Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams
“You can never have enough notebooks,” writes Ines de la Fressange, in her latest book, Parisian Chic City Guide, which is indeed beautifully styled as a notebook, including blank pages for the reader’s own notes and an inner pocket to collect whatever catches one’s magpie eye: tickets, tags, fabric samples, business cards, or precious notes on scraps of paper. “I contracted a notebook fixation,” she continues in her entry for her favourite source for her cahier fix, Dubois, in the Latin Quarter, “and hoard them as if a catastrophic stationary shortage was imminent”.
A perfect pocket companion to the best-selling, Parisian Chic Style Guide, and once again co-written with Elle fashion journalist, Sophie Gachet, the book is wonderfully multi-layered in that it is an exquisite, informative guide to the city, in which de la Fressange divulges her secret sources and her new favourite places to shop, eat, hang out, and more, but also it is written with such an engaging and readable, wit, wisdom, and joie de vivre that it is by turns a fascinating travelogue, an enchanting diary, and a love letter to Paris.
The book is bound with a tricolour bracelet, keeping the contents safe, a bracelet that wouldn’t look out of place at A.B.P. Concept – The Atelier Bracelet Paris boutique, in the 1st arrondissement which specialises in watchbands – “a good and affordable NATO nylon military wristband (only 20€!) paired with any watch will perform honourably in the service of fashion”- and is an Enterprise du Patrimoine Vivant, which is, “the French distinction of a ‘living heritage’ business,” de la Fressagne explains and adds, “That’s so Parisian!”.
Just along the rue du Marché-Saint-Honoré from A.B.P. is Styl’Honoré – a stylo or pen specialist – where, de la Fressange delightfully reveals, “you’ll find one of the last Parisian craftsmen who knows how to cut a quill pen” and the ‘Say it like La Parisienne’ (a style declaration with each entry in the book) declares: “In an era of e-mails, a handwritten letter is the sign of a rebellious spirit”.
Described by L’Oréal, for whom she is a brand ambassador, as “The Eternal Parisienne” and “the epitome of French style”, de la Fressange is descended from one of France’s oldest aristocratic families. She began modelling in the 1980s, at the age of 17, on the runways of iconic fashion houses such as Christian Dior, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Christian Lacroix, and then became Karl Lagerfeld’s muse, and at his request, in 1983, the face of Chanel and global ambassador for the brand, for prêt-à-porter, accessories and perfume. In 1989 she was chosen as the model for Marianne, the national symbol of France. Whilst continuing to model she is also now an highly regarded creative, designer, journalist, writer and business woman. She is creative consultant for Roger Vivier, designs a line for Uniqlo, and this year relaunched her luxury lifestyle brand, Ines de la Fressange Paris.
Her flagship store in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is included in the book, of which she writes, “think of it as a cross between a fantasy department store and a sundries emporium”. It stocks both her brand and items from other designers and makers which she’s sourced in an eclectic range spanning clothes, jewellery, stationery, home décor items through to brooms and olive oil.
Divided into five sections, The Heart of Paris, That Marais State, The Latin Quarter, Saint-Germain-des-Prés Style, Chic near the Champs-Élysées, and The Bobo Attitude, covering 12 arrondissements, with maps for each area, the entries range from luxury brands and high-end stores to fantastic finds where one can discover the highest quality at low prices. Including fashion designers, stationers, florists and hairstylists, cafés, hotels, home décor and toy shops, and the wonderfully named, Musée de la Vie Romantique.
From the legendary Colette and the fabulous timeless lingerie of Fifi Chachnil in the 1st arrondissement, to the evocatively named, Carouche: Interprète d’Objets in the 11th arrondissement– as de la Fressange writes, “anyone who calls herself ‘an interpreter of objects’ deserves our attention”, and then to La Tarte Tropézianne in the 6th arrondissement, the patisserie from which Parisians can now buy the cream-filled brioche which for years was only available in St Tropez… the ‘Say it like La Parisienne’ note wryly appends: “they say pâtissier Alexandre Micka named this confection after Brigitte Bardot. Remember Roger Vadim’s film And God Created Pastry?” Parisian Chic City Guide is a treasure trove journey through the myriad elements of what it is to be truly chic in la Parisienne mode.
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