Smith recording, which was part of the Martin Scorsese Blues production. Many of the labels presented are specifically recorded in France, but not all of them. But all of this is highlighted by the friendly staff who encourage you to listen to any CD you want. I was in the store for about 2 hours without realizing it, and almost missed an appointment I had that afternoon, because it was such a pleasure to take in some of these rare musical treats. Check it out. 23, rue Sainte-Marthe, 10th arrondissement. www.calif.fr

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Korczynski is a tiny boutique-cum-gallery space that is located on a little side street in the 17th arrondissement just near Place de Clichy. This funky space has been opened for almost two years and has already made itself a destination point for fashion insiders seeking funky and fresh designs, mostly from Polish designers and artists. Beginning in 2008 it will have more of a planned, rotating program. Titled Tranzit, it will be a platform that seeks to exchange and share ideas in the process of creating between Polish and Japanese designers. The exhibitions/showings will alternate on a monthly basis. In addition, art exhibitions by young Polish and Japense artists will be organized by a young curator at the Pomopidou Center. In a press release, Korczynski states their reasons behind this cross cultural exchnage: "Both Poland and Japan represent areas of large-scale political and active cultural changement. They both were strongly influenced by Western Europe. The 90’s was a time of presentation of new tendencies in art: in Japan it was the beginning of the movement called ‘’Micropop” while in Poland it was the beginning of the new critical art concentrated not on the political past but rather the new capitalistic reality. Both of the movements were characteristic for the countries where they were born, which is why a difficulty arises to present and/or explain them abroad."
Last month featured the work of Paris based, Japanese designer Dorca, whose elegant clothing is all made with an eco-approach to fabrics and production. Korczynski, 26, rue Biot; www.korczynski08.pl

Friday, January 18, 2008

Going from one extreme to another

Earlier this week I had my winter escapism thru the lively, urban street market of Barbes. Today I took refuge from the dark and drab winter in the sumptuous bourgeoisie of the Musée Nissim de Camondo, in the 8th arrondissement, just next to the Parc Monceau. I discovered this museum while searching on the website of the Musée des Arts Decoratif (www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr), for the colorful exhibition of Christian Lacroix (highly recommend as well).

The Musée Nissim de Camondo was the private residence of Moïses de Camondo until his death in 1935, when he bequeathed the estate and all of its furnishings to the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs of France. In sum: The Camondos where an important Sephardic Jewish family who founded one of the largest banks in the Ottoman Empire. Nissim (father of Moïses), came to Paris during the reign of Napoleon III and settled in the mansion overlooking Parc Monceau. Moïses inherited the estate in 1910 and dedicated himself to building up a vast collection of 18th century furniture and art—mainly French, but also some Asian objects, which lushly decorate this incredibly beautiful museum. I forgot my camera today, unfortunately, because there are some amazing things to feast your eyes on. Definitely get the audio guide…I am typically not a fan of these and rarely use them, but today I felt like having information read to me instead of reading and it was a fortuitous choice. From the kitchen, which boasts what is clearly the precursor to the massive Viking ovens/stove tops in kitchens today, to the bedroom with the precocious Venus painting above the bed, to the shelves of delicate Sèvres porcelain, this tour was pure escapism—but it didn’t feel too much and the story of the family was profoundly interesting. No Camondo heirs exist today—the son of Moïses, who was also named Nissim, died in WWI as a fighter pilot and his sister, Beatrice, married and had two kids, but tragically, all of them were deported to Auschwitz in 1943. Despite the museum’s splendor, it was the history and the melancholic feel to all of it, which really captured my interest.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Marché Barbès

This week has been slow moving…or at least I have been. With the dark, damp, and gray weather, my experience of a Northern European winter has become official and it’s one experience more than I really want. The sun rises at 8:00-8:15 and that is often only a literal term because some days it just stays a dark, stormy gray all day, meaning 8:30 is much like 4:30 and then, it’s dark. Fun.

For weeks I have been meaning to get to the Marché Barbès in the 18th arrondissement. The market, which takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7:30-3:00, is located under the metro line 2 on the Boulevard de la Chapelle between Blvd. Barbès and Tombouctou. This part of Paris is off the beaten path—just down from Sacre Coeur, the neighborhood is pretty much an ethnic enclave of Arabs and Africans. It’s been changing some in the last few years, so I hear, but when you leave the trendy, tourist Montmartre and cross Boulevard Barbès, you feel the change.

Thus the market is sensory overload- a frenetic, vibrating experience that totally threw me out of winter doldrums. As the little old ladies in headscarves rolled their carts over my toes and nudged me out of their way, my state of mind went from longing to become a farmer with small house on a warm coast, to one of pleasure to be in a city that can take you from one corner of the world to another in a 10 minute walk. The vendors were loud, shouting to passerby’s and cracking jokes. I felt totally like a foreigner and when I went to take a photo I felt a little out of my element and in fact the vendor who saw me then yelled ‘no photos!’ I had been scolded at, like I had broken protocol, whereas in a typical French market I wouldn’t even think twice about it. I had started off early in the day annoyed at all the people on the streets and unenthusiastic about Paris, but while at the market I felt happy to be jostled and pushed about, and it almost served as the perfect reminder that the energy and diversity found in any good city, like Paris, should be appreciated more often.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Friday night a friend arrived in late from New York and we wanted a quiet, local restaurant to go to. I had an idea of a place just around the corner, but when we passed by it looked dead and not inviting so we kept walking. I remembered earlier in the week I had passed by a new wine bar/restaurant and we decided to go check it out. We entered in and were warmly greeted (often a surprise), by a waiter who must also be the manager because he projected an air of propriety. I wanted to ask him if he was, but his accent was of a muffled, nasal origin which kept throwing me off. Anyways, not the point.

The point is we ended up having one of the top 5 meals I think I have ever had in Paris. Food was of French fare but sooo fresh and good. My restaurant reviewing skills are not going to be sharp right now, because I cannot even recall the name of the first dish we shared, but we both thought it read cassoulet and were expecting meats, but what arrived was a delicate cheese soufflé with a side toast with sliced, grilled onions on top. The combination was absolutely delicious and in all good Frenchiness, not overwhelmingly heavy or large.

To step back a minute, we were offered a complimentary glass of champagne to start with and an amuse-bouche of boudin noir in a leaf of brick (which is somewhat like philo). We ordered a wine per Monsieur’s recommendation from the Langueduc Rousillon region, and it was truly one of the best wines—full bodied, resembling a good California Zinfandel, but not as heavy.

For a main course we both ordered the lamb, which had apparently been cooked for over 10 hours and you literally could eat it with a fork, it was so tender and full of flavor. The dish was accompanied by potatoes gratin that I almost wanted to marry. It just took this fairly common pairing to the nth degree.

Next: We shared a crème brûlée au chocolat. Again, a common dessert that was outrageously good. Delicate and creamy brûlée with melted chocolate underneath. Espressos were served on a white, porcelain dish that had two spots for the little cups of coffee, along with a few more complimentary chocolates. Needless to say, we rolled home.
Score another point for Batignolles!
Le Village (cave-resto), 14, rue des moines, www.levillagededdy.com

Monday, January 14, 2008


Calling all textile fanatics… Two women with a passion make a blog and a website:

www.fibercopia.wordpress.com -- A blog started in the fall of 2007 by an interior designer who has a clear passion for textiles. She states that she started this blog as a way to document the textiles that inspire her and that the world of textiles is what best captures her love for art, craft, history and culture. (And we are the lucky recipients of that love). Much of her information comes from magazines and websites that she sources for her own design work. After only 4 months of cataloging she has produced a solid amount of entries which are classified by point of origin or genre. Among these include contemporary textile designers such as Elisa Markes Young, (whose work was an amazing find for me), early 20th century artists and designers, Sonia Delanuay and Alexander Girard, as well as Indian textile collaboratives, African, Middle Eastern and more.

If you are more of a shopper then reader, check out, www.volksfaden.de, an online shop that specializes in all cotton, contemporary, bright, bold and fun printed fabrics, all of which, the website states, are imported from Japan and the USA. They are hand selected by Linda Gaylord, a former dancer and choreographer with a love of crafts and creation, who is based in Berlin, Germany. You can buy the fabrics by the meter and there is also a small selection of pillows, quilts, and most recently, a collaboration with a children’s wear company. This site is geared towards the sewer or quilter, with many links and resources for the crafty, creative type in all of us. If you like to feel the texture of a fabric beforehand, she will send you samples. The design of the site is funky, using old black and white photos and scanning slices of the fabrics onto the images. It’s a user-friendly, with good quality images and information.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

CSI: Paris or "Les Experts": Paris

In early November I noticed that there was a sizable crack in the ceiling paint in the bathroom, above the shower. After a week I saw it was extending outwards and we decided we needed to take action. We stopped over to see M. Guardien and asked him to please take a look and determine whether it was a building issue or just us. He seemed to think it was stemming from a leak above and so within the week managed to see the upstairs neighbor and determine, yes it was they who had the leak and they would take care of their side of things. Ok, great, so we decided to be above board and go through our insurance, file a claim as it were and waited for their response. About a month later we received a letter indicating their receipt of the claim and then received a call indicating that an “expert” had been assigned to the case and that we needed to measure the area of damage in order for the “expert” to assess the situation. They would call back in 5 days with our answer. Ok, my cynical and skeptical feelings started to fully emerge. What kind of expert needs other people to do their work, was my first question. So we measured and when their call came through, (cell phone at our side at all times in case we missed it and had to wait another week), gave them the information. OK, they said, the “expert will contact you soon.” Fast forward, of course, through the holidays, when we received a letter indicating that now we needed to contact a certain number to arrange for the expert to call us. By this point, the crack has turned into a full peeling of paint about the size of Frisbee, just waiting to fall on my head.

I called on Thursday, the guy who answered said he’d call me right back (after me persuading him our claim existed…he couldn’t find it at first). He didn’t call me back, so I called again Friday. “Eh ouais, madame,” he said with condescension, “I placed the information and my associate will call you on Monday.” Great, How kind of him, I thought. Why work on a Friday, right? Monday the expert calls…yes, I said with hints of desperation…when can you come? We work from home, anytime. “Tuesday?” he says. I say, perfect, tomorrow is great. No, no madame, (laughing), Tuesday the following week. Apparently he is already full of appointments this week (I picture him sipping kir at the bar on his 3 hour lunch). Fine, Tuesday, and you’ll fix it then, I ask? No, no madame, this is just to test the humidity. If there is not too much humidity AND if the damage is not that big (where did he put our given measurements, I wondered), then after this, in about 2 weeks, they could come fix it. After my shrill reply and utter disillusionment, I hung up and realized, “Bienvenue en France.” I was living a true French stereotype (maybe this made me more local?) and at this point, all I can do is laugh, and await M. le “expert” on Tuesday (mid January, 2+ months later), with the small hope that maybe the large hanging paint will fall straight on his head.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Recycled Leather

Speaking of recycled materials, ever wonder who buys, or better yet, where do all of those puffy, patchwork, or wide collared leather jackets that line the walls of most salvation army stores and vintage boutiques end up? On opposite sides of the globe, a young designer and one design team are creating super hip handbags from just this, old leather jackets.

Representing the west coast, from Vancouver, Canada, is artist and designer Ashley Watson. Watson, who studied fine art at Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, uses pieces of leather jackets including pockets, creases, studs, and seams to create each unique purse or wallet. Having both a background in art and an interest in using materials that might be responsible to the environment, she started playing around with used leather in 2005 and today creates a spring and fall line of accessories, each piece one of a kind. Earthier tones such as brown, black and grays dominate by the very nature of material, but there are pieces made, thanks to the 1980s no doubt, in royal blue and red. Her large bags are slouchy but sleek, boho-chic as it were, resembling that all-to-famous Balenciaga phenomena, but cooler. She sells in stores across the USA and Canada, and hopefully soon in Europe. Check it out: www.ashleywatson.net

Across a lot of land and the Atlantic Ocean is Paris based, Matèries à réflexion, a design collaboration that is comprised of Laetitia Azpiroz, a native Parisian who studied art and fashion, and Cyrille Raillet, an artist who has traveled extensively, living in New York and Belgium among other places before settling in Paris, where he met Laetitia. She started Matières à Réflexion in 2002, with a line of women’s bags and accessories and in 2006 they launched a collection of men’s bags, called MAR (Urban Bags). Like Ashley Watson, each piece is unique. Items are made from individual leather jackets and can be made to order with a coat that you specifically bring into the store. I learned recently about them because of a comment on my blog about Aesa Jewelry, (thanks!) and I hope to get over to visit their boutique in person. I can’t believe I have not seen it earlier! The boutique is located at 19, rue Poitu or check it out online, www.matieresareflexion.com

Monday, January 7, 2008


My New Year’s resolution this year is not all that original but hopefully will lead to me to some heightened understanding, opportunity and change. Like much of the rest of the world right now, (thankfully), I want to become more informed about the environment, particularly in connection to aspects of design and architecture whether in landscapes, buildings or objects- and to understand more their function and purpose and how they can be better designed in order to truly be something sustainable and beneficial—not just trendy yoga pants with recycled cans as a fiber. It’s always been an interest and informed choice to try and do things more eco, but over the holidays I read an inspiring and well-written book titled “Cradle to Cradle” by William McDonough, an architect, and Michael Braungart, an environmental chemist. These two have been collaborating together for awhile with the premise of redirecting our entire market-driven society to focus on products with a cradle to cradle life span, i.e. from its inception to it’s final use the product can give something back to the world (or at least not pollute it further), rather then the now concept of cradle to grave whereby manufacturers create products with built-in obsolescence— a product with an intended short life span which was created little thought to the pollutants that fill the air at its inception, and no thought to a funeral but just toss it in the dump. The problem is of course, while it simmers in the dump it emits pollutants and takes up space. Is there anyone else who has to buy a new cell phone every year or year and a half because theirs gets old and breaks down? Think of all those phones added up together. It’s an environmental disaster. Built-in obsolescence was a smart gimmick by CEOs to generate more sales but it’s time to rethink this method, without perhaps loosing sales and/or hurting the economy and this is exactly what the books discusses. It’s simple and revolutionary. The consulting firm for the two authors is www.mbdc.com and there is also a great website with detailed info about the book, www.mcdonough.com

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Questions for Aesa Jewelry

Following on the last post about Randi Mates, jewelry designer in Brooklyn, NY. I asked Randi a couple of questions about her background and the lastest collection...also a few images to tempt you further.

BD: Did you go to school to learn jewelry design and if so, what were some starting points for developing you style?
RM: I studied ancient greek and roman fabrication techniques at the Jewelry Arts Institute on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. It was a very esoteric scene with older women who have been doing this for years, making and restoring antique jewelry,and when I say antique I mean from antiquity, not within the last twenty years. When I was there you are given pure grains of metal [gold/silver] and you make your own alloys, sheet and wire and then make the jewels from that. It's very formal, very few modern tools... no pre-made components, the emphasis is on structure and classical design... This was an exciting place to learn, but it's difficult to forge a business from this method.

BD: Tell me a few things about the new collection?
RM: the newest collection that you saw on our visit is called the herkimer collection: The images here are of this collection: they are based on herkimer diamond forms. herkimer diamonds are quartz with two terminations [each end of the piece comes to a point] and come from a few mines in upstate New York. They were first found by colonists in the late 18th century and there is a great deal of lore surrounding their early sales. A multitude of stories suggest that they were sold by prospectors to unwitting consumers in the region as real diamonds during the civil war. As a historian, I like this story and and as a designer, I love the forms. I also was attracted to the fact that creating pieces that are riffs on their forms gave me an opportunity to play with the idea of 'diamonds' without using real diamonds. Like most people designing today, it feels important and necessary to address the environmental and ethical use of materials in whatever way you can when you can, while still trying to make something that looks kick-ass! The real diamonds used in the pieces, some of the pieces have small paved stones, are going to be recycled diamonds because it also helps situate the pieces in another historical context and if nothing else, it is fun to address these issues because it makes the pieces richer to me.

There is also a new collection of engraved pieces taken from late medieval alchemical texts...(images also attached).
All of the images [minus the palmistry hand] are taken from late medieval
alchemical texts. They are all indicative of the moment of enlightment. The rose bush image shows a rose bush growing from a stem of thorns; it is
supposed to represent the flower that comes from the thorns... the beauty
that is the blossom of hard work and trials..

The heart with radiating energy is supposed to be the clear heart after it
has been purified by enlightenment...

The eye is an image that represents the moment of seeing god; I believe it
says that by wearing this image the person will have the moment of to come into seeing, asking the wearere/viewer to see the 'truth'

The dragon eating it's own tail is actually a snake, or a variation on the
ourobourous. it represents regeneration.

The palmistry hand is taken from a 19th century palmistry text and shows the
sigficant palmistry points...

BD: I love the fact that you are using recycled diamonds. Thanks for all this information, Randi. This is fantastic.