17 Jul 2011

Hot Summer Cool! (Part 2)

If you have a soft spot for the French nautical theme but cannot afford Jean-Paul Gaultier's trademark stripey designs, then look no further than Little Marcel as the solution to your fashion dilemma. Its winning clothes range is making waves (pardon the pun!) thanks to a geometrical delight of horizontal lines and stripes presented in bold statement colours set against the candour of its calligraphed logo.

'Eden' dress by Little Marcel
The brand is young (6 years' old), quintessentially French, instantly recognisable, and already high on the French beachwear establishment league. Little Marcel describes itself as 'intemporel & ludique' (timeless & playful), and its fresh approach to all things stripey across its womenswear, menswear, kidswear and accessories collections makes it one step ahead of fashion, year on year.

'Rotring' dress by Little Marcel
Ladies, do yourself a favour and don't let the likes of Trinny and Susannah spoil your fashion fun with their fashion rules (horizontal lines are said to make you look fuller in figure), and instead revel in your curves and feminity. Little Marcel's clothing shapes are body-flattering. Its close-to-the-body lycra Summer dresses will reveal the vampish Pamela in you, while the demure flapper styles will exude the Louise Brooks in others, while 1950s pin-up nostalgics will funk up their wardrobe in a twirl!

With every woman bound to find her way with Little Marcel, this is a definite ode to fun, not a diktat to Fashion Week. So there ladies, you are onto a winner with this one! (to be continued)

Accessorise your wardrobe with those 'Pretty' purses

5 Jul 2011

Hot Summer Cool! (Part 1)

Summer's on and it's clammy out there! I don't dare to think what it must feel like to be stuck in the city while pining away for that beach... flaunted to you by means of a desktop wallpaper... Although I have to endure Mediterranean heat, I am privileged enough to enjoy a coastal drive on my way to work, and not have to endure traffic jams, tepid malodourous whiffs from the subway and the alienation of fluorescent office lighting when I reach my destination.

'Niagara' voile tunic by Pain de Sucre
Right this moment there are a few very cool, very neat, brands out there that deserve our undivided attention. They celebrate Summer at its coolest, and although not exactly appropriate for the office, they can at least transfigure us into bathing beauties and playa pin-ups on our way to the airport, without wasting an iota of that precious vacational mood!

La Baguette set out on a mission, and what a mission! To bring you the best in town for that effortless beachwear look. We'll start off with Pain de Sucre, the French glossies darling, where swimwear and bodywear go beyond the call of duty to deliver style that lasts the distance. Just see for yourself. (to be continued)

'Tautira' bikini (with reversible triangle bra top)

3 Jul 2011

June in Bloom

Welcome to La Baguette's latest feature: 'A Month in Bloom', which debuted in our February edition. At the end of each month, this blog will showcase a gallery of floral blossoms of the wild order encountered during that month on random walks around my current base in Northern Corsica.

Fluttering heights: Scabiosa
There's no two ways about it: the heat is on! Predictably Summer has landed before its due date and temperatures have been high, verging on the unbearable (last week of June), consistent with high humidity levels along the shoreline, otherwise typical of August.

The dry climate has had a direct effect on the landscape, with exposed expanses of grassland turning dry and yellow and crackling underfoot like straw. A small number of bush fires were even reported further South down the island.

A buzz in the kitchen: Oregano
Vegetation growth has slowed down, except for climbers (wild Clematis and Ivy) and Bramble that are thriving regardless of temperature highs and water scarcity.

Already blooms and blossoms are less dramatic than back in April or May. Having said that, amongst those more modest and contained flowers, let us mention Scabiosa, Vicia, Bindweed, Thistle, Echium vulgare and Oregano. The second half of June saw the much-anticipated Myrtle stand out in the dense maquis as it came out in splashes of white. Its virginal sprays used to be worn by Corsican brides on their big day. Nowadays myrtle is more likely to find its way down the Corsican spirits route as 'alcool de myrte'.

What a feeling: Ecballium elaterium
In the yellow flower department, we'll note Fennel (Anethum foeniculum L., also referred to as 'Finochjiu' in Corsican), and also the singular Ecballium elaterium. The latter is remarkable as far as its propagating ways are concerned: rampant stems produce a simple flower followed by a (non-edible) gherkin packed-full with seeds that shoots up in the air once ripe... Just make sure you don't stand in the way!

All in all, it looks like the maquis flower show has now reached its pinnacle for the year, but before the botanist's wows and ahhs subside in the background, there will still be one or two surprises in store, sure to delight us in their own special way, amongst which the Helichrysum italicum, so join us next month to find out more!

So fresh: Common Mallow (Malva neglecta)
A familiar sight: Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)
Making a colour splash: Achillea
On the rampage: Rubia peregrina

Little House on the Prairie (Part 2)

My new work assignment allows me to feel blessed by the beauty of the surrounding countryside, the rambling valley encased in lush hillsides, age-old hamlets suspended in time, a nearby brook...

The preservation society's gardens deserve a mention too. Although still looking neglected in places, they are set to enjoy a revival thanks to our new chairman. I too am pushing in that direction: on my visit last year I hadn't been impressed by their state of semi-neglect ('semi' used as a polite word).

The gardens are organic and multi-purpose. Part of the site is dedicated to the preservation of ancient cultivated fruit and vegetables (old varieties of onion, leek, tomato, peach and apple trees), by the means of a seed bank (conservatoire de graines). Besides an on-site greenhouse offers garden members the possibility to purchase tomato, aubergine, courgette, onion, aromatic herbs and capsicum plants. Visitors - especially those unacquainted with country life - discover a working kitchen garden and the orchard. Fruit is collected and used into the popular compôtes, jams and preserves, syrups, sauces, chutneys and the likes that will eventually find their way to the boutique shelves.

Finally the semi-wild garden is also a representation of what the maquis stands for up close and personal, in its full spectrum and informality, from the low grasses to the medium-height cytisus, heather, genista, myrtle, up to the taller grades of the scrub: green oak, cork oak, pine, wild olive trees, etc. The gardens are a taster to botany without the stuffy science bits.

Promenade en Corse parmi ses Fleurs et ses Forêts, by Marcelle Conrad
By its nature, the garden is not supposed to be compared to those formal, regimented, weed-free, stately gardens like Chambord or Versailles, or even to the falsely wild yet incredibly romantic Monet's gardens at Giverny. Here in 'our' garden, wild flowers take pride of place and are encouraged. The difficulty lies in the fact that all too often our gardeners tip-toe on that very fine line that separates wild from neglect. 

While most of our visitors seem genuinely charmed by the rusticity of the gardens, some will understandably express their concern about a certain lack of care, while a small minority will virulently oppose anything that doesn't resemble geranium, begonia, dahlia or petunia... Although it is clear that those individuals got the wrong address in the first place, I am quick to add in their defence that part of the garden preservation society's mission is to endeavour to change perceptions and preconceptions towards plants, weeds, the cultivated vs. the spontaneous, and the concepts of balance, beauty and acceptance.

Organic produce is available to purchase from the boutique
Therefore garden guardians have a long task ahead, yet this is a challenge that I am relishing in. So who's next please?