Friday, January 25, 2013

...never buy handmade too cheap.

I think everyone who buys consciously handmade is not buying it cause it is so cheap. Naturally we all like to find a good deal so I guess you will just have set the criteria to define what 'a good deal' means to you.
I have a concrete example right here:
Expecting a baby I needed a whole lot of things I never thought of before. And also things that you already got, but that, well, an adjusted version would come handy. A diaper bag!
Yes, yes, basically I could use just any big messenger bag, but with all the little things it will contain and having a little human to care about.... I want to be organised and I don't want to have to search for things.
So I went off to some stores and looked around. 60-100€ for a branded bag. A well made bag, but a bag made in China, India, Vietnam.... by someone who have worked hard, under conditions I don't know nothing about and who will probably not have gotten even 1/10 of that price as a salary.
So I went online and had a look on Etsy. There is tons of people who offer diaper bags and I hit the 'like' button on all the designs I liked.
In a second round I went back to my favourits to compare all those bags....aesthetically and of cause based on the price. I noticed that I had marked bags at the price range from $25-$150. Now it was time to compare: "What do I get for that money?!" followed by: "What do I actually need?!"
And by the time I had all that figured out I had ~4bags left. So I again ranked them by looks and price and then decided that I want a cotton bag and not something made of laminated material.
3bags left.
I liked them all, so of cause, I went by price.....I want the best deal!
But there is one more thing you have to consider the price.... just like with the branded bags: Where does the bag come from?
I can understand that someone living in Poland, or Romania can produce the bag slightly cheaper than someone in the USA, France, or Germany. Materials are much likely cheaper and their price has to cover their standard of living, not mine. So knowing for a fact that living is cheaper in e.g. Poland I will not spend 100€ for a Polish bag if I can have a similar one for 75€ made in France. It simply does not feel like I made 'a good deal'. If 75€ is enough for a French bag is a different question and everyone will have to decide for themselves.
So to cut a long story short:
I bought a cotton bag made in USA. It has all the features that where important to me. I could chose the pattern/materials used, so it is customized according to what I like. I paid $96 and I think I made a very good deal cause I figured if I a good bag does cost ~80-90€ from a branded company that can produce for much cheaper, why should I pay less for one of identical quality that has been handmade by someone who has a similar standard of living than me? She offers a competitive price and I understand that this price can't be in the lower section of ~60€ cause the material is really nice heavy cotton and the making takes time...even it you are skilled in sewing and do it a lot faster than me. On the contrary! At a price of 60€ I would wonder about how she did it. Is it really cotton? Did she really do it herself? Maybe there a cheaply pre-fabricated elements?

Well, let me tell you: This bag is REALLY nice. It arrived today and I am very happy with the quality. Nice and sturdy, with all the compartments we will need. Washable and just my style! Not too faminine (the man would not what to be seen carrying a womans bag) neither too clichée 'baby bag', or too clichée  'It's a (baby) boy!'
So thank you Nancy! I will recommend your shop and service :D

Customised diaper bag bought at

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

French Cliché No.2

I find it always amazing when my international friends come to visit me in France and everybody (especially the ladies) remark the French women. No offence to French men, but the ladies do attract attention. First and foremost all say "They are all so chic!" Elegance is definitively a cliché in the sense that it can be seen all over in the streets. But what is elegance?
So what do you picture if I would describe a friend of mine as 'typically French girl'???
French women are for me comfortable in their femininity without overdoing it. I found some pictures that hit all the spot... which one do you like most?

1) Urban princess. Tender colors, playful girly but not too much.
2) Miss France. OK the hat is maybe a bit too much cliché-ridden, but the rest of the outfit/Make-up is soooo French as well. Simple but accentuated and really not girly.
3) Country beauty. Again soft pale colors, not much make-up but richness in style and romanticism.
4) Femme fatale. I don't think any words are needed here...even the term is French and known all over the world in all the different languages.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Let's talk about clichés.

When I hear someone use the word cliché the notion I get is usually a negative one. Or at least one of disappointment: "Oh this is soooo cliché!" And YES, a cliché is something that has been seen/heard/talked about over and over again in a certain context.
But I personally love clichés. They reflect a tiny part of an undeniable truth. You just don't have to take them too literal and with a bit of wink.

So in all my past shared flats I heard the phrase: "Oh you can be sooo German sometimes!" quite often. That was usually the case when we had big flat parties or dinners and I insisted on cleaning up (at least the nastiest bits) before going to bed. Since I don't like waking up and having to clean up after other people, I am always trying to make sure nobody has to clean up after me. So in this situation the cliché for my former flat mates was that Germans are tidy, neat (which I am really not when it comes to my own things) and have to do so in a timely fashion. I take that as a rather  positive cliché. The other side of the medal however is that tidy, neat and time concerned people are not considered very laid back, but rather un-relaxed. I am sure the sentence "Oh you can be sooo German sometimes!" would have sounded a lot less reproachful if I had simply left everything that night and cleaned up the next day. But hey! nobody is perfect, right?!

But let's talk about the good kind of clichés. I find them amusing. They help to categorize and deal with certain circumstances that can be otherwise quite frustrating. Living in France I find myself very often in situations that make me feel uneasy. When I ask my boyfriend why cetain things are handled the way they are and he has no satisfying answer he says: "Well, that's just the way it is done in France!" So I put it aside. It is a (general) French thing. I can't change all of France and all the French. I got to live with it.

And then there is those beautiful French things. The ones that make you laugh, like the old guy on his bike wearing a stripped shirt and two baguettes under the arm as soon as you cross the French boarder.

Or wonderful croissants and maccarons in every French bakery you pass...

But what about design, lifestyle and architecture? When thinking of France my first answers would be:
Design - Stark
lifestyle - chic French women (a lot more than French men)
architecture - Paris vs. the Mediterranean (Provence, Côte d'Azure, Alpes Maritimes...)
All of them I would label as extraordinary chic but never over the top. This means that I love the richness of details in one aspect of all things French, but then at the same time an understatement in another.
Like this cake: WOW....spectacular details, but very tuned down in color... so really not that flashy. Brilliant!

And to show you what I mean, I started compiling a Pinterest board on what I think is FRENCH CLICHÉ ... all those beautiful things that I associate with France and French lifestyle. 
What do you think? Anything missing?