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Tuesday, April 21st 2009

Revelations in Paris: Less is more and your style only evolves if you do too!

News from Our NY Paris Editor at Large

Paris in the springtime is every bit as good as they say: tulips in full bloom, chocolate twice a day, and French women with style so chic the words “girl crush” come to mind. I took a little spring break from good ole New York to scratch my shopping itch with my mom and sister in the City of Lights. We filled our mornings with museums (Musée Rodin is a must, and bring walkie talkies if taking on the Louvre), our afternoons drowning in all the Frenchie labels I die for (American Retro, Vanessa Bruno, Antik Batik, Ash), and our nights drinking wine and discussing important issues like boys and fashion.

I have to admit the French are truly ahead of New Yorkers style-wise. I saw trends that just hit the elite editorials in the States already being sold in the high street shops on Rue de Rivoli and even being worn, shockingly, by real women! Most visible were floor-grazing skirts worn for day, printed jumpsuits, and thousands of renditions of The New Pant (pleated, peg leg, harem, cropped, you name it). I admit, I had not fully accepted these “hard-to-wear shapes,” but enough curiosity paired with a little bravery in the dressing room revealed that these styles are not just made for svelte models and are, in fact, genius for showing off some curves. My bravery landed me several new looks to bring back across the Atlantic and a new mantra on personal style: To EVOLVE your look, your boundaries have to CHANGE!

From left: First cappuccino of the trip; my secret no-crowds-allowed view of the Eiffel Tower; the Frenchie in me wearing the New Pant and feeling quite chic!

On my last day, I caught up with Gabriella Cortese, design genius behind the cult status bohemian label Antik Batik. Being a huge dork, I chose my most recent shopbop purchase, the embellished Antik Batik Langoa Dress, for my appointment. Arriving at her boutique on Rue de Turenne (one of three shops in Paris), I immediately broke into a shopping-anxiety-induced sweat—think sequins, fringe, and a color palette that reminded me of my favorite Lisa Frank binders from middle school. I had literally died and gone to hippie-chic heaven! But, before I could get my greedy little hands on those pink Squaw beaded moccasins, I sat down with Gabriella for a little who-what-why, hoping to gain an ounce of her cool factor through interview osmosis…

Antik Batik designer, Gabriella Cortese.

Joyann King: Who is the Antik Batik girl?

Gabriella Cortese: She is a dandy bohemian girl who loves to travel around the world and be inspired by the different styles. She loves to mix it up with bold prints and beaded things. She is urban and modern, without losing her taste for ancient, handmade garments.

JK: She is one cool chick! Antik Batik has a very distinct take on bohemian, a trend that is everywhere now. Where do you get your inspiration?

GC: The bohemian way of life comes straight from the middle of Europa and art nouveau, the 1900s artists like Klimt and Kokoschka. But also from faraway places—those embroideries that start the Silk Road from India and land in Hungary. I myself am a mixture of all that. I’m Italian with a Hungarian grandmother and have now been living in Paris for so long. Roots are the base of everything; that’s why my collections remind me of them.

JK: Gotcha, this is not faux bohemian, but the real deal. What is the one thing in your closet you can’t live without?

GC: A sequined dress!

JK: I love the bling too. If you weren’t a fashion designer you would be a…

GC: An adventurer!

JK: You already are that! Your favorite place in the world is…

GC: My house in Paris, in Pigalle; it is so peaceful in such a crazy area!

JK: I have seen your house featured in many home magazines, it is très chic! Tell me, what does every American girl need to learn from the French fashion set?

GC: How to be sexy without showing so much skin!

I’m going to start using the word “dandy” immediately and am all of a sudden in desperate need of a sequined dress. Gabriella’s style philosophy and her label’s dedication to the ancient craft of batik are completely inspiring. I have been a huge fan of Antik Batik since its early years, but now I’m what you might call “completely and utterly obsessed!” Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have shopping to do…

My VIP shopping trip at Antik Batik. I bought a turquoise sequined dress per Gabriella’s advice, and my sister snagged a one-of-a-kind hand-printed scarf!

For more on my trip, check out my blog, Style Secrets, at SELF.com. I’ll be back in May covering the New York fashion circuit and breaking in my school’s-out-for-summer wardrobe!

Au revoir,

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