Report from Paris
7 Easy-to-copy beauty and style trends
-Lois Joy Johnson
For what seems like forever (well, at least back to the ’30s, when Coco Chanel bopped onto the retail radar), French women have possessed a mysterious, elusive sense of style. Just back from two weeks in Paris, I assure you that they still have it and have dismissed with a very chic shrug our obsession with Botox, lip plumpers, the perfect blowout and status labels. People looked at me like I was crazy when I asked about green or organic skin care and mineral makeup, but cellulite solutions are huge sellers in every corner pharmacy and (sad but true) street vendors were hawking body shapers along with the I Love Paris T-shirts.
I hung out plenty at pivotal people-watching hot spots like Café de Flore, Les Deux Magots and Brasserie Lipp, and I took the Metro all over town.
I stalked Galeries Lafayette, the glossy Rue St. Honore and St. Germain des Pres boutiques and spent evenings at cool restaurants and bars, trying to decode their style. What I noticed first was that there wasn’t a self-tanned face, a ponytail or a perfect manicure in sight, and there was no constant cell-phone yakking on the streets.
Here are my top seven Parisian beauty and fashion trends for 2009, straight from the cobblestones and courtyards. And the funny thing is it’s all so easy to copy, with very little effort and cash:
1. Rich, sultry brunette haircolor is the most-wanted shade. I was one of the very few blondes around town. Maybe it’s time we all cut back on high-maintenance highlights, after all – brown, one-color hair was looking damn good again.
2. Very long, uncontrived, slightly mussed hair was everywhere.
It was very casually done and sexy in an understated way. Someone may have waved a blow-dryer over it for a few minutes, but there was no coiffing. No one’s hair was flat-ironed to within an inch of its life or neatly pulled back in a ponytail. Hair looked thick, healthy and glossy, possibly due to low-key heat styling, but maybe it’s all that fat in the foie gras and cheese!
3. Makeup was major in every arrondissement. Every woman wore loads of dark eye makeup. It gave everyone from students to young moms and mature Deneuve types huge Dora the Explorer eyes that reminded me of the Egyptian mummies in the Sully wing at the Louvre. Here’s how those French girls do it: Line your eyes first with a waterproof black pencil like Lancome Le Stylo Waterproof in Noir ($23) for a stay-there shape, and then trace over it with a black powder shadow/liner like Chanel Professional Eyeliner Duo in Noir-Lame ($45) to intensify the look. Do the inner eye, too, to bump up the smoky effect, with a soft kohl pencil like Laura Mercier Kohl Eye Pencil ($19) or L’Oreal Le Kohl Eyeliner ($7.95).
4. A distinctive unidentifiable fragrance was the biggest signature accessory. I constantly stopped women in cafes and stores to ask what scent they were wearing and jotted the names down on napkins and Metro tickets. The French don’t go for all those light, diluted smells, ordinary fruity florals or girly perfumes so prevalent here. Topping the list were scents by Frederic Malle, Diptyque and Serge Lutens. Here were some of the most frequently mentioned: Frederic Malle Editions de Parfum Vetiver Extraordinaire (a tangerine, cedar, leathery vetiver blend), Diptyque L’ Eau des Hesperides (think oranges, lemons, rosemary, mint and cedar), Serge Lutens Gris Clair (lavender, amber, smoky and incense-like) and Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant Eau de Parfum (frankincense, peppery woodsy scent).
Good news: You can get them with a little effort online.
5. A fabulous, long, thick cashmere scarf to wear French-style made even ordinary coats look chic. Make sure you fold it in half, hold the middle of the doubled-up scarf at back of your neck, and then slide the ends through the loop before you adjust the fit. If you attempt to wrap it like a muffler, forget it – you’ll never get a good table! In basic black or startling colors like violet or orange (even for men), they gave everyone the look of a Euro-star. And the French never take them off indoors, so the scarf matters more than your clothes!
6. The uniform from Montparnasse to the fashionable Ile St. Louis was: tall, flat boots in black or brown over skinny jeans with layers of gray, black or beige sweaters. This was the daily dress code everywhere, and unlike fashionistas in NYC, French women said they couldn’t care less about high heels, platforms or little floaty tops and sleeveless dresses. No drama – just good taste and a kind of smart but hip sensibility.
7. Bags with no name are what everyone wants. The It bag is over, and the French seem to sling on designerless, buttery leather hobos and messenger bags with the same attitude they have toward hair. It’s no big deal, and in fact is kind of a reverse chic. The leather is always of good quality, and the bags are a medium size. There is no hauling around of huge, suitcase-size handbags or doubling up of bags, so their arms are always free. I can’t wait to go back in May!