Soft and Sweet

Soft and Sweet

Lacoste has launched its first boutique exclusively for women in the upscale Passy Plaza in Paris’s tony 16th arrondissement. The gleaming contemporary shop opened just in time to show off the Spring/Summer 2012 collection by Lacoste’s new creative director, Felipe Oliveira Baptista. The 36-year-old wunderkind follows in the footsteps of the brilliant Christophe Lemaire, who spent nearly ten years with Lacoste, putting the sportswear label on the fashion map—and sending sales skyrocketing—before being tapped by Hermès in 2010. Lemaire’s vision for the brand blurred the line between sportswear and chic, gearing it toward a “younger, more fashion-forward audience”, expressed in a series of ads that showed leaping models wearing the crocodile shirt in unexpected ways. Baptista’s acclaimed first collection takes Lemaire’s tactics to new heights, combining plenty of sex appeal in the form of deeply slit long skirts and filmy tops, with the classic lines and fine tailoring that has long defined Lacoste. This season, Baptista’s fashion-wise collection includes luxury fabrics like silk and leather, but there’s still plenty of sporty fun: the latest version of the classic cotton piqué tennis shirt colors the iconic crocodile in the flags of 16 different nations, just in time for the Olympics.

53 rue de Passy, 16th,

Sugar and spice

The gourmand who steered me to La Chambre aux Confitures could barely find superlatives enough to describe it, and he is clearly not alone. In the scant nine months since the beautifully named Lise Bienaimé opened La Chambre aux Confitures, an ecstatic crowd has adopted the place as a prized pantry. Following a lifelong passion, Bienaimé left her job in the beauty industry to devote herself full-time to creating the kind of preserves that an epicure grandma might have made. Jams are divided according to season: “winter citrus” includes four types of orange marmalade, with a delectable variation lightly perfumed with fleur d’oranger. Summer fruit flavors include raspberry and rose, red or black cherry, delicate gariguette strawberry, hazelnut and melon, mirabelle plum and five kinds of apricot, including a lavender-infused version. The fruit content in everything is very high, with only enough sugar to preserve freshness. For Americans, Bienaimé’s eight confits designed as condiments for a gourmet cheese plate, and other savory specialties specifically for foie gras, may come as a revelation: shallot or onion with cassis (black currant liqueur) or morel mushrooms. No worries about making a mistake: everything in the store can be sampled.

9 rue des Martyrs, 9th,

Beautiful bonbons

Every surface in Le Bonbon au Palais is covered with rainbow-hued candies glistening like gemstones in apothecary jars. The names trip off the tongue: bergamotes de Nancy, niniches de Quiberon, caramels d’Isigny, mirabelles de Lorraine, coquelicots de Nemours—a map of France outlined in bonbons. Any child would gladly commit this geography lesson to heart, and owner Georges Marques is happy to add history to the curriculum, enthusiastically expounding on the origins of the 200-odd sweets he’s carefully chosen from the more than 650 artisanal varieties that are considered an integral part of France’s patrimoine. Take the berlingots de Carpentras, a striped hard candy that is said to have popped up in the 14th century, created for Pope Clément V, who moved the papal seat to Avignon; the version sold here has been produced by the same manufacturer since 1844.

The most ancient bonbon in this dream of a boutique is said to be the grisette de Montpellier, a tiny disk of licorice, anise and honey that, like many sugared confections, was originally sold only in apothecaries for medicinal use and was much too expensive for general consumption. According to Marques it wasn’t until Catherine de Medici introduced sweets to top off an elaborate repast that France finally adopted bonbons and pastries as an integral part of the meal. Other Gallic treasures include light, fluffy guimauve, the square-cut French version of marshmallow; alcohol-filled chocolates covered in marzipan; lollipops in such flavors as blueberry, pineapple, quince and black cherry; and candied flower petals and herbs, including whole roses, violets, vervain, mint and lilac.

19 rue Monge, 5th,

Home sweet home

The Printemps department store complex has just unveiled the newly renovated fifth floor of its Beauté-Maison building. The sleek, light-filled space assembles the best in contemporary furniture and lighting, with big names like Cinna, Roche Bobois, Ligne Roset and Habitat alongside a prestigious group of smaller European manufacturers. The store is large enough to offer a wide range of styles and looks—and to give each individual designer a significant presence. Organized into easily navigable quadrants, like lofty rooms, the new layout makes it a cinch to envision how an elegant side table or standout chair might look chez vous.

The fifth-floor opening concludes a five-year, $100 million renovation of the store, now designated as a historic landmark. The store’s 1883 sculpted facade, with its original mosaics, zinc domes and goldleaf decoration, has been restored to its former glory, along with the intricate interior mosaics, Art Nouveau details and all of the display spaces. In addition to furniture and decorative objects, Printemps Maison offers everything from kitchen items and tableware in all price ranges to home fragrances and the finest French and European sheets, towels and linens.

102 rue de Provence, 9th,

Originally published in the June 2012 issue of France Today

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