Travel & Shopping: 40 posts

Articles on travel, perfume shops, boutiques, and city guides to perfume shopping

Killer Heels : Fashion, Obsession, Beauty

In his 1701 portrait, Louis XIV of France wears red-heeled shoes.  While it seems like a minor detail, especially given the opulence of the king’s robes, the poppy red shade sends an instant message–status. Louis XIV even passed an edict limiting red heels to the wardrobes of nobility. Today, red soles are the trademark of Christian Louboutin, whose stiletto pumps cost upwards of $700. Not much has changed since the 18th century with regards to red heels and their mesmerizing effect.

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The themes of status, fetish and fashion are explored in an exhibit “Killer Heels” hosted by Brooklyn Museum. “As fashion statement, fetish object, instrument of power, and outlet of artistic expression for both the designer and the wearer, throughout the ages the high-heeled shoe has gone through many shifts in style and symbolism. Deadly sharp stilettos, architecturally inspired wedges and platforms, and a number of artfully crafted shoes that defy categorization are featured among the more than 160 historical and contemporary heels on loan from designers,” explains the catalog.

The exhibit includes work of renowned designers such as Christian Louboutin, Alexander McQueen, André Perugia, Prada, Elsa Schiaparelli, Noritaka Tatehana, Vivienne Westwood, among many others. It also traces mentions and depictions of heels in paintings and sculptures, some of which date as far back as the 12th century.

Even if you can’t make it to the exhibit, please take a look at the video on the Brooklyn Museum site.

Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe
Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238
Robert E. Blum Gallery, 1st Floor
September 10, 2014–February 15, 2015

Image: Louis XIV of France by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701 (a detail).

An Evening of Bounty

If you’ve ever sung or listened to “Carol of the Bells”, you’ve indirectly partaken in one of the oldest Ukrainian traditions of shchedrivky. The old style New Year’s Eve on January 13th is called Shchedriy Vechir, which means Bountiful or Generous Evening, and part of the celebration includes young women and men visiting their neighbors and singing shchedrivky, couplets wishing good fortune, health and much of bounty in the new year. The most famous song associated with Shchedriy Vechir is “Schedryk” (Щедрик), which was arranged by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1916 and later adapted by Peter Wilhousky as an English Christmas carol, “Carol of the Bells”.

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Old traditions are closely intertwined with the customs. Shchedriy Vechir also has the alternative name of Malanka in honor of Saint Melania the Younger whose feast is celebrated on the same day. But the old, pre-Christian customs color the festivities.

Different from carols, which are performed starting on Christmas Eve on January 6th and until the Epiphany on January 19th (the Ukrainian Orthodox calendar still follows the one established by Julius Cesar), shchedrivky focuses on the bounty of nature. The original Ukrainian lyrics for “Carol of the Bells,” for instance, tell the story of a swallow visiting a household and describing all of the rich gifts the family is to see in the spring.

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Place Vendôme Haute Parfumerie : Cult Shop

My article about Place Vendôme Haute Parfumerie is going to appear in The Financial Times Magazine, May 3rd June 7th issue. The store is a unique perfume destination featuring exclusive fragrances, skincare and candles. Place Vendôme makes its home in Wevelgem, a small Belgian town that feels a world apart from the rarefied glamour one typically associates with perfume. Nevertheless, the boutique has managed to earn cult shop status, and its selection is impressive as is its customer service.

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“Gold on the inside,” says David Depuydt, owner of Place Vendôme Haute Parfumerie, describing Chanel No 5. The flacon is austere, but it contains a mélange of the most precious essences available to perfumers. Depuydt’s comment applies equally to his store. Although you would hardly suspect it based on the plain façade and modest location, the boutique is a unique luxury beauty destination.” Read the rest here.

The new magazine issue will be available at newsstands this weekend. To read the online version, please click here.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin.

Bluebell Forest of The Hallerbos

In Japan, there is a practice of shinrin-yoku or forest-bathing, which is a leisurely walk in the forest to reduce stress and improve one’s well-being. It’s like aromatherapy, but instead of inhaling a blended oil, you inhale the natural scents of the forest. But what if you forest-bathed surrounded by millions of bluebells? It’s something that you can experience every spring as the wild hyacinth bluebells turn the Hallerbos, a forest in the municipality of Halle, 30 minutes south of Brussels, into a blue colored, intensely perfumed fantasy.

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Bluebells have a delicate scent of green leaves, cloves and lemony roses, but when all of the flowers burst into bloom, the fragrance in the air is rich and heady. Imagine the fragrance of hyacinths at your local florist, dilute it with green tea and rainwater, add a dash of autumnal leaves, and you have the perfume of the Bluebell Forest.

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The Barcelona Perfume Museum (Museu del Perfum)

Whether you’re interested in art, food, fashion or perfume, Barcelona has plenty to offer. The capital of Catalonia, an autonomous community of Spain, it stretches along the Mediterranean Sea and looks towards The Pyrenees. It’s a major cultural hub in Europe, and you can spend an entire vacation simply exploring all of Barcelona’s treasures. While numerous guidebooks will help you build an activity packed itinerary without much effort, I want to highlight a little gem that’s all too easy to miss–the Barcelona Perfume Museum, or Museu del Perfum in Catalan.

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The museum was born in the 1960s, when Perfumería Regia, founded in 1928 by Don Josep Giralt, made its home on Passeig de Gràcia, one of the most glittering avenues in Barcelona. This is where you can find the masterpieces of Antoni Gaudí like Casa Batlló and Casa Milà “La Pedrera” and the delicate mosaics of Casa Lleó Morera by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Museu del Perfum is more modest by contrast, but its central location and unusual collection of more than five thousand perfume related artifacts makes it a worthwhile stop for a perfume lover.

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