The latest secrets from Paris

Today is…Thursday? It is so strange to try to keep up with your day there and my day here. As I write this, it’s only 2:00 PM in the afternoon there but it’s 10:00 PM here and I’m understandably tired.

We are in Germany now as I mentioned yesterday (?). Before taking the train here from Paris, I managed to collect two mementos from Paris, a head cold and maybe, I did something awful to my foot. Like, maybe I broke it. No it doesn’t hurt (at all) but it’s many many kinds of ugly. Anyway, Germany is much cleaner than Paris. I know a lot of people are wild about Paris but the smells just become overwhelming. I think a lot of people love Paris because they think they’re supposed to. There’s so many annoying things about it; the frequent strikes over who knows what. Transportation out to both of the trade shows we attended (TexWorld and Premiere Vision) was disrupted by the strike (we never saw any strikers, just no trains). Frankly, it seemed like such a waste to target these two shows specifically. How will that encourage businesses to return next year if they’re already on the fence? If you’re not local, why would you come and endure the hassle? So, does the French transit worker win at the expense of everyone else? Their existing pay, working conditions and benefits are model so it’s beyond me to imagine what they really wanted other than to take a long week off to go fishing. Even the French are frustrated by seemingly random pointless strikes. It’s rumored the new demand will be a 30 hour work week, that the existing 35 hour work week is perceived to be too strenuous for the obviously overly delicate french transit worker. One girl on the train told Eric, “this is Paris, everyone is miserable”. Maybe that’s why we saw so few children. Too much misery, not enough love. Who will care for the elders? It is quite a crisis there.

Anyway, before I went off on the stupidity and questionable utility and efficacy of the transit strike, I was going to mention a few things about Paris. We stayed at this place called The El Dorado Hotel (lousy website, you’ve been warned) in the Place de Clichy district. I’d have no problem recommending this place to you if you’re looking for budget accommodations. Don’t expect the Taj Mahal for 75 euros a night. You can spend less if you get a room with a shared bath. The staff was great, just great. There’s a hostess to greet you in the lobby. She’s a little fattie cat, her name is Pepita. She reminded us of our little fattie, my former shop cat.

The hotel is very quirky, each room is done thematically and decorated with flea market finds. The decor of our room was based on the late 60’s, with circular orange rugs, leather scrap rugs etc. The curtains and bed spread were home made to match in browns and oranges. Our room faced out over the street. The hotel also has a restaurant but we never had anything beyond breakfast (good bread and coffee, not like that Belgian breakfast I declined to mention publicly) there. Also, the hotel says they have Wifi but we never got it to work. The work around is to go next door to the Lush Bar with your computer and buy a beer and they’ll give you access to their connection.

I liked the tile in the entry hallway, don’t know why it struck me.

Next to the Lush Bar is Nathalie’s bakery. Pretty amazing, she’s only twenty eight years old and she supports her family with the business (one kid), living in the two floors above the shop. Her hours are long, 5:00AM to 8:00 PM. We had some miniature onion quiches for dinner that we got from her.

Oh and speaking of eating, I do have one trend report for you but like everything else around here, I’ll do it the long circuitous way. Anyway, we went to this great vegetarian restaurant. Mr. Fashion-Incubator, being just as articulate as I am says the name of it is “something du something” (officially, Au Grain de Folie). He found it on Happy Cow. When we were at that place, I latched onto this lady who was eating outside who I thought looked interesting. It was a bit chilly and I invited her to eat with us inside. I’d gone out there to sit with her and watch the very tame mice traipse up and down the sidewalks -it was late by then. As it turns out, she was also from the U.S. Her name is Tina G. and she’s a singer in Jimmy Buffet’s Coral Reefer band. She does really look like that in real life by the way. Very pretty and nice too. She has four bunnies. I used to have a bunny, they’re nice pets.

Anyway, Tina and I were chatting about what fashion trends we’d seen on the streets, likely to be a big thing in the rest of the world a couple of years from now and we both agreed that ~~ta-dah~~ leggings are in. Yep, they are. I’m vindicated. One particular blogger out there who is convinced her intellect is unparalleled in the fashion community (and doesn’t hesitate to remind readers often) was belittling me last year because I didn’t see the sin of leggings. I like tights, I like leggings, what’s the crime? In Paris, we saw leggings and tights paired with a shorter dress (above the knee) and some calf high boots. Suede boots with a low to no heel seemed to be the most popular. We saw this look every where.

Of course these weren’t the best samples of the look that we saw, just the ones willing to hold still the longest -waiting in line as it was to buy a train ticket -most likely- for the area affected by the transit strike so you know these two girls (together) weren’t going anywhere soon.

Oh and speaking of traveling trends, it seems the mono-butt has arrived in Paris. It was ubiquitous. I tell you, some day I’m going to give all this up to make real jeans again. The market is wide open. I’ll make a killing.

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  1. Trish says:

    I was just looking at a great jeans ad in WWD, 9/8/08, and the monobutt does not make an appearance. The ad says to see how “sexy” you can look in your jeans… it was almost a cry for sanity… the butt-definition is just fabulous… maybe a come back is at hand… or on some part of the body.

    However, my fashion students tell me that the monobutt is what looks good to them and that they feel “undressed” with the definition of a “real jean”. Just goes to show you that what we
    “see we believe”… have a safe journey and get some ICE on that foot!!!!!

  2. Eric H says:

    I actually don’t dislike Paris all that much. It’s a big city, it has big city problems. Just like NYC, but better food, not as much free WiFi.

    My nose was mercifully stuffed up most of the time, blunting the urine attack. I have two theories about that: one, that is the reason smoking is so prevalent in Paris (to cover the smell), and two, at one point they starting mixing cement and mortar with urine, so the smell will never go away. It’s actually pretty funny to find 2 or 3 people gathered around a “Interdit de fumer” sign in the subway; I think those are used to stub out the butts.

  3. Zaz says:

    hello :)

    all you said is true, being a parisian i am with you 100%
    all said, monobutt is all i ever knew, it’s just the stretchy fabrics that i won’t wear (because dad taught me about fabric and i can spot bad ones?!)

    i tried buying 501 jeans under pressure from british friends when in london and hated them with a passion, must have worn them just while in london, yikes.

  4. Lisa B. in Portland says:

    Well, until I get some help with getting perfect(ed) pants patterns, I have to take what at least fits more or less ok and doesn’t fall off of me.

    I wore leggings all the time in high school and the early 90’s. Under really big and long shirts. I wish they would bring trends back older than that, maybe way older. I’ll probably get enough used to them that they eventually won’t bug me. sigh Bring back something cute like 50’s dresses w/o all the crazy underpinnings so we can still breathe.

    Kudos to Nathalie and her bakery!!

  5. rayna says:

    monobutt huh. My theory is hi end designers copying japanese denim samples verbatim and it all trickled down as you alluded to in your previous post. I hate it. I have the thighs of an (out of shape) runner and the japanese and the east village jet setters definitely DO NOT. But its ok, because this fit is usually in jeans 100 dollars or more and i do try to avoid spending that much for denim these days!

  6. I don’t like leggings as they were often worn in the ’80s, under nothing more than a baggy sweatshirt, but I really like them under dresses, say a shortish shirtdress. Thinking… Kathleen, would you wear your Vionnet dress with leggings?

  7. Bente Nilssen says:

    I lived and studied in Paris for years. I was a poor student without money to enjoy the luxurious part, but I loved it every day; the people, the wonderful parks, the museums, the art library, the architecture, the cafés, the croissant, the unexpected and the unpredictable. I do not like Parisians much (arrogant), but there are people from everywhere to get to know. If you don’t like to see the real life of Paris (not always clean and perfect), you should go walking around in Neuilly(7th), the 16th or the 8th arrondissement. Very clean and you don’t see any misery.
    It is true that the clean ness at low cost hotels and cafés in Paris is far below other countries in Europe (even more poor countries like Portugal). And Paris is expensive!
    Paris is very big. Like any capital there are a lot of people from every social level: immigrants and people seeking for opportunities.
    I also find parts of Paris less interesting. I don’t like much the Latin Quarter because it is too touristic and trashy.
    Just go to the small island besides Notre Dame and you find the most charming architecture and calm atmosphere, and the worlds best Ice cream.

    I think Premier Vision is worth visiting (as buyer or just visiting) because they engage the best trend researchers in the world and the most varied expositors, from high end to mass marked. They come from everywhere and I think the P.V. is very inspiring. You didn’t comment the fair. How did you find it?
    I have a friend (From Argentina, living in Paris) that is a shoe designer. She said there where more visitors in the Leather Fair and Mode Amount in Paris then the similar exposition in Milan (just to compare).
    I am always prepared to wait if I chose the RER alternative. You probably waited 30 min. instead of 10 min. It is annoying but I used to take advantage of the situation, talk with people and just observe their styles and study what they wear.

    If you live in Paris you get tired of the strikes because it affects your daily routine. Strikes are supposed to have some impact on the public to achieve results. Workers in Europe fight for the right to have a decent life. I come from one of the richest country in the world and we also use to have strikes, every year! I think that here in US strikes are not usual. Well, then I have heard about people that works their whole life (in US) and still do not manage to live a decent life according to general standards.
    But, OK, now we are getting into politics.
    A minimum salary in France is low and I presume the people that strike has more serious reasons than having the week-end off. I have a generally respect for people that go that far in fear of loosing or winning.

    Anyway, thanks for the rest of what you wrote. Ugly or Pretty, short or long, smelly or not, this is what I like to read about. I want to read about everything that can give me a glimpse of what I am missing (and not).
    Next time you go to Paris: get in touch. I can get inside info of the trendiest places for the moment (changes frequently) and also where to stay/eat/shop.

    Perhaps I will even be there.. then we could meet.

    By the way, I love your book and I referred it to my SBA consultant and he already send the web site to other newbie’s he consults around here.

    P.S. Sorry about the extremely long e-mail! Also: I didn’t put my “story” in the “bios” yet. I will try to do it this week-end.

  8. Zaz says:

    bente, of course, now how about harlem being dirty? etc etc etc… it’s not offensive. i think it normal that some quarters are dirtier than others, unfortunatly the poorer the dirtier. the cleaning people don’t have time to clean yet that it’s already been dirtied.
    this is the state of the world.
    and yes it is annoying to have booked just when the people of the RATP have their strike but should they fit their schedual to yours? also this is life, things happen (or not).
    i think i understood thatkathleen did not get to go to the exhibits, right?!

  9. Eric H says:


    Oh, no, we made it to the exhibits all right! There was a workaround train, but it was extremely crowded. That was what led to the girl saying “This is Paris, everyone is miserable”.

  10. susan says:

    The reason you did not find so many children was because they were in school and they don’t need to go so far and take the train. You can find schools in just every 3-4 blocks in each district. And they are not miserable and not loved. Here in France, even the children from the low income group can attend violin courses and have extra curricular activities – and it’s the same rights for french citizens and immigrants, even those without permit to stay.

  11. Zaz says:

    i dunno susan. what struck me when i attended an exhibition in detroit is the tramps searching inside the bins to take out coke and pepsi bottles. when i asked my cousin she said they redeeem them to get money, now THIS is poverty.
    i think by now it is forbidden to search in those small bins.
    yes, poverty is not a good advertisment for “big” countries.

    about free lessons for kids in “everything”: yes.
    for adults: sometimes no, but often yes.

    on french being big smokers: no, honest, everywhere it’s forbidden to smoke now and the cigarette packs are priced VERY high on purpose.
    if people want to freeze they can just go outside to smoke on the street.
    all public places are non smoking areas.

    about pee, yes although the public toilets on the streets are free and open to all some homeless would piss on the street when not seen.
    i have seen british people with kilts take a pee in the 18eme after getting drunk, that is all.

    if you have seen, the streets have water running from holes under the catwalk (trottoir) everywhere, at least someone is trying and been trying to fix things.

    and yes people sometimes consider themselves poor but at least everyone is covered by social security including doctor visits and medication. it’s not everywhere in the world, right?

    we are spoiled people, nature is great and we whine a lot :-))

  12. Eric H says:

    About this business of poorer = dirtier: Prague is much poorer, but there was very little trash in the streets and little or no smell of urine. I very seriously doubt that can all be laid off on some homeless people and “british people with kilts.” Also, all public places may be de jure smoke free, but they are certainly not de facto smoke free. I was not kidding about seeing people smoke inside the metro around a sign prohibiting their action.

  13. Zaz says:

    alison, right, i asked my husband who’d pee, when one could be sure to get back home for a pee, his answer was: i’d pee for the pleasure of it. i think it’s something freeing or something with those men?
    like nature call, tarzan, etc… (chuckles)

  14. Helen says:

    On a little tour of Europe a couple years ago, my family decided Paris was the second smelliest city we had visited. Paris may smell like piss, but Florence smells like sh*t. It’s probably the rivers.

  15. Marie-Christine says:

    Paris smells like piss in the summer, but mercifully in the winter it’s wet enough not to be as bad. Come to the South if you really want to smell piss.. I’m thinking I could make a killing by selling motion-detector activated showers to install in dark corners…

    Paris fabrics:

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