Franco File Friday: Denise from The Swelle Life

17 June 2011

Paris accordian player

Back when I was investigating the Paris cupcake scene for one of my BitchBuzz articles, I looked at a lot of cupcake photos online and many blogs that talked about either loving or hating them. Somehow along the line during my research I stumbled upon a Canadian blogger named Denise based in London who featured a weekly series called “Cupcake Monday” on her popular, fashion-focused blog, The Swelle Life. After perusing her site and following her more regularly, I discovered she frequently expressed a profound love not only for style and sweets but for Paris as well.

After exchanging countless messages, we finally met over Easter weekend in Paris at a café on rue Montorgueil (where else?) while she was visiting with her husband and daughter for a week. We talked about France, England, fashion, kids, illnesses (don’t ask) and our mutual love of writing. She spoke enthusiastically about the multi-brand boutique she launched after observing the success of her blog. Swelle Boutique, her online shop, features one-off and limited edition pieces from independent designers, including the bags designed by my friend and fellow blogger, Kasia Dietz. Denise is well-versed in fashion history and understands the city’s pivotal role in its evoution. But she appreciates Paris for more than just the legendary designers it has produced.

Describe what you love about Paris in three words. 
Delicious, dreamy, exhilarating.

In what ways and to what extent do you think Paris lives up to its mythical, romanticized image? 
I had years and years to construct an idea of what I thought Paris would be like before I’d finally been, based on everything I’d seen and read. You wonder if reality can ever live up to the hugely idyllic imagery in your mind.

It did. Paris is in the air, in the stone and marble of its buildings…in its people. I’m not throwing out these words because they sound good. Paris is a city of the senses. I have sat on the terraces attempting to decipher the feeling of elation and contentment I feel all at once in Paris and concluded there’s a very old, extraordinary energy present in all of its elements. I see Paris as an entity that knows what it is and is content with it. I love that despite being one of the largest tourist destinations in the world, it stays true to itself. It spoils us with its scenery, aromas, tastes and sounds, but it’s also a place where you can just “be”, and therein lies the romance.

fashion show models

Fashion capital: London or Paris? Why? 
There are good arguments for both but I have to choose Paris. Londoners have fantastic, individual style and the city really nurtures creativity and imagination. It is the birthplace of the major trends that have influenced Western fashion, music and popular culture of the past six decades. But what can come with that is a bit of a try-hard, “too cool for school” vibe; an overt self-awareness. In Paris the style is more sophisticated yet comes off as an afterthought rather than a preoccupation and you notice the woman or man before their fantastic clothes.

Or I could have just said ‘Paris gives us haute couture’, end of discussion!

Most child-friendly spot in Paris (or elsewhere in France) for a great meal? 
I have to say we’ve never had a problem in Paris, even when our daughter was just two years old and were trying to navigate packed crêperies with a pram. Glad those days are over! But when we were there last April , my favourite meal was on our last night at Les Editeurs in Odéon. Our waiter was so incredibly friendly to us throughout – he even joked. He presented our daughter with the bill (a blank piece of paper) and we all had a good laugh. My daughter, however, asked why he didn’t give her crayons!

Most inspiring French designer, former or current? Why? 
Christian Lacroix. I miss him in fashion so much. He’s my absolutely favourite creative. I’m still not over the closure of the House as we knew it and each haute couture week has something very special missing (his parade of gilded girls!). Lacroix brought forth such exuberance and happy energy through his couture, which were really more than clothes. They were finely tailored collages of embellished silks, brocades, velvets and tulles, in colours that could be so heartbreakingly romantic or acid trip flashback. Marie Antoinette would have loved him.

He’s been said to be the nicest person in fashion which bolsters my loyalty further. The integrity of the person behind the label means a lot to me. I didn’t always appreciate his over-stimulating approach to fashion but when it clicked, I was smitten for good. I look at his clothes and illustrations for my daydream moments. Earlier this year, he published a book with Camilla Morton called Christian Lacroix and the Tale of Sleeping Beauty, a modernized version of the classic fairytale with the designer himself characterized in the story. An absolute dream!

Thanks Denise! Follow her blog, shop her site and support her on facebook! I would also take a look at her photos from her trip to Paris, they’re gorgeous.
{All photos courtesy of Denise Grayson}