I See London, I See France

If you’re just getting adjusted to springtime here in the Big Apple, one need only view a few of the thousands of images barraging us from the California desert this past weekend to be reminded that summer music festival season is here. Coachella part one is a wrap; part deux cues up next weekend. I’m not sure of the exact moment when Festival became a fashion season but one look at Bloomingdale’s, H&M’s, Macy’s and other retailers windows will attest to the fact that it has.

Since I’m the mother of millennials, rather than a millennial myself, my ideal summer get-away doesn’t involve loud music, flower crowns, or porta-potties. Although the fantasy of a luxury European vacay is always nice, I’ve noticed that one of the great things about living in NYC is that you can get a taste of Europe without actually getting on a plane. In the last few weeks I have been “transported” to England, France and Brazil, all without ever having to pack a suitcase.

Shellys London

Walking into the press preview for the launch of Shellys London, a fashion footwear line with a historically significant background, I felt like I had entered a boutique on Carnaby Street in its heyday. Indeed, the company, born in the ’40s, has molded the UK fashion scene in the swinging 60’s through collaborations with iconic designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Jean-Paul Gaultier and John Richmond. Shellys London takes credit as the first brand to introduce several of the most influential trends over the past five decades including platforms, Chelsea boots, creepers and Winklepickers (those pointy-toed shoes favored by ’50s British rock and roll fans.)

Photo: Laurel Marcus

The brand, available at Nordstrom and several online retailers including Amazon, is just now launching their US website shellyslondon.com. I was unfamiliar with the young contemporary line (prices top out at about $250 for a pair of faux snakeskin OTK boots, wannabes of a pair seen on Anna Wintour) but I would compare them to a brand like Jeffrey Campbell.

Photo Laurel Marcus

I saw several designer-inspired selections, (aka “knock-offs”) of famous designer shoes including the Stella McCartney platform oxford creepers, the Miu Miu glitter Mary-Janes, and the Opening Ceremony white jigsaw-tread shoes. I was given my choice of a pair of shoes from the Spring line and chose the Brooklyn, a brown suede wedge which laces up the ankle. “Get festival ready in the Brooklyn!” read the recent Shellys London Instagram. Perhaps they would be a good choice for one of the celebrity parties around Coachella, or #Nochella, as it’s called when one attends the parties but not the festival itself.

Clemence von Mueffling -four generations
Photos from beautyandwellbeing.com

In my next foray I literally said “Bon Soir” to France by way of the French Institute: Alliance Francaise (fi:af) for a talk by well-known beauty and wellness expert Clemence von Mueffling promoting her website www.beautyandwellbeing.com. Von Mueffling, “the most Parisian of New Yorkers” came by her interest in the industry honestly since her mother and grandmother were both French Vogue beauty editors. She worked for brands such as Clarins, Puig, and Dior before turning to beauty journalism at Casas and Gente Magazine and founding her own website.

Clemence von Mueffling

The evening had been billed as a chance to get “insider’s secrets and tips — from springtime skincare and beauty regimens to sleeping habits–essential for busy New Yorkers who want to feel as good as they look.” What actually ensued was slightly different — insight on how to “detoxify your life” by using natural skincare products and spending “more time removing your makeup and cleaning your face.” Unsurprisingly, many French brands are in her line-up of go-to products such as Avene, Caudalie and La Roche Posay (see exact suggestions on her website) however we were cautioned to never use at-home scrubs since it takes a full week to regenerate the three layers of skin removed.

Clemence speaking at the FIAF
Photo: Sasha Arutyunova

Other tips were to use a humidifier; drink plenty of water or coconut water; eat little to no meat (“You don’t need nearly as much protein as you think you do.”); buy a Vitamix to blend and drink your vegetables; a Spiralizer to “make colorful noodles out of your favorite vegetables;” use “purifying houseplants” such as Chinese Evergreen and Bamboo to refresh your interior space (as per “The Blue Zone” book); throw away your non-stick cookware; get a doormat and remove your shoes upon entering your residence; and consult the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website as well as the Seafood Watch App to read about the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean 15” lists which will guide you to purchase the best fruits, vegetables, and fish.

As far as sleep tips, Clemence’s suggestions were well-meaning but hardly revolutionary. These included imbibing red wine or chamomile tea, getting enough tryptophan by way of turkey or sardines, and removing all electronic devices from the room an hour before bedtime. She quoted Dr. Ana Krieger who claims that “increased exposure to light prior to bedtime is associated with sleep disruption”. For reference she recommended the books “Sleep for Success” and “The Sleep Revolution” by Arianna Huffington.

Getting back to the part that I found most interesting — that EWG list. Clemence said to look for plant-based, Paraben and preservative-free skin products with a short ingredient list (again, for specifics you can refer to her website). Out of idle curiosity I looked up several common drugstore type items from under my bathroom sink just to see how toxic the EWG thinks they are. Body lotion and body mist ranked a 5 (out of 10), my deodorant was a 4. I guess I can live with that — I was expecting a lot worse. Question: What do we have the FDA for?

IMO, if you are really this concerned with what you put in and on your body, you should probably be living in Vermont rather than NYC! As for the dietary restrictions, forget about dining in any true Gallic restaurants (the french bread alone will put you off your plan). Most attendees seemed to be “drinking the all natural Kool-Aid” (Ha!), however during the Q&A, someone asked permission to shed their guilt upon the rare occasion when they eat something that’s off the healthy list but that they really enjoy. Clemence agreed that in the “guilt vs. pleasure” war, one must “try to find a balance.” I must say that she is a very good speaker — her accent and demeanor are charming and belie the alarming, doomsday-type of message (at least to me) that she is imparting. Also on the plus side: she admits that she doesn’t go in for natural or organic makeup products and buys whatever she likes from major mainstream brands such as Dior.

Rose Hartman book signing
Photo: Laurel Marcus

On my last adventure, I was able to go to Brazil without getting a brazilian and without worry of the Zika virus. I attended a book signing for famed Photographer Rose Hartman’s “Incomparable Couples” at Uma, a West Village boutique that opened last fall. The event was attended by Otis Mass, director, and Bob Fisher, producer, of the documentary film “The Incomparable Rose Hartman,” which debuted at SXSW; as well as many of Rose’s industry friends. Shopping was encouraged as the spring collection was already 50% off! Since I first met Rose through Jean Shafiroff who could not be there that evening, Rose made sure to show me the photo of Jean (in a ball gown, natch) and her dog which graces the people and pets section of the book.

Photo of Jean Shafiroff with her dog

The clothing is unique, designed by Raquel Davidowicz, and perfect for spring/summer as the fabrics are light and airy yet elegant with interesting art-inspired patterns/prints and flowing shapes. I purchased a pair of white and black canvas peep toe booties, a soft fabric-like leather vest and a studded bag, perfect in case I do travel but also great for carrying a multitude of press materials around New York City– it’s more likely usage.

– Laurel Marcus 

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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