December 20, 2011
Not only are Alexia Hollinger‘s handbags très chic, and très Parisien, but they are made right in the heart of the city by Alexia herself, in her gorgeous studio boutique on quiet rue Therese in the 1st arrondissement. I discovered her boutique about 4 years ago when I was researching for my first book Paris: Made by Hand. When I walked into the beautifully decorated store and saw Alexia working away on her sewing machine in the back room, it felt like I’d struck gold – this was exactly what I’d hoped to find in the heart of Paris, and all it took was a wander off the main thoroughfare and into a leafy avenue.
Alexia’s designs are sophisticated but practical – every time I visit Paris, I stop into Alexia’s boutique and buy a bag for myself and another as a gift. I have quite the collection of Alexia bags now, almost one for each day of the week. Her bags make the ideal gift and if you can’t make it into the boutique yourself, then you can easily buy a bag from her latest collection online as Alexia ships all over the world.
I was honored a few months back to find out Alexia had named one of her new designs after me – featured here in this post is one of her gold linen “pia” bags. Inside there is a pocket for your phone, a key clip, and zip pocket for personal items. It’s the perfect size and I love that the handles fit over the shoulder.
- Check out Pia’s blog and her handmade Paris guide
- The New York Times T magazine visits Alexia Hollinger’s Paris store
- Kasia Dietz is an expat also designs lovely handbags in Paris
Written and photos by Pia Jane Bijkerk. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in London, Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.
December 19, 2011
Paris is one of the most dangerous cities to go gift-shopping. I mean, when you’re looking for the perfect piece of the City of Light to share with your family and friends, how can you resist the soaps at Fragonard, the pottery and notebooks at Astier de Villatte, the cool kid CDs at Colette or the boites of macarons and chocolates all over town—for yourself?
It’s easy to be greedy around such lovely loot. For better or worse, the price tags keep some of the madness in check. But there’s another way to work around this fair city that’s très cher: Monoprix.
Seriously! If you think about the delicacies and delights we all savor in Paris, you can find some real steals right at your neighborhood grocer. Take, for example, the pajama aisle. They may not be as raffiné as what you’d find at Le Bon Marché, but the options are pretty darn cute, nonetheless. (Don’t forget the matching slippers.)
For the men in your life, grab some jars of mustard and tins of sardines. They’re compact, come in infinite varieties, and pack a delicious punch per centime. Or, in the “personal goods” section, you can find lovely big blocks of olive oil soap, which are great “man gifts.”
December 16, 2011
As soon as our timetable lets us go, my husband and I move from our base in Amsterdam to our tiny apartment in Paris.
We’ve lived here in Paris part time for more than 4 years now, but I still discover new places, neighborhoods, and restaurants every single time we go on a stroll. Paris is inexhaustible when it comes to surprising me in any unexpected ways.
My dear friend, stylist, photographer and author Pia Jane Bijkerk, used to live here too, and she wrote a wonderful guide that everyone should have when they go to Paris. It’s a little book that takes you on a tour of Paris’ best shops and ateliers for handmade goods. So that’s right up my alley, of course.
December 15, 2011
When I popped home to the UK in November, London was already in full festive swing with Christmas trees, festive songs and neon lights galore. Sent back with a Cadbury’s chocolate advent calendar adorned with an oversized Santa, I was ready to start the Christmas season with a bang.
Yet once back home across the pond, I realized Paris hadn’t joined in on the fun yet. I was ready to start in on my advent calendar and temperatures were plunging, but where were all those tell tale signs that our favorite mid-winter festival was fast approaching?
This set me thinking. What exactly is a Parisian Christmas? What happens in the cold windy days leading up to the big event? I set out on a mission to discover the seasonal delights that France’s most romantic city had to offer.
Although the Christmas shopping frenzy begins relatively late in Paris (thankfully, shops only step into gear at the end of November), once it gets going, it really gets going. Stores go all out with light shows and designer-crafted window displays – always tasteful, bien sur. First stop? Paris’s iconic department stores. Whilst London has toy-filled Hamleys and elegant Harrods, Paris showcases its trademark sophistication with Les Galleries Lafayette and the neighbouring Printemps, where Karl Lagerfeld’s touch marks this year’s displays: think Chanel-clad rock ‘n’ roll dolls strumming their electric guitars and 20m Christmas trees.
December 14, 2011
I got my first Opinel pocket knife at age seven—the age of reason, my parents must have thought—during a summer vacation in the French Alps. Each member of my family had one, and they got plenty of use during mountain hikes: my father’s to carve intricate pattern on his walking stick, my mother’s to butter the baguette sandwiches when we stopped for the midday picnic.
I was thrilled to get my own, a tiny, child-size replica of the classic Savoyard pocket knife, with its glossy wood handle, its pointy steel blade, and the rotating ring that locked it all into place.
Twenty-five years later, this miniature Opinel is much too small for me to use, but I have a grownup’s version now, which I’m sure to take with me on any walk in the wild, and especially on mushroom foraging trips: not to brag, but that Opinel has seen its share of porcini.
Opinel pocket knives make for wonderful gifts, too: they’re not at all expensive, they’ll last a lifetime, and they’ll accompany the recipient on their outdoor adventures—even if it’s just an improvised picnic in the park. Just be sure to have them give you a coin (any small piece of change will do) in exchange for the knife: French superstition states that if you give away a knife without getting anything in return, you risk severing the friendship.
December 12, 2011
Hi everyone! Nichole here from Little Brown Pen. I’m happy to be over at HIP Paris today, and to be sharing my French-inspired holiday gift picks with you. Below are a few things I wouldn’t mind having under my tree (husband? are you reading?), so I hope you enjoy.
These beautiful scarves are handmade in Normandy. I love the texture, subtle shine and classic shades.
I wish these illustrations were available as large prints. Aren’t they adorable?
Cubist Literature has a great sense of humor. I’ve been admiring this silly French tee for months.
French text: “Moi, je veux te dire que je ne te quitterai jamais. Et puis, si tu es triste, je pourrais toujours te donner un peu d’alcool pour te rechauffer le coeur. xo”
Translation from their site: “I want you to know that I will never leave you. And, if you’re ever sad, I can always give you a little alcohol to make you feel better”.
December 7, 2011
The Hip Paris Holiday Gift Guide continues with A Cup of Jo’s fabulous Joanna Goddard. (Thanks so much, Joanna!) We just love her French-inspired gift idea, and plan to stock up on several pairs toute de suite! -Maggie
Two years ago, my New Year’s Resolution was to dress like a French woman. My only question was…how? My first step was buying a bunch of striped shirts (obviously). My second step was to pull my hair up in a top bun. And my third–and favorite–step was discovering Bensimon.
Bensimon shoes are the French girl’s Converse. Comfy and cute, the sneakers are great for running errands, traveling or kicking back at home–while still feeling like you have that Parisian je-ne-sais-quoi. My mom, sister and best friend now all wear them, too. They’re a perfect stocking stuffer. xo
October 4, 2011
Parisian shops devoted entirely to a single specialty (like olive oil, honey, or communist literature) are considered obvious fixtures in an urban landscape where commercial efficiency is, if anything, an afterthought. So, when my roommate Winnie showed me a place on our street specializing in piñatas, of all things, my only thought was, “Of course. Naturally.” It was, incidentally, just across the street from our radical left-wing bookstore.
Winnie, a journalist, was covering the shop in a story with an unusual social twist. The piñatas, it turns out, are made by prisoners.
September 1, 2011
Typical Parisian flea market (Josh Leo)
I first visited the Marche aux Puces (Les Puces de Saint-Ouen) 5 years ago. I was feeling adventurous and had a new house I dreamed of filling with amazing finds from the famous Parisian flea markets. As soon as I arrived, however, my confidence and sense of adventure plummeted. There was so much, and it was all so beautiful, I couldn’t decide where to begin. I didn’t know if bargaining was de rigueur, and I was timid about asking for prices because I assumed most of the dazzling objects that caught my eye had to be out of my price range (especially since most of them looked like they came right out of Versailles). I found some amazing light fixtures and chairs, but they weren’t going to fit into the overhead bin on my flight home, and I hadn’t the first clue about how to arrange to shipping. In the end, my eyes got their fill of gorgeous pieces but I left empty handed.
My experience, sadly, is not uncommon. The flea markets of Paris can be very intimidating and the vast maze of memorabilia is more than a little overwhelming. My fellow HIP gal pal Andrea knows exactly what I mean; she’s suffered from the flea market frazzle too!
So this summer, when Toma Haines and Franca Giagnacovo from Antiques Diva reached out and offered to take us ladies at HIP on a shopping tour of the Puces, we jumped, of course! After all, these women are bonafide experts on all things antique – maybe they could do something to salvage our dream of decorating our American homes with authentic French finds.
Walking the Paul Bert market at Clignancourt (Dave Bloom)
Our fabulous guide Franca met us in the morning with mini bottles of bubbly and personalized tote bags to carry home the treasures we were to collect that day. She gave us a great info package with maps and a brief description of each market within the Puces so we could pinpoint exactly where to go and what we wanted to see. Andrea and I were both on a mission to feather our nests, so we focused on furniture, house wares and art. She steered us effortlessly through the slightly rough looking streets leading to les Puces and around the sea of cheap plastic knickknacks and designer knock offs that precede the “real” flea markets. Once inside, she knew exactly which vendors had what we were looking for, and she was willing to help us haggle (a very accepted practice). Andrea has the scoop on the amazing treasures we saw.
August 29, 2011
Every true Parisienne has certain key items in her wardrobe: at least one beautifully printed scarf, a chic sac à main, a black cocktail dress and classic trench among them. But to most, the lingerie she wears under her carefully crafted ensemble is as central to her wardrobe as her Chanel mini sac.
The French affection for small stretchy pieces of lace — embroidered, embellished and often painfully uncomfortable — is apparent everywhere you go. From the ubiquitous soft lit advertisements featuring headless, amply endowed torsos to the city’s hundreds of boutiques devoted exclusively to under garments, visitors to Paris quickly realize that lingerie here is serious business.
Soon after arriving, I discovered my own lingerie drawer was in dire need of an overhaul. Faded cotton panties and functional athletic bras simply would not do in the City of Light.
I ventured out in search of my inner seductress, trying to imagine wearing a garter while keeping a straight face. With so many specialty boutiques to choose from – Aubade, Lise Charmel, Chantelle and many more – I made my first stop at Princess Tam Tam, a mid-range chain that does sexy as well as cute and sassy.
After poking through the racks and selecting some pretty pastels, a saleswoman approached to offer some assistance. I held my stack of panties and said I was ready to pay. “But where were the matching bras?” she asked, clearly horrified that I might buy the underwear alone. Buying a bra and panties that aren’t part of a set? Pas possible.