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am55

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The really pathetic story of how French presidential hopeful Francois Fillon let an influence peddler sugar-daddy him Arnys custom suits: Costumes, palaces et trahisons : Robert Bourgi, l'homme qui aimait trop François Fillon | Vanity Fair

Anyway...
Really fun article, thanks RJ. I have to limit myself because I know (distantly, in time anyway) one of the B. and surroundings but I think influence peddler is a vast understatement. He and many others were simply unfortunate that the yanks learnt how to operate outside English speaking countries (after all this article is written in Vanity Fair) but in a real sense were integral to how we held onto our hmm "former" colonies.

I am perhaps judging a little too quickly from sample pics but I think as a Parisian you could have picked wearers of clothes that have lived with them for years. On all the photos selected by Derek I think the clothes are too new and this "living with the clothes" is integral to the French identity IMHO. Maybe 5-10 years minimum. Very new world to proudly display the new acquisitions.
 

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Really fun article, thanks RJ. I have to limit myself because I know (distantly, in time anyway) one of the B. and surroundings but I think influence peddler is a vast understatement. He and many others were simply unfortunate that the yanks learnt how to operate outside English speaking countries (after all this article is written in Vanity Fair) but in a real sense were integral to how we held onto our hmm "former" colonies.

I am perhaps judging a little too quickly from sample pics but I think as a Parisian you could have picked wearers of clothes that have lived with them for years. On all the photos selected by Derek I think the clothes are too new and this "living with the clothes" is integral to the French identity IMHO. Maybe 5-10 years minimum. Very new world to proudly display the new acquisitions.
Are you talking about the photos on Derek’s post? Those are not the photos from my book. He chose publicly available photos to illustrate his post and ideas about French style. Most of the stuff photoed in my book is ancient or at least well used. Give it a whirl, especially as the e-book is now also available
 
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Gus

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I wanted to say how much I enjoyed Swan Songs. I read several chapters twice. I especially enjoyed your perspective on the unique characteristics of French style. In a world of international retail fashion chain stores that sell the exact same thing in London, Paris, Florence, New York, etc., it is enjoyable to celebrate the special nuances of style, color and fit found in a particular region.
 

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Are you talking about the photos on Derek’s post? Those are not the photos from my book. He chose publicly available photos to illustrate his post and ideas about French style. Most of the stuff photoed in my book is ancient or at least well used. Give it a whirl, especially as the e-book is now also available
alright:

1640982751110.png

Looking forward to it. Thanks for making it electronic. I've run out of space for physical books!

It's fitting that your book would be reviewed and "turned" into an American POV. Very Proustian. The reviewers focus on the "sense of things lost" but the Recherche is very much still relevant, still fresh, and could be quoted verbatim to many posts here or commentary about fashion. For example the quote from Derek re: St Germain des Pres mirrors the end of Du cote de chez Swann as he stares into his vision of the Bois:

with Dodonaic majesty, seemed to proclaim the unpeopled vacancy of this estranged forest, and helped me to understand how paradoxical it is to seek in reality for the pictures that are stored in one's memory, which must inevitably lose the charm that comes to them from memory itself and from their not being apprehended by the senses. The reality that I had known no longer existed. It sufficed that Mme. Swann did not appear, in the same attire and at the same moment, for the whole avenue to be altered. The places that we have known belong now only to the little world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; remembrance of a particular form is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.
Moncrieff translation

And this is true of the cafe de Flore, of the Brasserie Lipp, even (for a more contemporary example, which I now realise belongs to the "previous generation") the Fouquet's and Sarko. If you had been there, then, you wouldn't have noticed the philosophers - most of the crowd would have been normal people. Just as if you were to go in the Marais (probably too gentrified already?) or the 17eme or wherever this generation's next immortalised thinkers are hanging out, invisible from this generation's critics with their binoculars stuck on the past generation and socially statistically accepted opinions, you would also miss the thinkers. So it is very much Proustian in creating out of the mundane a particular world that you wish to see, and (the part less recognised) should enough people like it, reify it as it jumps from your mind to living in theirs.
 

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alright:

View attachment 1728855

Looking forward to it. Thanks for making it electronic. I've run out of space for physical books!

It's fitting that your book would be reviewed and "turned" into an American POV. Very Proustian. The reviewers focus on the "sense of things lost" but the Recherche is very much still relevant, still fresh, and could be quoted verbatim to many posts here or commentary about fashion. For example the quote from Derek re: St Germain des Pres mirrors the end of Du cote de chez Swann as he stares into his vision of the Bois:


Moncrieff translation

And this is true of the cafe de Flore, of the Brasserie Lipp, even (for a more contemporary example, which I now realise belongs to the "previous generation") the Fouquet's and Sarko. If you had been there, then, you wouldn't have noticed the philosophers - most of the crowd would have been normal people. Just as if you were to go in the Marais (probably too gentrified already?) or the 17eme or wherever this generation's next immortalised thinkers are hanging out, invisible from this generation's critics with their binoculars stuck on the past generation and socially statistically accepted opinions, you would also miss the thinkers. So it is very much Proustian in creating out of the mundane a particular world that you wish to see, and (the part less recognised) should enough people like it, reify it as it jumps from your mind to living in theirs.
Can't wait for your reactions when you read it.
 

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I just realised that "Swan songs" could well be read as "Swann's songs" and still be an accurate description :D
 

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My initial reaction to VS' introduction:
1. anglophilia is as old as Paris. Indeed Odette loudly speaks English to her children in cafes and even Swann is introduced as "a personal friend of the Prince of Wales".
2. I cannot help but think of Barthes' mythologies in VS and Derek's vision of your vision (and what you are doing with this book).

Le vin est socialisé parce qu'il fonde non seulement une morale, mais aussi un décor ; il orne les cérémoniaux les plus menus de la vie quotidienne française, du casse-croûte (le gros rouge, le camembert) au festin, de la conversation de bistrot au discours de banquet. Il exalte les climats, quels qu'ils soient, s'associe dans le froid à tous les mythes du réchauffement, et dans la canicule à toutes les images de l'ombre, du frais et du piquant. Pas une situation de contrainte physique (température, faim, ennui, servitude, dépaysement) qui ne donne à rêver le vin. Combiné comme substance de base à d'autres figures alimentaires, il peut couvrir tous les espaces et tous les temps du Français. Dès qu'on atteint un certain détail de la quotidienneté, l'absence de vin choque comme un exotisme: M. Coty, au début de son septennat, s'étant laissé photographier devant une table intime où la bouteille Dumesnil semblait remplacer par extraordinaire le litron de rouge, la nation entière entra en émoi; c'était aussi intolérable qu'un roi célibataire. Le vin fait ici partie de la raison d'Etat.
(sorry, no time for translating...)

In Singapore, I once walked into a watch shop which listed all the favoured watch makers of your target readership: FP Journe, De Bethune, but also Cartier and Rolex. Naturally the shop also stocked Corthay shoes and Rubinacci ties. What an odd assortment - would you really match these brands? - but there it was, a real world landing of a set of ideas that (I think) never first existed as a customer choice but as an arrival in online discussions of a certain set (which may or may not hashtag themselves #menswear). But in a sense it is more authentic than dressing like my late grandfather, in 2021.
 

am55

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The gloves story and reflections are very French. I think we have all gone through this in some way or other. More relatable perhaps to the Anglo Saxons, my own such episode was culinary - an epic 2.5 hour lunch which was my first as an adult, in my finest suit and tie, and which I still remember as the best cuisine ever prepared professionally. I did go - against my friends' advice - back to the restaurant once a few years later, and still regret the disillusion to this day. Perhaps it is not just a fall in standards - o tempora, o mores! - but also our memory which colors and livens beyond the reality. I'd quote Proust again, about Bergotte's "ordinary" living room turned transcendental by his writing, but I am just realising that the myth of the author-writer-artist is at the core of French/Parisian intellectual aspirations ("chaque francais est un auteur pas encore decouvert", or something) and see some parallels with what you are doing with clothes and fictional Bergotte with his family life. Or in yank terms:

1640988309627.png

(sorry @RSS I know the misuse of the word yank must be grating but you are in French territory)
 

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Also I am reading you instead of the new Houellebecq. Hopefully that makes up for the slanderous and inaccurate reviews left on Amazon by drive by click farm operations from places we never hear of or read about except during natural disasters.
 

am55

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It is heartening to see someone else who has actually read and clearly enjoyed Proust* :p

Although I have a somewhat different interpretation.
For me Swann remains an idealisation, and his slaughtering via a rapid cancer (and Jewish ethnicity, "despite" which he is a member of the Jockey) were very interesting decisions by Proust, perhaps self-reflective to some extent. The evolution of both Swann's and Odette's artistic tastes (particularly the arc, first the peacocking, through the exotic, then back to a certain classical sobriety) are fascinating and almost core to the purposes of the book - and Swann is tortured because he seeks an idea of a woman and relationship which is impossible, and not at all bothered by her cheating, which is due to her recognising it, and his ideation is part of who he is (transcending the "basic" as it were) whilst she is more grounded, and that grounding is very much a negative commentary by Proust in the impression it creates (very Verdurin). Was looking forward to more S&G given its clear conceptual relationship with many of the addresses you cover! Anyway.

The Napoleon III era's importance being highlighted I agree with, but you should have touched upon - for our esteemed readers - the shift away from aristocracy towards haute bourgeoisie, precisely Swann's milieu, as the Parisian elite, ANF and Jockey Club notwithstanding. This is very *unlike* the UK and might be behind many of the differences you continuously highlight between the shops of the same brand when crossing the Channel.

Taking a step back from the Proustian obsession (and thank you again for going beyond facile madeleine/memory comments) I think your 7 years of effort are shining through into a well structured, flowing, complex book that is to some extent elevated above its subject. I will finish the book and comment further, hopefully, after mulling it. Thank you for precipitating the purchase.

I much enjoyed your description of the LVMH Berluti. You should see the various stores all around Asia. I don't think there's one in an airport yet but in Singapore we have one in Marina Bay Sands (the temple to globalist consumerism) and more strangely, Takashimaya (mini-Ginza). Both are dark and empty as described.

Also thank you for quoting Il Gattopardo (have you seen La plus belle soirée de ma vie by Ettore Scola? I think you would enjoy it). Very French in a way. Asterixian resistance against the Empire's influence grandissante. We retire to our long ineffective blood lines, and mostly invented Celtic roots (including the myth of Vercingetorix, likely created by Caesar as a foil to pump himself up to the home crew before his return), as a means of token resistance against the swallowing of our individuality, because they can't buy this like they can buy Berluti or our wineyards.

* the Bourdieu-Parisian-bon-milieu-accepted opinion is something like "they made me read it at school, what a bore" isn't it? to actually enjoy and think about art is dangerously lower class ;)
 

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A couple more thoughts on things I liked about this book:

I’m a big city boy, and I appreciate accounts of the subcultures and infrastructures of great cities, in this case sartorial. I have read, and enjoyed, half a dozen or more accounts of Saville Row, English style, and the styles of individual SR houses. This is the first time I have read a comprehensive account of Parisian/French style. It’s also given me a better sense of “Anglo-Italian”; how and where those influences from the South and West were absorbed into French aesthetics.

It is fascinating exploring these stores, brands, and artisans through the lens of your sensibility, which is very different than my own. For example, your entry into the bespoke shoe world. I would not have commissioned any of the beautiful, exotic (to my eye), shoes that you did. I can understand and appreciate how your thinking unfolded though.

I have largely developed my own style at this point; so much of the attraction of SF is understanding the aesthetics and choices of others with quite different sensibilities. Understanding their processes is often as enjoyable as seeing the end result.

Boulevardier and flaneur are two of my favorite words pertaining to men’s style. I often prefer either word to dandy (understanding that they have different, if somewhat overlapping, meanings).
 

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Thank you for this intellectually and playfully engaged read. Proust is a shibboleth and his appropriation by luxury goods houses a clumsy appeal to authority best laid bare in Fassbinder's Angst Essen Seele where the woman trying to impress her Turkish husband keeps telling him, "Hitler ate here" when she takes him to nice restaurants. With the exception of Du Cote de Chez Swann and Albertine Disparue, which I had to read multiple times for various classes, I've only read A la recherche du temps perdu once but it's many times more than most of the interns and PR hacks who actually write the press or books for these luxury brands. I love getting into the sorts of sociopolitical discussions you raise here, but was also conscious that doing so would take me into a different book, away from what already is not a very commercial approach (to be witnessed by the Amazon reviewer who said he was expecting "a coffee table book" and instead got "a cheap well-written rag": people usually want to see something that reinforces their comfortably held beliefs and prejudices, which in classic menswear are basically "nice clothes are nice" and wanting to see a dramatization of the old Men's Warehouse commercials that suggested Olde Worlde tailors flourishing shears and chalk around a cutting table). And whenever I get into sociopolitical discussions people accuse me of being a commie, when in fact I would be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

As you say, it is lower-middle-class and arriviste to actually care -- about the texts of anything: how the clothing that the ruling classes took for granted is made, the literature populating its library, and so on. I have come to terms with my class, which my friend @Fuuma would probably call akin to that of a butcher who has won the lottery (he ran me down for actually liking champagne and wanting to drink it outside of ceremonial occasions).

As I suggest above, my topic is a needle's eye through which thousands of different threads could have been run. I chose to go with histories and stories behind which I efface myself, even as what motivated my interest had to do with other aspects of my background I did not want to bring up in this book. Thanks again for your read and your comments.
It is heartening to see someone else who has actually read and clearly enjoyed Proust* :p

Although I have a somewhat different interpretation.
For me Swann remains an idealisation, and his slaughtering via a rapid cancer (and Jewish ethnicity, "despite" which he is a member of the Jockey) were very interesting decisions by Proust, perhaps self-reflective to some extent. The evolution of both Swann's and Odette's artistic tastes (particularly the arc, first the peacocking, through the exotic, then back to a certain classical sobriety) are fascinating and almost core to the purposes of the book - and Swann is tortured because he seeks an idea of a woman and relationship which is impossible, and not at all bothered by her cheating, which is due to her recognising it, and his ideation is part of who he is (transcending the "basic" as it were) whilst she is more grounded, and that grounding is very much a negative commentary by Proust in the impression it creates (very Verdurin). Was looking forward to more S&G given its clear conceptual relationship with many of the addresses you cover! Anyway.

The Napoleon III era's importance being highlighted I agree with, but you should have touched upon - for our esteemed readers - the shift away from aristocracy towards haute bourgeoisie, precisely Swann's milieu, as the Parisian elite, ANF and Jockey Club notwithstanding. This is very *unlike* the UK and might be behind many of the differences you continuously highlight between the shops of the same brand when crossing the Channel.

Taking a step back from the Proustian obsession (and thank you again for going beyond facile madeleine/memory comments) I think your 7 years of effort are shining through into a well structured, flowing, complex book that is to some extent elevated above its subject. I will finish the book and comment further, hopefully, after mulling it. Thank you for precipitating the purchase.

I much enjoyed your description of the LVMH Berluti. You should see the various stores all around Asia. I don't think there's one in an airport yet but in Singapore we have one in Marina Bay Sands (the temple to globalist consumerism) and more strangely, Takashimaya (mini-Ginza). Both are dark and empty as described.

Also thank you for quoting Il Gattopardo (have you seen La plus belle soirée de ma vie by Ettore Scola? I think you would enjoy it). Very French in a way. Asterixian resistance against the Empire's influence grandissante. We retire to our long ineffective blood lines, and mostly invented Celtic roots (including the myth of Vercingetorix, likely created by Caesar as a foil to pump himself up to the home crew before his return), as a means of token resistance against the swallowing of our individuality, because they can't buy this like they can buy Berluti or our wineyards.

* the Bourdieu-Parisian-bon-milieu-accepted opinion is something like "they made me read it at school, what a bore" isn't it? to actually enjoy and think about art is dangerously lower class ;)
 

am55

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If I had more time, I'd have written you a shorter more coherent reply, to paraphrase whoever it was.

I guess my point is that from your book I see an evolution towards a Swannian enjoyment of art qua art, but you can't summarise it in one sentence, after all it took Proust the longest famous book in the world to get his point across. Houellebecq came to the same conclusion in the end of Serotonine with his quip on Proust and Mann. Throw it all away and enjoy raw life, kind of thing. I suppose it is fashionable to state it.

he ran me down for actually liking champagne and wanting to drink it outside of ceremonial occasions
@Fuuma is dead wrong then. At least, out of character for his professed values or your interpretation thereof. Liking champagne qua champagne, or even liking champagne qua "the imaginary experience of the imaginary people I have idealised in my head as drinking champagne" should be divorced from class considerations when between intellectuals qua intellectuals (as opposed to intellectuals wearing their French literacy like Amelie Nothomb's eponymous Peplums, see what I did there? Ha ha. Anyway. She's Belgian, bad analogy.). Love you Fuuma please keep posting, but at least let RJ drink some biodynamique champagne closed the ancient way. And butchers, especially in France, can have exquisite tastes. They are some of the few French left who actually care about quality, origin, tradition. Although the artisan fromager is where I think one can find the biggest cultural surprises.

Another thing that came to mind was the Parisian focus of the work. Even when recanting Delos' actual town of residence, you point out that he comes to Paris for his customers. I think it is a shame not to have explored more (aside from the aside on the soieries de Lyon) the depth that regional France has to offer even today. I was in Lyon and somehow fell upon 3 bespoke bootmakers, whose names I can't easily find now. Also a madman who still grows his poire williams by putting the bottle on the bud and letting the pear grow into it, but that's hors sujet. Also found a tailleur grande mesure in Annecy, he does not advertise it but was willing when I got my jacket altered and had trained appropriately. To retrace Houellebecq, this time Soumission, he jokes that the ultimate French happiness is to be found in the petite bourgeoisie of the smaller towns. Of a certain age.
 

am55

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I am reminded of Sorabji who wrote of critics that assumed Bach was inspired by religious experience to write the Mass in B (arguably the greatest religious work, if not musical work of any sort, ever composed) missing the point (he used stronger words) as Bach's christianity would be of the restrained and sober kind and the magnificence of both the Catholic mass, and the work, reflect a very different kind of inspiration (with the mass qua mass, to complete my stylistic triptych; with its splendour and abstraction).
 

comrade

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I am torn between the B Minor Mass and the Christmas Oratorio,
both of which I heard performed within a few weeks of each other this
Fall. I hope I have the chance to hear them again, once venues reopen
in this area.
 
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