La Mode on Cote D’Azure

Having been in the South of France for three weeks, I have had the opportunity to observe some of the local fashion.  There are several trends that one sees frequently.

The Converse tennis shoes that are popular with the younger crown in the US are also a hit here.  These are the old fashioned tennis shoes that came in black with white soles some 50 years ago and laced up around the ankle.  Their purpose was primarily for use by team members in sporting events.  Now, they can be found in bright colors with various nuances.  Most of the wearers are young but I have observed a few older people.  In Cannes, I noted a 50ish, rather rotund gentleman, with grey hair down to his shoulders, dressed in all black with the exception of the bright red tennis shoes.  He was a site to behold.   Some wearers turn down the top to form a collar and I noticed one pair of shoes designed with a special collar in a contrasting plaid to compliment beige tennies.  By the way, I have seen only two pair of our traditional white tennis shoes that we so often use for walking shoes and pack for travel.  This is a bit like wearing a neon sign saying “American Tourist”!

Opaque tights can be seen everywhere.  Ladies wear them with everything – very short shorts and short skirts as well as moderate length skirts or dresses.  I have seen a few tights in dramatic prints.  These are really quite attractive as well as practical.  They offer an “autumn” look to the short shorts or skirts as well as warmth as the mild temperatures become a bit more like fall.  The tights also give a finished look by tying the skirt or shorts to shoes with complimentary colors.

Many of the tights are worn with boots.  Boots of all kinds are seen everywhere.   It is not unusual to see Western cowboy boots with a feminine dress or tight jeans tucked into boots.  I have rarely seen the dressy, slender-heeled boot here but the heavier heels and more sporty models are worn with everything.   I don’t think I have seen any boot/skirt combination that did not include the tights.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, jeans are very popular with both men and women.  They are a bit spiffier than our traditional Levis, often with some pocket design that gives an air of being just a cut above.   Having lunch in Monte Carlo one day, I noted that ninety percent of the men in the restaurant were wearing jeans with well pressed, striped dress shirts, and sport jackets.  Some of the younger men left the shirttail out if it was a design intended to be worn out.  The look here is definitely more casual (suits are rare) but usually well groomed and intentional in how it is put together.

Parfum par Galimard

Parfum par Galimard

We had the opportunity to visit Grasse, the center of the perfume industry in the world, and take a tour of their facility.  There are three makers of perfume, Galimard being the oldest, established in 1747.  Additionally there are37 other perfume makers but they distill the ingredients down to oils which are purchased by the three perfume makers to fabricate a perfume for the public.  This region has a very favorable climate to grow the ingredients used in perfume, but now, many of the petals must be imported.   There is still abundant lavender but the other ingredients such as rose petal, jasmine, and mimosa are imported from places like Turkey and Morocco.   Other ingredients might include roots, stems, moss and seaweed.  There are only 49,000 residents in Grasse, yet they manufacture 60% of the world’s perfume.

 

When a famous designer wishes to launch his/her own fragrance, he comes to Grasse and talks with a well know “nose” – the highly trained and talented person who is able to discern difference fragrances.  There are only a handful of “super noses” in the world.  Now there is training for being a nose but individual gifting plays a big part.  One must first have a background in chemistry and have the unique ability to discern hundreds of different fragrances.  The designer gives a vision of what they would like as a fragrance.   Then the different “noses” produce the product that they feel will meet that vision.  The designer chooses the one they prefer and pays the “nose” several million dollars for the formula.  Then the new fragrance is launched.

It’s not all good news.  The predominance of noses is men and they must not eat spicy foods, drink alcoholic beverages or smoke.  However, for those very few in the world, they can make incredible money and it is probably worth the sacrifice to keep that “nose” functioning at top level.

Fragrances change over time.  In the past the best selling perfumes had floral fragrances, from delicate to more heavy.  Citrus flavors have become popular and most recently, the fragrance most preferred is a combination of chocolate, cotton candy and caramel!

These perfume manufacturers do not sell to stores or advertise, except to give directions to their location by the road signs.  They make their money by giving tours, selling products, and repeat orders.  Galimard has a service where they help you create your own individual fragrance.  Perfume making is done similar to music, the base notes are the bottom, which lasts for several hours, the heart notes are the middle and last for a shorter time, and the top notes are those essences that will last for the first 10 minutes.

One of the tips we learned is that we should not keep our perfume in the bathroom.   Exposure to sunlight and moisture change the fragrance and quality of perfume.   The lovely bottles that we all enjoy seeing on our dresser are only designed for eye appeal – not to preserve fragrance.   I’m sure you have all seen this process in an older perfume that turns a brown color and stains your clothing when you spray it on and happen to get some on your blouse!  Fragrance does best in a dark bottle protected from sun and moisture.  It is best to store your perfume in a closet in your bedroom, which will preserve it for a much longer period of time.

The best news is that we have a shop in Atlanta, one of the four in the US, which has all of the Galimard oils and will help you to fabricate your very own fragrance.  It is BLEND, web site: www.blendcustomparfum.com.  Susan Sexton, the owner, has trained with Galimard and has all of their oils to fabricate your custom perfume.  She and I do workshops together so you can have your own custom perfume and have an image consultation.

Le Bar Sur Loup

Le Bar Sur Loup

 

We are in the South of France on business for the month of October, staying in an adorable cottage on the outskirts of Le Bar Sur Loup.  This village overlooks the Loup (wolf) River and is located up in the mountains about twenty minutes from Cannes.  We were greeted Thursday morning with clear, sunny skies and the deep, azure blue of the Mediterranean.    Thus far the weather has been magnificent – cooling down to the mid-fifties at night and in the mid-seventies during the day.

Adjacent to our cottage is an orchard with apple trees ready to be harvested and olive trees in the process of ripening.   Right outside our front door is an olive tree with nicoise olives, just starting to ripen.  We talked to the people who own this cottage just down the hill from their home, and they told us that they harvest the olives in November to December, taking them to the local fabricant (manufacturer) who presses and bottles the oil for them.  The seeds are processed using part to sprinkle over bread and the remainder is fed to livestock.    I mentioned that I hoped to try an olive that had ripened before we leave and they said the newly picked olives taste like soap! They have to soak in a salty brine for a month before they are edible.

The roads here are narrow and wind up the mountain with lots of round-abouts and hairpin turns.   We rented a mid-sized car thinking it would be better for our luggage and when we needed to take others with us.  This was not a good decision considering the roads.  Probably a Smart Car might have been a better choice and strap the luggage on top!

Thus far, we have spent a few hours in each Cannes and Monaco.  Here, the ladies dress in “chic casual”.  There are a lot of jeans but all smart looking, pressed and some sort of designer label.  Their hair and make-up are impeccable and the tops range from blazers to smart casual tops.  The foulard (scarf) is seen everywhere.  These are like the Pashmina that we have worn for several years but not necessarily in cashmere.  They can be doubled, secured around the neck by bringing the ends through the center fold to make a scarf, or draped around the neck, letting one end fall toward the front and the other over the shoulder.  If the temperature drops, it changes into a stole wrapped around the shoulders.

With only three days here, we have much more to experience.   To be continued next week.