Category Archives: Spotlight On

Spotlight On >> Catherine B

 

It’s not every day that you meet someone as dedicated and genuinely attached to their craft as Catherine B. The owner of two boutiques specializing in true vintage Chanel and Hermès, Catherine is very quick to point out that these are not secondhand shops. ” I am a fashion antiquarian” she says. And this sums up perfectly the subtle nuance of her craft.

Clients worldwide come to her for the unique and exceptional selection. The boutiques only carry vintage, in the true sense of the word, meaning that the items come from an original or limited-edition collection or that they no longer exist or are no longer produced. There is no bargain hunting at Catherine B. She buys at a high cost but also sells at a high price. It’s the nature of the game when you are a true antiquarian. Incredibly passionate, it’s not about the money. She readily admits that she’s willing to pay three times the price for an item if and only if she really wants it. Hermès and Chanel collections from the last five years? Not interested. Hermès and Chanel circa 1970’s or 1980’s, definitely.

More than a simple shopping experience, the boutique also boasts Catherine’s personal collection on full display for clients to drool over (figuratively speaking of course). My heart skipped a beat when a dark navy weekender-sized Kelly, known as the Kelly Relax caught my attention. I’ve always said that one day, budget permitting I would gift myself a camel-colored Kelly. As far as I’m concerned, nothing beats it. However, the Kelly Relax is really the icing on the cake. A Kelly? Great. A Kelly Relax? Better.

 

And just when you think you’ve seen it all, out comes the unique giant-sized Mademoiselle purse from Chanel. I rarely find myself speechless but there’s always an exception to the rule. Wow. I immediately thought of Miss B from A Girl A Style and her love for Chanel and trying to imagine her reaction to such a treasure. Oh and did I mention that Catherine is also the proud owner of  the original Birkin, as in the one belonging to and named after Jane?

(Yes, ladies, this is the original Birkin)

As you might imagine, what was supposed to be a thirty-minute stop by the boutique turned into a three-hour visit and an afternoon coffee break. I do not think there is someone more knowledgeable about the history of the collections on display and the technical details of each item. Every piece has a story to tell and in a split-second, Catherine is able to give you a comprehensive description and background of the bag/shoe/jewelry/clothing you’re lusting over as well as how it joined her ever-growing offering.

 

Though the selection is currently quite extensive, there are fewer and fewer items for her to purchase for the boutique. Of course, there is lots of vintage Chanel and Hermès on the market, but not up-to-par with the quality requirements Catherine insists upon. She will gladly purchase Chanel tweed jackets that she’ll never sell just to recuperate the original buttons and chain to mend another jacket in perfect condition if not for the missing or damaged button. The idea of putting current buttons on a true vintage jacket seems absurd to her, if not completely lacking authenticity.

Such dedication and respect perfectly exemplifies the craft of Catherine, a true fashion antiquarian.

Les Trois Marches de Catherine B – 1, Rue Guisarde 75006 Paris – Tel: +33(0)1 43 54 74 18

Boutique Catherine B – 3, Rue Guisarde 75006 Paris – Tel: +33(0)1 43 25 64 92

www.catherine-b.com

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Kira Owen

 (Photo courtesy of Owen&Savary)

I have twitter to thank for meeting the lovely Kira Owen. After exchanging tweets with Cat, aka Sugar_Daze, known for the best cupcakes in Paris (with Synie’s of course ), she forwarded me an invite for the launch party of a new jewelry brand, Owen&Savary. Wouldn’t you know it that the launch was taking place in my middle school’s building (the school only took up two floors.) That is what you call a small small world.

And that is how I met Kira, one half of the designing duo behind what is possibly my favorite piece of jewelry because its characteristics are so close to how I envisioned Je Ne Sais Quoi: modern yet timeless with a respect for traditional craftsmanship. I was completely enthused with the line before being so with Kira.

Over the years, Kira and I have become good friends. I think she is the most grounded person in the fashion industry. I’ve always said common sense will go a long way and I think it perfectly applies to her. She’s incredibly creative, dynamic and funny but can switch when need be from  full design  to business entrepreneur mode and get down to the nitty gritty administrative tasks without ever thinking twice about it.

Here’s your chance to get to know her better:

Describe your style:

I would say I’m classical but I like to add fun, edgy accessories. I only follow the trends that suit me and that I know I will not get bored of quickly.

What won’t you leave the home without?

House keys and iPhone!

What are the key pieces in your wardrobe this fall season?

I love leather, so always a well-cut leather jacket, high-waisted wide trousers, chunky knits paired with shorts and my biggest weakness – shoes! Anything from flats to platform wedges!

Can you tell us a little about your beauty regimen?

I keep it simple: toner + high spf. moisturizing cream in the morning; good make-up remover + anti-oxydant serum at night. I drink a lot of water and green tea and I try to work out a couple of times a week when I can. And am I allowed to say a glass of red wine with dinner and dark chocolate? Two of my little sins…

Your roster of celebrities (including the very talented Laura Linney) wearing Owen&Savary cuffs is already pretty impressive. Who would you like to see next wearing one of your cuffs?

 We are really honored to have so many A-listers wearing our designs and it goes without saying that we would be delighted to have many more! But, honestly, I cannot pinpoint one person in particular. When Valerie and I are designing our collection and choosing our leathers, we typically have a strong, independent and feminine woman in mind. But we offer many styles of cuffs and bracelets, a huge choice of leathers as well as an online customization service. As a result, our bracelets appeal to a wide range of personalities, from the classical to the more rock’n’roll woman.

How do you balance being a full-time Mom and young designer?

 My priority is, and always will be, my children. When I am not traveling, I make sure I’m organized enough so I can take them to school and pick them up every day. I have never had help for them and as long as I can keep it that way, I prefer it. Some days it’s a real challenge! But I’m lucky to have two very easy-going children and a very helpful family who all understand and support what I do.

Where are your next travels taking you?

London in October with my children and New York in November for work!

www.owensavary.com

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A Selby-worthy Abode-Part I

A couple years ago, my mother introduced me to an artist (who shall remain anonymous for now) from whom she had purchased several pieces and who over the course of time, has become a very close family friend. On  many occasions, I’ve been invited over to her atelier d’artiste/home, a magical world, a journey into an enchanted paradise, where art, history, culture and fashion unite.

Stepping off the streets in the somewhat grungy neighborhood she lives in, I’m instantly transported into another universe. On every occasion, I discover something new I hadn’t noticed on a previous visit, whether it be a painting or drawing of hers, a little sculpture or lantern nestled in one of the numerous nooks, a new addition to her amazing collection of antique brooches and venetian mirrors. No visit is ever quite the same.

What I love about it is that every item has a story to tell. The velvet couch, I discovered on my last trip to her place, was in fact a prop for a theatre production that dates back to Napoleon III but was made in Louis XV style.

The focus of this 1st visit was mostly on the environment she lives/paints/draws in so you will only see a couple of her paintings that are part of her personal collection but I wanted to know what inspires her when faced with a blank canvas: “Quand je pains, je m’oublie.” which translated to: “When I paint, I forget myself.”

And that’s pretty much the way I feel when entering this Selby-worthy abode.


             

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Mom

Spotlight on .… my mother, Janice, whom I’ve sought much of my sartorial aspirations from & without whom I’d still be in the planning stages of the original Je Ne Sais Quoi project. I am only able to write this post today because my mother has been my mentor/supporter/crying shoulder from day one of the project.

 Most people say their worst fear is turning into their parents as they go along in life-I’m not one of them. Do I want to be exactly like Mom & Papa? Of course not, however, I hope that I’ve inherited some of my parents best traits, many that they oddly share (I have divorced parents so coming up with commonalities between them is not so obvious at first thought).

 My mother is a true inspiration for me. Sartorially speaking, she goes for a timeless style. She has always privileged less but well-curated pieces and has passed that onto me. She takes her time for any purchase. She won’t ever settle for close enough. If it’s not exactly what she wants, then she won’t buy it, unlike the old me who up until recently would buy compulsively. I have borrowed many pieces of jewelry from her, 10, 20, or even 30 years old that are now staples in my wardrobe. Her approach to shopping was definitely on mind when I came up with the Je Ne Sais Quoi* name.

 In terms of personality, the first words that come to mind when thinking about her are bright, determined, generous and loving.

 By the time she was my age (29 and 8 months-not willing to mention the big 3-0 yet) she’d gone to law school, two years ahead of her peers, become a lawyer, practiced in NYC, met my father, got married, moved to Paris on a whim and taught American Law at the Université in Paris. A total slacker, right?

 When she sets her mind on something, it gets done, no matter what. She pushes forward and doesn’t look back.

 As an entrepreneur, she will work until 1am if a project deadline is coming up and never misses her weekly calligraphy art class – no matter what – including snow. She’s managed to find an equilibrium between her work and social life which to most people is the hardest balance to reach.

 But what I think best represents her is how my brother and I have turned out. Not in a “we’re amazing kind of way”. Rather, there couldn’t be two more different people than the both of us. He’s an officer in the Marine Corps and a licensed pilot. I’m an entrepreneur in the fashion industry, a completely foreign world to him, as is the Marine Corps to me (though I do admire the craftsmanship & beauty of a formal uniform.) Oh, and did I mention my phobia of flying?

The point is, we’ve turned out how we are because we were given the freedom to do so. I do need to give props to my Papa for this one as this falls under the aforementioned commonalities he and my mother share. Though they don’t always agree with our life choices, they let us try, fall on our ass a couple times, learn from it and move on. “Live and let live” is their way of life.

I’m not hoping to be as well-balanced as my mother, spiritually, emotionally and physically but if I can turn out to be half of the person she is, then that wouldn’t be so bad.

*je ne sais quoi: that little something special, a quality that eludes description

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