Thursday, March 25, 2010


I taught a speech class to undergrads when I was a graduate student. One of my students was an adorable 16-year old Swiss kid named Yves. How he managed to land himself in the middle of Midwestern cornfields for university study alludes me. Still, despite his precociousness, the other students looked out for Yves. I had a lot of group work in the class and I was touched when I saw a student, a sporty baseball player who let's face it, probably didn't get into the school based upon his academic merit, beckon Yves into his group, saying, "Yo, Eaves, come on. Join us."

I was reminded of how that baseball player pronounced his name whenever I contemplated choosing the name Yves for my boy. So I went with "Roman" instead, but still maintained a quiet soft spot for the name, owing to fashion designer and legend Yves Saint Laurent. Aka YSL.

Most recently, I had the good fortune of seeing the YSL Retrospective at the
Petit Palais. Friend Gwen came to celebrate her birthday, and my prezzie to her was a pair of tickets to the show. We gloated when we skipped ahead of the 150+ person line with our advanced-sale tickets. In sum, the show was an incredible tour de force, containing over 300 pieces, plus a great collection of jewelry, photography, and video. It was capped with a magnificent display of one his most celebrated creations: the black tuxedo for women, aka Le Smoking. The show included his first from 1966, as well as a three levels of successive rifts on the original. (I should think that HRC (Hillary Rodham Clinton) owes a debt of gratitude to YSL for the woman's power pantsuit.) The blog If It's Hip, It's Here provides a great overview of the show. Here's Gwen in front of the show's banner:

I'm not saying I adore all of his work, some of his least appealing pieces (to me) are his most popular. But you've got to admire the person, the designer, the talent. He was a creative genius who lead the House of Dior when he was only 21, empowered women through his designs, and was the first designer to use black models. He had a loyal following and many celebrated relationships, most notably with another of my girl-crushes, Catherine Deneuve, who first show-cased his work in one of my favorite Frenchie films Belle de Jour. (I once went wrongly overdressed to a pimps and hos party in Brooklyn and when asked what kind of hooker I "was supposed to be," I jokingly and presumptuously answered, "Belle de Jour." He laughed.)

Not for nothing that I encouraged Franck to buy YSL "inspired" glasses when he was due for an upgrade:

Yves Saint Laurent died in 2008 leaving a mega-load of work (and art) behind. His ashes are spread in Marrakesh, a city I just visited for the first time, where he had a second home and would take to for
quinze jours for inspiration. I was laid up in my room at the rhiad with a stomach bug, but travel buddies Gwen and Leigh visited the Jardin de Yves Saint Laurent and his memorial for me and snapped these great photos below.

Photo of Yves Saint Laurent courtesy of Fondation Pierre Bergé

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Sophie Choice

My friend Ruchi sent me an email today asking about Sophie. Ruchi is several months pregnant, lives in India, and is prepping for the birth of her baby. She says that Sophie is the hot item on Amazon and elsewhere, and was asking me if it was "worth it." The answer is a resounding... oui!

Sophie is a giraffe, Sophie
la Girafe, a squeaky, rubbery teether for babies and tots produced by French toy manufacturer Vulli. Indeed, many people are now familiar with Sophie on both sides of the Atlantic, but she has been a staple of the French baby's diet for over 40 years. My sister-in-law Claire gave Sophie to Camille when she was born. I thought it was a sweet gift, but I didn't appreciate it fully until I got the voice-over from Claire explaining how essential Sophie is to any French newborn; de rigueur, you might say.

It's true! The more I looked
à gauche et à droit, the more I saw French infants gnawing on Sophie's leg, chomping on her neck as if auditioning for a cover of National Geographic, or nibbling her ears between drooly jaws. Babies can go to town on Sophie with no risk to their bloodstream because its "all natural rubber" (don't ask) and "handmade in the French Alps." Sophie was designed on May 25, 1961, the day celebrating Saint Sophie (hence the name, talk about auspicious beginnings!) By 2007, over 20 million copies of Sophie have been produced.

Ruchi was right, though. Sophie la Girafe
is a hot item. More than once I've seen it featured on hipster parenting blogs, and there is even a webpage devoted exclusively to it. The difference is that outside of France, it typically retails for over $20.00, presumably cashing in on the ooh-la-la French factor. Here you can find it as cheaply as 5,00€ (less than $7.00 at time of this post).

So, if like Ruchi, you're a friend of mine and you're expecting, you should also be expecting a Sophie la Girafe at your doorstep along with a nifty set of Petit Bateau pajamas (but that's another post).

"Rien comes between me and my Sophie"

Sophie la Girafe photo courtesy of

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's ok if it rains on this parade.

This week I had a delightful visit with friends Virginie and Rajiv, who passed through town with their adorable newborn bébé, Rohan. Virginie, as her name implies, is French (and, um, I suppose it also implies she is a virgin, but I digress). She comes from the North and back in February 2007, she invited us to her hometown Dunkerque to celebrate carnival.

"Dunkirk" is probably most familiar to Anglos for the Battle of Dunkirk and the mass exodus of over 300,000 Allied troops in the successful
Dunkirk Evacuation in 1940 during World War II.

More locally, Dunkerque is also known for its carnival, a 6-week party (elapsed time) consisting of over-the-top parade processions and a series of big balls. The carnival, in one shape or another, goes back hundreds of years, and over time has come to celebrate a beloved big guy, or geant, named Reuze Papa. He is feted by thousands of costumed carnavaleux, revelers like us who carry colored umbrellas, cross-dress, OD on make-up, wear bad hats, boas, wigs, beads, and sing carnival songs. The upshot is the worse the costume the better, and the locals are all over it. Everyone is game.

A highlight of the parade is when parade leaders intentionally stop moving, only to have everyone behind them (and by that I mean thousands) effectively result in a giant pile up, and as David Lee Roth might say, you mine as well jump. And so you do, until the parade gets moving again. This is not for the faint of heart, nor for people who require a lot of body space (which as I've established, the French do not.) The atmosphere is entirely festive and agreeable. Rain or shine.

We loved having an insider's take on this hilarious festival. And Franck's lips sure looked purty in all that rouge à lèvres.

Franck primps with the best of 'em.

Rajiv and Virginie (try to) pose in front of the church where they were married, but not without a little interference.

Gearing up before the parade with a laugh and hike of the skirt. voila les belles couleurs