Sunday, 27 October 2013

Shopping in Paris

I took a five day layover in Paris before returning to Canada and spent some time at Galleries Lafayette on Saturday morning. I soon became disgusted with the crowds and the overburdened sales personnel. I made it to Bon Marché in the afternoon and service there seemed better. Actually you can't blame the service personnel for their short responses and their inattentiveness since most have to be suffering from "tourist fatigue". I left without buying anything at either department store, although I did try on several sweaters. Galleries Lafayette had a sale, which also is becoming more common. There once was a time when there were only ever two sales per year in France, one in January and one in July, both required by French law. Now very often you see the "soldes/sale" signs as often as you do in North America.

Shopping in Paris can be invigorating and satisfying or just plain frustrating therefore to accomplish the best Parisian shopping experience, you might want to try a few of my suggestions:

NEED: Have a list of the items you want to buy in the price ranges you want to spend. This year I had two particular things on my list: a bulky knit pullover in a creamy pink and a pair of camel straight leg trousers. If you go with no particular item or items in your head you will soon become overwhelmed with the choices. Don't worry, your list will not limit you, there is plenty to see and divert your attention even when you are shopping for specifics. When I was working full time in my profession, I knew exactly what I needed; now it's not so easy - I don't really need anything.

With that in mind, shoes, scarves and handbags are the easiest to buy. Clothing takes more time and effort in the fitting rooms.

NOTE-WORTHY: Visit the designer shops and the ones in the department stores such as Galleries Lafayette, Printemps and Bon Marché for the perfect opportunity to get a cross-section of what the trends are for the moment. If you can afford to buy, then make your way to the luxury brand signature stores. If the luxury brands are not worth it in your estimations, then make your way to the less expensive marks in the department stores with the ideas you garnered from the designer looks.

Language and attitude sometimes make tourists reticent to visit the small boutiques. Don't deprive yourself of this opportunity. The shop owners want to sell and you are a potential buyer - you have the upper hand. Or just window shop for ideas.

NECESSARY: Remember that you are paying a Value Added Tax of approximately 19.7% on the clothing and luxury items you purchase. As a tourist you can get that back if you spend €175. or more in one store on the same day so be strategic in your buying. You have to ask for the tax back form and the store personnel will fill it out for you. And remember your passport - that number and proof that you live elsewhere is necessary for the form. I wrote about this on the Paying Duty post. 

I did buy from a shop called Sandro in the Marais. The "form" came from the cash register in the same format as the receipt. Now I don't know if all shops have this capability but this is definitely an innovation, making the process easier for both the shops and the consumer.

NICE: If you see it and like it, buy it. That is the first rule of travel. If you are in Paris as a tourist wanting to get some shopping done, you may not have the time to indulge in looking around and then returning to where you first saw something. I have been in the situation where by the time I returned to the shop, it was closed and I was leaving before it would be opened again. Be happy with your purchases, don't second guess the cost and enjoy wearing your Parisian "souvenir/s".

And if you leave Paris with nothing new in your suitcase (although I doubt that), you will leave a little more cognizant of what is chic and what is trendy, helping you spend your tourist/closet dollars at home.

Friday, 18 October 2013

What to Match; What Not to Match

Closet Content Analysis: Monochromatic Matching 


Matching your hat to your shoe to your bag, or your necklace to your earrings, has a tendency to look dated. Mixing up your accessories adds interest to an outfit, and can make you look more modern and polished. 
 - Stacy London

NO THANKS: There once was a time where shoes and bag had to match, a time when shoes were dyed the same colour as the dress . . . thank goodness that is over. Matching shoes to a bag is a definite NO THANKS, as are exact matches of necklaces and earrings. 

At the same time that I write about not matching shoes to a bag, I must reveal my "unintentional match" of my patent ballet flats with my Lancel bag. It works for me because the colour of the bag is a tone lighter and has a differentiated colour effect because of the texture. The pants too are in the same taupe tone.

Matching taupe ballet flats, skinny Theory pants and Lancel Premier Flirt bag. Photo by JoyD.
NICE: However, vestiges of the basic principle still exist and are quite valid. Monochromatic matching is my thing. I have seen a pink formal gown with a leather shoe that was beige with a pink tone that looked very NICE. If the tone of beige was yellow, it wouldn't have worked. I learned to match certain accessories because I am short relative to most everyone I know. I always wore a colour or tone of shoes matched with the trousers because I believed that it gave my leg an illusion of length, as you see in the photo of my Theory skinny pants and ballet flats. For the same reason, I prefer a black skirt, black tights and black shoes and couldn't imagine wearing a white skirt with black tights, and never ever black tights with white shoes. There are those who do it but I am not one of them.The match now should be subtle in its tone because a perfect colour match seems too garish, too planned, too coordinated.

In fact, when I am designing jewellery I tend not to make "matched sets" of earrings and necklaces. Rather I will make several earrings that have certain of the same elements as a necklace but not in the same assemblage. I have made matched sets because there are people who still want that look but usually it has been done because of a direct request.

Monochromatic Matching:

Shoes with trousers: men have done this forever - black shoes with black pants or tones of colour together; brown with brown tones, etc.

Shoes in one of the colours of a print so that a pair of shoes could match any one of the colours in my Italian-made Manila Grace print dress which has blue, mauve, a couple of shades of rusty brown on a creamy white background. Anyone of those colours will look terrific with this dress.

NO THANKS: Analogous "matching" is clashing in my assessment. Think of a colour wheel, now pick a colour and then the next colours on either side of it would be considered analogous matching which means that if you choose red, you could put pink or an orangey shade with it - sorry, I just can't do pink and red; nor can I do orange and red. 
Life was so much easier when your clothes didn't match and boys had cooties. 
- Unknown 
Check out my other post on Matching: Unintentional Matches 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Paying "duty"

I am soon to be returning to Canada and since I travel back and forth between France and Canada, I am at the mercy of airport personnel questioning me about my claims of purchases and possibly some of my high end products. I have a story about a fellow, who traveling from the USA to Canada, was questioned about his cashmere luxury brand sweater. The customs agent asked why he did not "claim" the sweater on his list of purchases. The sweater was not new. Still the agent had the authority to charge him since the traveller had no receipt. And in fact the agent was about to do exactly that. However, the sweater was old enough that the fellow had kept no receipt and so instead of paying a charge, he took the sweater off and asked the agent to throw it in the garbage. I imagine he was saying to himself, this sweater owes me nothing and he wanted to demonstrate to the customs agent, I would rather dispose of the sweater than oblige to your insistence. If he had the receipt at home, he could have paid the charge and then applied to the Canadian authorities for a refund. Here is a case where you are guilty until proven innocent.

But so it is when dealing with any customs and immigration. I understand the necessity for the authority they must posses but when it comes to sweaters and purses and shoes, sometimes I think the customs officer must be bored to be so preoccupied with such frivolous items. 

Because we travel regularly between Europe and Canada, I do not want to be red-flagged and so I am impeccable with my list and with receipts although I am still perturbed with some of the requirements expected of the traveller. I have debated this issue with a Canadian lawyer and with an accountant with Revenue Canada. I always lose the debate. The law is the law and no matter what my rationale is, none of my points are going to make a difference to the customs agent who is only doing his or her job. Therefore I defer to being meticulous with my expenses and my list.

In Europe, there is a VAT (value added tax) that can be up to 19% on certain categories of items. Store policies vary but a general rule is that on any given day, you must spend at least €175.00 and ask for a tax return document, which the shop personnel must complete. I did buy from a shop called Sandro in the Marais just last week and the "form" came from the cash register in the same format as the receipt. Now I don't know if all shops have this capability but this is definitely a recent innovation, making the process easier for both the shops and the consumer.

You need to offer passport information in this process and then you must have the purchase verified before you leave the country (go through security). This requires that you must have the receipts as well as the actual items. In Paris, if your items are in your checked baggage and you go to the tax kiosk after, you will be out of luck. They need to see the actual items. I was in Charles de Galle airport just last week and the agent did not ask to see my item however most other times I have been required to show what I bought. I wouldn't risk not putting those items in your carry-on. 

After that process, you can then check in and drop the document in the post. You will receive the tax back as a credit to your credit card account. Or you can walk a few meters to another kiosk and if you pay a commission of just over 10% you can get Euros or whatever currency at the airport. I bought an item for €195. and received €20. and change back. The actual tax was €23. and change for the purchase.

In the past, the issue here too can be that this service by shop-owners can be inconsistent - some have the forms, some don't; some have lower or higher minimal purchases and the whole process can be annoying for both sales personnel and customer. However, I do not know if all shops have the new cash register receipt form that I encountered in Paris this year. The best service for tax returns, of course, is in the department stores and in luxury brand stores. One more thing, you must have your passport for this process.

The only advice I can give, and I do follow it, is to keep all receipts  and be aware of the necessity for receipts of high end items, no matter how old, particularly when you may have already paid duty on them. 

Echoes from the voices of my mom and my Girl Guide leader are in my head, "honesty is the best policy" and "be prepared".

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

What's New in Boots for the Winter, 2013?

We went to the market last Sunday in Issigeac in the south-west of France, a little ways away from Bergerac. My husband wore sandals and I wore boots. Such is the weather here. The fall mornings are cool enough to make you realize that summer is over but it is nice enough during the day to make you want to keep wearing your sandals. Considering I return to Canada for the snow, you would think that I would be acclimatized to cooler weather. The humid overcast coolness here affects me quite differently than the dry sunny bitter cold of Canada. It is the sun more than the cold that affects me. Nonetheless, boots are a common purchase whether here or in Canada.

I bought a pair of boots while I was in Roman-sur-Isere in the south-east of France in September. Before I shopped, I perused the net to find out what is "new" as far as styles goe. 


Was it that long ago that I bought my over the knee boots, that they are back in style again? Or maybe they're still in style? Whatever . . . over the knee boots are supposedly one of the number one styles of boots for the winter of 2013. Of course, no one is discounting knee-high boots and the mid-calf ones are still being shown, the short ankle boots are still around and the dysfunctional bootie shows up again, in my mind, for "show" only. I should not be so harsh. If I were staying in France for the winter, perhaps the bootie would be sufficient; however I am back in Canada and so . . .  do I have to explain myself? So what's new? Maybe nothing. But what are "they" showing in boots for 2013?

1. Over the knee boots - heels or flat

2. Knee high boots - heels or flat; riding boot style still popular

3. Mid-calf boots

4. Ankle boots

5. Booties - grazing the ankle and certainly not snow friendly

. . . some with boot bling at the ankle, some with a simple buckle at the top or at the ankle, some refined and elegant, some revisiting combat grunge. It appears that whatever style you like, it's "in".

I feel like I just described boots over the past 10 years. Elle's Fall Boot Guide illustrates a cross-section of all of the above for 2013.

I settled for knee-highboots with a buckle at the top and at the ankle. Interestingly, there are two zippers - one at the back and one at the inside ankle. I've never had a pair of boots with two zips.

I am pleased with them and I believe they will serve me well over the next two or three winters in Canada or in France.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Fall Colours 2013

Spring colours blend into fall 2013

Choices: Pantone or Not?

Do designers influence Pantone or does Pantone influence designers? I often wonder to what extent designers use the Pantone colours for seasonal collections. The reason I ponder that question is because of some of the beautiful pieces I have seen that are no where near what Pantone is promoting. Emerald was touted as the Pantone Colour of the Year and although it is allegedly all over the runways for the fall, I must be blind to it because it's not a colour I would choose and so I suppose I ignore it. In a March post I wrote about the green focus of Pantone for Spring 2013.  

At the same time one site tells us green is happening all over the runways, another is saying that blue in every shade is the colour of the season. This same debate was presented in that March, 2013 post

So here is what Pantone says the top colors for women’s fashion for fall 2013 are:

PANTONE 17-5641 Emerald
PANTONE 18-4434 Mykonos Blue

PANTONE 15-0533 Linden Green
PANTONE 19-3628 Acai
PANTONE 19-1662 Samba
PANTONE 17-1452 Koi
PANTONE 18-0312 Deep Lichen Green
PANTONE 19-2045 Vivacious
PANTONE 19-4215 Turbulence
PANTONE 19-1116 Carafe

And for the men, 9 are exactly the same, just replace Vivacious with PANTONE 18-2027 Beaujolais.

There are two particular colour concepts that are fashionable and trendy for 2013 and that I love but they don't correspond with Pantone's picks.


1. Winter White: According to Glamour head to toe white in the textures relative to winter weather is one of the "most wearable fashion trends". Yet I see no white, cream, beige or ecru in the lot of Pantone colours. However, we can forgive them since "winter white" is a classic that never really goes "out".

Céline Oversize Coat Fall, 2013. Photo source: Elle
2. The powder/pastel pinks that and Glamour have proposed for the Fall of 2013 are no where near the tone of Pantone's Vivacious yet a whole series of clothing and accessories in this pale pink are featured on Elle's website. Granted the grey under the coat and the boots could be the shade of Pantone's Turbulence but then again, pastel pink and grey has been co-ordinated forever.

When it comes to colours, really, we choose the ones we like, the ones we believe we look good in and the ones that are available to us in the clothing items we need.