10 Aug 2017

Fresh, Crisp and Leafy

Mirabelle never imagined for one second that placemat and napkin sets would catch her eye, catch her all wobbly, get her excited and get an article in the process with adjectives like fresh and crisp and leafy... When was the last time such adjectives were used in unison for those little accents of table linen?

Maybe placemats leave you indifferent too... until now! Because you and I hadn't yet crossed paths with the French luxury linen company D. Porthault, that's why!

Need a little convincing? Surely not as I can see you gaze admiratively at the exquisite artistic sets below... And since you're asking, Tempête Tropicale is my favourite. How about yours?

Tempête Tropicale
Anagramme Lilac
Mariage
Papyrus
Lilas Blue
Feuilles d'Olivier Soft Green

6 Aug 2017

Corsican Brands That Sparkle - Orezza

There are so many different ways to approach Corsica and describe its fiercely proud spirit, and advertising is one of them. Here are a couple of long-established Corsican brands that set the tone in terms of strong brand identity and notable advertising features.

Both the brands I selected just so happen to be drink-related (one is mineral water, the other a range of alcoholic beverages). It could be that when faced with the unforgiving Summer heat that blesses and curses the Mediterranean island in equal measures, one may get an appreciation as to why thirst quenching is on the mind... followed by a well-deserved apéritif.

But first let's quench our thirst!


Eau d'Orezza:

Bibliothèque Nationale de France

With its 161-year history, Orezza distinguishes itself as the Corsican mineral water par excellence. The longevity stake alone makes it well ahead of the competition, island-wide. And wait for it... In Roman times, the iron-rich sparkling water was already praised for its therapeutic virtues.

In the mid-19th century, the medical profession recognised that the iron-rich water was beneficial for treating anemia, liver and kidney ailments and paludism. A spa establishment was set up in-situ where visitors could take the waters.

Despite competition by cheaper local brands, Orezza remains a staple on Corsican restaurant tables. It is also associated with a number of high-profile Riviera-based sports events. All in all, it remains a success story despite a three-year hiatus in the mid-1990s when the company fizzled out. It was saved from drowning and is now positioned strongly on the market. You could almost say that Orezza is the Corsican San Pellegrino in its own right, and this includes its reversal of fortune.

Napoléon Tête Couronnée, oil on wood by Jacques-Louis David

Orezza water is still being sold in glass bottles to satisfy the purist and the well-heeled but is also available in plastic bottles of different handy formats. Sign of the times, you can buy the water naturelle or with a refreshing hint of mint, grapefruit or citron.

I am unable to date the eagle advert for sure yet from the lettering and art direction I estimate it to be c.1890. The heraldic spread eagle symbolises strength, perspicacity, fearlessness, heritage and immortality. In the Orezza context, one may be tempted to hastily associate it with Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte, Corsica's most illustrious offspring, but such a connection would actually be far-fetched. Besides the eagle representation here is that of a dishevelled bird, whereas Napoléon's was stockier and more polished in looks, not to mention the fact that the crown resting atop the eagle as part of the crest is not the imperial laurel wreath (see above).

Orezza advertising, 2000s

Bear in mind that the classic eagle symbology was resurrected from the Roman empire days by Napoléon. The eagle is popular symbology in heraldry; it is depicted on a variety of royal houses coats of arms and nation flags across the world and as a famous British bank emblem.

These days, Orezza's poster and magazine advertising is of a less solemn and ominous nature than the spread eagle composition. Oh, I love the cheerful vibe that captures what Orezza is really about! Bright, blue, Summery, upbeat and sparkling, featuring a lady who bears an uncanny resemblance to Corsica's modern day muse, Laetitia Casta... I must admit that I only managed to source a poor quality advertising image online, which does no justice to the actual rendering on a glossy upmarket magazine where it belongs, even after a few tweaks. Note to self: fish out my mum's old copies of Kalliste to seek out the full-page advert, scan it and upload it to this post.

Laetitia Casta and friend, photography by Walter Pfeiffer for Vogue Paris, October 2012

Orezza is proving to us that you can be over 160 years old and still be relevant, albeit amongst a bunch of millennials who were likely not brought up on the brand, and be the ubiquitous soft drink on the rallye and party circuit. Cheers to that!

Before you squeeze that slice of lemonn into your glass, make sure to catch Part 2 of our article!

30 Jul 2017

Basket Case

Wicker, Seagrass, Sweet Grass, Bamboo, Sisal, Rattan, Raffia, Jute, Palm, Cork & Co. - any fibre and material that is golden blonde and organic lends itself beautifully to Summer, bringing a sunny coastal note while mellowing a home or dress code. Without further ado, check out Mirabelle's capsule selection for self and the home!

Pandora Gold Metallic Flecked Cork Covered Wedges by Jimmy Choo
Swarovski Crystal Embroidered Satin Adriana Espadrilles, by Oscar de la Renta
Large Natural Heart Raffia Zip Pouch in Lilac, by Aerin Lauder
Pom Pom Beach Bag in Ocean, by Mar Y Sol, via The Little Market
Coastal Inspiration by Maisons du Monde
White Island Tendances Déco, via Maisons du Monde
Mandala Woven Bamboo Box, via Maisons du Monde
Light Taupe Dancer Trivet, by All Across Africa
Oscar de la Renta Home Collection (pict source)
Coastal Inspiration by Maisons du Monde
Small Hope Bowl and other baskets by All Across Africa, via The Little Market
Sampano Storage Basket (detail), via Urbanara
Tiny Whimsical Basket in Gold, by All Across Africa, via The Little Market
Reina Peacock Chair, via Anthropologie

10 Jul 2017

Melania Trumps Fashion

Ladies and gents, when was the last time we took such an interest in a First Lady's attire? Jackie Kennedy set a fashion precedent back in her day for sure but her successors did not follow suit, either by choice or disregard to becoming a style ambassador. Fashion became irrelevant, it faded into backgrounds of tame wallflowers and obligatory tea parties, sugared out and watered down in a self-imposed protocole of blandness and drabness, epitomised by a middle-aged dress attitude and safe colours of creams, magnolias and other sickly pastels worn conservatively in designs unchanged and unchallenged, the sort that typifies English royalty of a certain age.

Dress by Hervé Pierre and coat by Bottega Veneta, Hamburg City Hall, Germany

I mean, who could have gushed over Barbara Bush's granny-like attire, or even Nancy Reagan's, one blue rinse and two carat diamonds up from your grandma's Sunday best. I will not even talk about Laura Bush because we are then in garden society board meeting territory. And I doubt Michelle Obama ever transited from her office job to FLOTUS in all honesty.

Scuba-knit découpage dress by Delpozo, Copernicus Science Center, Warsaw, Poland

Now a soft revolution is taking place in the closets. Melania is a fashion ambassador that fashion designer dreams are made of. Apart from the likes of Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford and Zac Posen who adamantly chose to shun her at their peril. Beware because wherever Melania goes, the garments she wore that day sell out like hot cakes! A boon for designers like Dolce & Gabbana who are making sure the world knows how proud they are to dress the First Lady who to them personifies the #DGWoman par excellence!

Dolce & Gabbana floral coat, G7 First Ladies visit, Catania, Italy

Aside from certain high-ticket accessories (her ethical fashion faux-pas Hermès crocodile-skin Birkin handbag and her $51,500 D&G floral coat), Melania's dress attire generally does not exceed the $2,100-$3,000 bracket, a snip by billionaire standards - and only a little extravagant by middle-class standards: either mummy gets her designer dress or the family takes a two-week vacation in the sun.

FL Melania in a $51,500 Dolce & Gabbana coat. The price tag will trigger liberals, but -- too bad! The Trump family epitomizes the American Dream.” - TrumpAdmin.daily.updates

Scuba-knit découpage dress by Delpozo, Warsaw, Poland

Talking of crocodile skin, every Melania fan who supports her style but refuses to compromise on their animal advocacy values at the same time, dreams that Melania will one day soon enough add another feather of compassion in her cap by wearing fur and animal skin no more. Well, fret not because Pamela Anderson took up the challenge earlier this year by sending Melania a fur-free coat from ethical faux-fur Russian company Only Me that did not go unnoticed. Melania pledged to ditch the fur, while this could be the start of a beautiful friendship for those two ladies, you never know!

“Amid all the mania at the inauguration, you looked stunning in an outfit by Ralph Lauren—one of many fur-free designers.  I am so happy that you chose not to wear fur! As first lady, you will help set style trends, and by remaining compassionate with your choices, you will warm the hearts of many.” - Pamela Anderson in a letter to Melania Trump

We never expected a lady like Melania to fade away in a background of magnolia wallflowers. She has the demure elegance, the grace, the poise, the features, the shape, the beauty all rolled into divine proportions to carry off much more than her predecessors' safe shades and patterns. She knows how to hold herself, carry herself and project a statement of sensibility and confidence. So far as the FLOTUS, she has worn items by couture houses as diverse as Ralph Lauren (on inauguration day) and Hervé Pierre (on inauguration night), Dolce & Gabbana, Emilio Pucci, Delpozo, Diane Von Furstenberg, Michael Kors, Bottega Veneta, and high-heel footwear maestros Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin. Rest assured that the list will have reached stellar heights by the end of the Trump presidency.

Floral-print crêpe gown by Emilio Pucci, The White House, Washington DC

On an interview last year with Harper's Bazaar, Melania was asked which First Lady she admired most and found most inspirational in terms of style and was prompted with the names of Jackie and Nancy. She brushed those away in a snip and replied emphatically that her fellow fashion model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (former French First Lady) was her inspiration. What a statement! Why fade away between the teapot and the Bourbon biscuit when you can carry on being what you were made famous for: an attractive, confident, head-turning fashion icon!

First Lady Melania Trump, wearing a Dolce & Gabbana outfit, official White House portrait

Yet Melania goes beyond the superficiality of fashion. She carefully chooses her dresses to bring a message, like her Delpozo scuba-knit dress she wore on her visit to Poland and whose pop art colours carry a strong nationalistic message (they reflect the colours worn by the Polish military). Prior to her husband being elected, she also wore a vibrant pink Gucci pussy-bow blouse at the second presidential TV debates, following her husband's notorious 'Grab them by the pussy' line. If this was not her tongue-in-cheek way of diffusing a hyped-up situation, I wonder what was.

Gucci pussy-bow blouse, second presidential TV debates (October 2016)

Melania is proving that a former fashion model is not a clothes horse. She has come a long way since inauguration day where her reserve, nervousness and slight reticence at times were palpable, especially under the magnified anti-Trump media scrutiny. Melania is blossoming out right before our very eyes as a First Lady who has managed to incorporate her love of fashion into her political agenda. She is a Trump powerhouse all to herself and will be remembered in her own right by bringing more than just fashion personality (back) into the political arena.

Sharp and crisp on her way to Bedminster NJ! 

We can thank Melania for the fact that she is putting feminity back into both the fashion and political agendas. She makes a woman proud to be a woman once again. She shows us that you can be in your mid-forties and still be and look relevant, dapper and (so be said) a smouldering sex bomb. And with that, Melania slaps feminism in the face: no you shouldn't be sloppy in looks and attitudes in order to prove yourself to the world. Feminity is to be celebrated and embraced, not diminished and ridiculed!

She's a woman, a mother, a wife and a lady too! (pict source)

You watch my words: by empowering women through their reaffirmed graceful feminity and the values she stands for, Melania will come to be remembered as the best FLOTUS ever. The irony of it all is that she wasn't even born in the US and yet she incarnates American values more than her predecessors, some of whom harboured a strong anti-American stance (anti-prosperity, anti-ambition). Overall Melania is proving that being of foreign origin and having an accent should not prevent you from rising to the top - with grace. When it comes to the improbable marriage of politics and fashion, you seek a complimentarity of style between the two and Melania struck the balance effortlessly.  

I might not be American and not approve each and every one of her fashion choices but Melania sure is my First Lady.

@pamfoundation

More of Melania on Instagram: @trumpadmin.daily.updates ° @flotus ° @theofficialmelaniatrump ° @realdonaldtrump ° @stefanogabbana °

21 Jun 2017

Stones That Rock Your Heart

There is something so satisfiying about old jewellery: it has a story to tell. It is then up to us as to whether we want that story to be part of our lives and at the same time to give it a new lease of life with the history we are set to write. As Roby and I were getting engaged, I was adamant my engagement ring would not be brand new, and that it would serendipitously cross our paths, show up to us without us looking for it. Vintage was my only prerogative and I was trusting the fact that items of a certain age come with underlying design quality and originality.

A ring named desire...

Roby and I were in Paris, and we had already come across a couple of jewellery shops but none had any vintage pieces. Then one day we walked into a posh antiques shop a breath away from Ile de la Cité and the lady there referred us to a friend of hers with an aristocratic name who sells vintage pieces. But then again I just wasn't feeling it, so we didn't pursue it.

... bearing a sapphire with deep mysterious blues that will never dull its shine!

The following day, as we were running some errands down the Boulevard de Magenta, I screeched to a halt outside an unassuming small boutique that looked like it had been stood there for decades but probably had seen better days way back. A quick casual browse through the shop-window and there it was: the ring that was to become mine!

I liked the fact the Marquise ring was white gold, and that its centre stone, a sapphire, was a moody blue: it was cloudy and had a lot of hues going on underneath the surface. Its ultramarine hues reminded me of the sky reflected in a choppy sea: a troubled, intriguing stone you can just lose yourself into! This has to be one of those sought-after, one-of-a-kind, Color-Change Sapphires.

Edwardian Antique Aquamarine Rose Diamond Ring, via Romanov Russia

The jeweller did not have much information on the ring, except that he played the old snake oil salesman trick of: "if it's not sold this week, I will have it sent out to a colleague in London for him to sell it for me." He was unable to provide a definite manufacture date, yet acquiesced when I ventured 1930s/ 1940s. I am no expert though and on closer inspection and with a little further research under my belt, I was enclined to believe the ring to be actually older, as in Edwardian (see above). But then I came across a Marquise Ring from c.1940 and it bears a close ressemblance to my own. Judge for yourself:

Marquise-Shaped Emerald Ring, c.1940, via Isadoras Antique Jewelry

If diamonds are a girl's best friends, sapphires have to her best assets! Find out more about sapphires: The Natural Sapphire Company teaches us about natural, unadulterated sapphires and The Knot tells us more about sapphire engagement rings.

Lady Di's Ceylon sapphire and diamond engagement cluster ring by House of Garrard (pict source)

Sources: (1-2) Sapphire Marquise-Shaped Ring, c.1930s, mounted on a white gold band (brand new), and purchased from a small jeweller's on the Boulevard de Magenta, Paris, France. Photography by Mirabelle Design Inspiration. (3) Edwardian Antique Aquamarine Rose Diamond Ring, via Romanov Russia. (4) Marquise-Shaped Emerald Ring, c.1940, via Isadoras Antique Jewelry.
_________

This article was last updated on 07-Aug-2017.

26 May 2017

Frills and Thrills

In her day job, New York Times fashion writer Charlotte di Carcaci ravishes her readers with fashion that goes beyond skindeep - with a researched historical bias. In her leisure, she ravishes her Instagram followers with a delightful riot of frills and thrills of the painted portraiture kind, captured in cropped detail.

'Portrait of Lady Hillingdon', oil on canvas by Sir Frank Dicksee (1905)

Plunging necklines sparkling with bevelled jewels, captivating bosoms hemmed in intricate lacey patterns, fine and delicate shoulders draped in shimmering brocade, virginal waists corseted in acreages of soft ribbon, puffed up sleeves made out of silk, powdered-up diaphanous skin and cascading curled-up locks as canvasses to seamstresses, gold-threaded embroidery turned to an art form, shimmering vaporous fabrics floating about like peony blossoms... And all artistically immortalised by talented painters.

Uncredited
'L'Innocence', by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (circa 1893)

All in all, this is a tale of aristocracy and fine living, old European money that watches its Ps and Qs... on canvas. It almost makes us yearn for the good old days until we remember the privileged lifestyle was essentially out of reach for those outside the tight circles. Unfortunately the portraits are left uncredited by the curator for the most part but we guess that Madame de Pompadour, Pauline Borghese and portraits by Jean-Honoré Fragonard might hide in some of them.

Uncredited (timewise the empire dress hints at early 1800s)
'Young Lady with a Small Dog', by Vittorio Matteo Corcos (circa 1895)

In any case, the carefully-curated catwalk is of a high calibre and depicts how fashion in those days was at least as extravagant and opulent as it can be today. It is also a playful, instructive, delicious and visual-pleasing way of (re-)acquainting oneself with museum treasures of bygone times, all in the noble name of art and fashion. An ode to elegance, to feminity, that is a delight for the eyes!

Uncredited
Uncredited

Sources: (1-8) Charlotte di Carcaci Instagram. If you are able to credit any of the above (uncredited) portraits, please do so in the comments, this would  be so appreciated! (9) 'The Souvenir' by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, via The Athenaeum.

'Queen Charlotte', oil on canvas by Thomas Gainsborough (circa 1781)

Mirabelle's suggestions - we'll leave the image cropping to Charlotte:

'The Souvenir', oil on canvas by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1776-1778)
'Ianthe', oil on canvas by John William Godward (1889)

18 May 2017

Investment Pieces for the Home

I have finally been able to make some space in my place! Thus last week, the storage company brought all my belongings (furniture, kitchenware, electricals, books, tools, clothes and shoes) that had been locked away in storage for over seven years (you read this right, 7 years!) after I moved from the UK to Corsica. At that point, it was a matter for me of rediscovering what was hidden in those boxes because I could not exactly remember what I owned... Talk about the little girl in the treasure trove moment! Yet this made me realise how important it is to keep belongings to a minimum and focus on quality rather than the flat-pack self-assembly combo that is no statement for durability, especially after just one house move.

Flora Pendants by Rothschild & Bickers

Nip clutter in the bud and don't let it build up and control you. In my case, I have never been keen on ornaments but was still surprised to find out I still own way too many of those; they end up being begrudgingly cumbersome as space occupiers and dust collectors - not a good prospect when you live in an already-cluttered house and in the path of the dusty, desert-borne sirocco winds!

A cluster of Flora Pendants in Jade at Motel One München-Sendlinger Tor

I decided years ago that life is too short to be cumbersome and too precious to be cheap. Sometimes you need to carefully splurge on a select few investment pieces that will accompany you down the journey of life and beyond, passed down to the next generation. Quality pieces that do not necessarily shout out hefty price tag, antique heirlooms and vintage memorabilia but that spell out design, elegance, timelessness per se, and a certain uniqueness, in that 'upper' high street parable.

Twinkle, twinkle little light...

First for the cheerful and edible stuff (7 years later, I betcha!), I have happily found a box of designer coffee, upmarket English tea, and fancy sugar cubes neatly packed up. Those will come in handy, and needless to say sprinkle tea-time with a generous spoonful of English nostalgia.

Standing Pendants by Rothschild & Bickers

I'm still not done with my treasure finds, yet I have unwrapped some of what I consider my investment pieces (two of which were cheap as in even a cash-stranded student could afford those!):
  • a Mexican bedframe in repurposed vintage pine and custom-painted (bought from John Lewis before the retail store started losing its edge to the mainstream)
  • a pair of reproduction cast-iron book-ends (cast in original Victorian moulds, and purchased in Ironbridge, Shropshire, a good 20 years ago)
  • a French rococo gilded crystal chandelier, circa 1910 (a bit of a fancy purchase in relation to my budget at the time, from a specialist antiques shop on the Hale end of Altrincham, Cheshire) - yeah the posh end of town...
  • an original copy of Salome by Oscar Wilde, which I randomly came across in some charity shop in Didsbury Village, Manchester (cost me a fiver and at the time was already worth at least £80).

Steel Standing Pendants

Not all my finds were happy finds. I cringed at some of the clothing I had forgotten about (which will be heading the charity shop way soon enough!). I despaired about knick-knacks (presents from friends and family), books (Marketing for Dummies and Photoshop for Beginners type of books that shall not grace any shelves and thus remain tightly packed in boxes until disposed of via eBay).

Opulent Optic Pendants

Source: If you are seeking bespoke investment pieces rooted in European manufacturing, traditional handblown glass craftsmanship, and period-inspired pieces revisited through a resolutely clean and modern twist, Rothschild & Bickers is your port of call. The small English company has made it its speciality to turn the mod-con of lighting into an object of desire that will sit at home in antiques-furnished abodes, stately homes, modern environments... and retail outlets alike. Rothschild & Bickers lights will stand the test of time and fads and still spell out a statement steeped in history with a forward-thinking standpoint. No shadow of a doubt about this. My favourite pieces include the (1) Flora Pendants range, retailing at £370 (small) and £440 (large), and (4) the Standing Pendants range, retailing at £520. (2-3) The Flora range blossoms at Motel One München-Sendlinger Tor, Munich, Germany. (5) Bespoke Steel Standing Pendants, photography via Rothschild & Bickers' Instagram account. (6) The Opulent Optic range retails at £370. (7) The Vintage Light (see below picture, to the right) is a styled reinvention of the fringed mid-century affair found in your nan's sitting room and the jumble shop down the road... Attention please! No tired mustard velvet and no dusty chintz here: colours are sharp, the glass dome may be wiped clean with a damp sponge, and the light comes with a wispy fringe of your choice! Make mine the Satinwood Gold. The Vintage Light retails at £440. (8) Talk about customising that investment piece: over 90 flex types available! Photography via Rothschild & Bickers' Instagram account.

A fringe to frame that face
Flexes of your choosing

Investment Pieces for the Home is to become a regular Mirabelle feature. We'll review objects of desire that are set to last the distance and become heirloom pieces in their own right. God forbid, those items you might even profit from, should times get dire and your household require an instant cash injection. Further inspiration from Mirabelle's Pinterest board, Interior Design Delight.