“A LONDONER IN PARIS”: FRENCH STYLEE



Missed your Stylist magazine as you were rushing to St Pancras International? Fret not. You can now get your hands on a French edition of your favourite, free, cosmopolitan mag on the other side of the ‘Chunnel’. The weekly French publication for the stylish, professional women was launched a few weeks ago in Paris and nine other French cities . A-Gent of Style picked up his new issue on the Métro yesterday.

Happy Friday!

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“A LONDONER IN PARIS”: LILY-WHITE MAY DAY



May 1st is Labour Day in France but it’s also the day of the muguet, or lily of the valley. In Paris last week, there were vendors at every street corner all through the day and people would carry un bouquet to offer it to their loved one, perhaps a lover, a mother, a grandmother. It isn’t unusual to see on that day men wear a few stems of muguet in their lapel (A-Gent of Style obliged) and women don the delicate flower in their hair. Delightful! There’s a lot to be said about tradition.

As the story goes, on the first of May 1561, King Charles IX of France, who was ten at the time, was presented with a fragrant bunch of muguet, the delicate green sprigs capped with tiny white bells that we know as lily of the valley. It was a gesture which so touched the king, he continued the tradition by giving the sweet-smelling blossoms to the ladies of his court each year on the same day.

Lily of the valley has come to represent happiness, luck, rebirth and prosperity and the traditional Fête du Muguet continues in France today, almost five hundreds years later. Every year without fail on May 1, my extended family and I, as a child, would go to the woods and after the picnic we would take a preprandial stroll and pick as much lily of the valley as possible. Its scent is firmly rooted in my consciousness now and is highly evocative.

The scent of these ephemeral flowers, in bloom just a couple of weeks each year, has bewitched perfumers for centuries as it is impossible to distil (Did you also know that the flowers only grow on one side of the stem?), and its subtle perfume is recomposed in the secrecy of laboratories.

Lily of the valley has been represented throughout the centuries not only in perfume (Caron was one of the first to ‘bottle’ the scent; Dior’s lily of the valley-scented perfume Diorissimo is one of their best sellers to date) but also in fashion (Christian Dior adored the flower so much he based and named several of his collections ‘Muguet en mai’; Hubert de Givenchy too created a few gowns called ‘Les Muguets’; Helen Mirren has donned lately a Dolce & Gabbana lily of the valley-print dress, on three different public appearances), in luxury goods (Lalique crystal vases, Van Cleef and Arpels jewellery for instance), at weddings (from Grace Kelly to the Duchess of Cambridge) and in candles, room sprays, soaps even teas and macaroons to name a few.

 

IN SEARCH OF LOST GERANIUMS





Whilst they might symbolise hopes and dreams for Mayella Ewell in Lee Harper’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Pelargoniums, or geraniums as as they are more commonly known, still evoke, to A-Gent of Style, memories of a carefree childhood days in France where in the summertime his mother, Madeleine, used to (and still does to this day) pot those vermilion-red or fuschia-pink scalloped flowers to adorn her window sills and inject a splash of colour to the family house. A-Gent still vividly remember going every June with his maman on their ritualistic visit to the village greenhouse to choose the best flowers. As you walked in, it was as if you’d been attacked by the effusion of heady smells emitted by the plethora of flower species, which as left an indelible and delectable memory to this day. Madame Bana, as she was known for being the respectable wife of the village headmaster, would eventually reveal with pride (understand ‘show off’ here) a few weeks later to the world and its neighboury, envious desperate housewives, her floral arrangements which won her on a few occasions the village’s much sought-after top prize for the  ‘Maison fleurie’ competition.

 

A-Gent’s of Style childhood home in Picardie still manicured by maman & papa



Today, geraniums’ pure, delicate, uplifting and distinctive fragrance can be found in an abundance of delightful products.

Proust had his madeleines. A-Gent has his geraniums…
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