I have never had a professional manicure. I always walk past this one nail salon before and after work but spending €15 on a manicure that will undoubtedly last me only a few days (clumsy as I am), seems a bit outrageous. But practice makes perfect and it seems as though I do a pretty good job myself as of late. I only allow myself to wear two shades of nail polish; Mademoiselle and Wicked, both by Essie. Mademoiselle is a classic sheer pink suitable for all occassions while Wicked is a very chic deep and dark red. The latter is also a perfect dupe for Chanel’s Rouge Noir. And in case you’re wondering, I never wear my nails longer than this. While I do admire longer nails on others, the look isn’t for me. But I find as long as your hands look well cared for, it doesn’t really matter how long your nails are.
This blog is by no means an example on how to lead a sustainable lifestyle. While I do spend a good amount of time reading about ethical brands and slow fashion and try to invest in quality items that will last a long time, I unfortunately, on occassion, still give in to fast fashion and things which may not be produced under the best circumstances. That said, I thought it would be a nice idea to challenge myself to come up with a gift guide that is slightly different from most other gift guides that are currently taking over the blogosphere. All products are cruelty free, sustainable, ethically produced or focus on slow fashion.
- Everlane continues to be one of my favourite brands. I bought one of their cashmere turtlenecks last year and am very happy with the quality. Too bad that the shipping and taxes are so high. But if you don’t mind or live in the US, this leather wallet would make a great gift option.
- A collaboration between two great brands; Aesop and A.P.C, this fabric wash is specifically designed for hand washing delicate garments. Formulated by Aesop chemists, it contains extracts of Pettigrain, Lemon and Cedarwood. The latter a great natural moth repellant. For any wool or cashmere items that don’t need immediate cleaning but you would like to keep fresh between washes, check The Laundress wool and cashmere spray. Made with natural ingredients, non-toxic and fully biodegradable.
- The Merchant & Mills Rapid Repair kit contains everything you need for the occasional fashion emergency. There’s no need to throw something away just because you lost a button of a coat or tore a small hole in a knitted sweater.
- I wrote about this particular lipstick before. For all of you Dutch people who love MAC’s Ruby Woo but are looking for a cruelty free alternative, make sure you try HEMA’s Longer Lasting lipstick in 06. It’s absolutely spot on and less drying than the ‘original’.
- The kiss stud earrings by jewelry line Winden are designed and handmade in New York City. The materials used are almost exclusively manufactured in the USA, the majority of which are recycled.
- This palm leaf print bikini by Danish brand Underprotection is made from eco-friendly material, certified by the Fair Wear Foundation. All of their styles are ethically produced in New Delhi, India, in collaboration with a small local factory.
- Kiko’s bright lift serum is one of my current favourite skincare products. It gives your face an instant glow. Paraben free and not tested on animals.
- In The Kinfolk Home: Interiors for slow living, Kinfolk founder Nathan Williams showcases how embracing that same ethos—of slowing down, simplifying your life, and cultivating community—allows you to create a more considered, beautiful, and intimate living space.
I first spotted the Balenciaga motorcycle bag on the arms of Kate Moss around 2001. It wasn’t long after that, that the it-girls of the moment, the infamous Olsen twins, Nicole Richie and so on, were seen carrying this buttery soft, structureless bag. Even though I wasn’t necessarily a big fan of their bohemian style at the time, I definitely was intrigued by that bag. Little did I know that the Balenciaga motorcycle bag almost wasn’t taken into production. In a 2011 interview with WWD Accessory Magazine, former creative director Nicolas Ghesquire talks about the 2001 Balenciaga runway show and how the motorcycle bag came close to never being made:
N.G.: And we did this prototype and nobody cared; we had a couple of prototypes for a year. Every girl who was walking [the show], including Kate [Moss] came in and was like, ‘What is that? Is it vintage? Is it something that you found at the flea market?’ I was like ‘No, it’s a handbag that we prototyped but just didn’t produce.’ We didn’t produce it because I think when I showed the prototype to the people who asked me to do it, they weren’t happy with it.
WWD: Too fashiony?
N.G.: Accessories [at the time] were rigid. Luxury leather, especially, was about rigidity. So they were not really happy, and they decided not to produce it. Then when it was in the studio and the models noticed it, I said, ‘I think we should just do 25. Let me just give them to the girls because at least some people will be happy.’ And that product started from a very, very fashion point of view [and extended] to a very, very large, global audience.
WWD: Why do you think it resonated so dramatically?
N.G.: No logo. Very light. Very effective. There is something familiar with the vintage side. Women and girls thought it was something they’d always have. It was a new fresh thing, but it looked like an old, good, friendly thing. And I think the brand also was becoming desirable. People had desire for my goods and [the bag] was the most accessible piece. You could be a Balenciaga girl with that bag.
Several years later I was still a student and definitely not in the position to spend over a $1000 on a designer bag. To be honest, it didn’t even cross my mind that I would ever seriously consider such an expensive purchase. So I did what so many of us on a budget do; look for a cheaper alternative. I was a lot less internet savvy at the time but managed to find an affordable knockoff anyway. Still, it didn’t come close enough to the real deal with its soft, slouchy leather so I kept on dreaming…
Flash forward to the summer of 2012 when I found myself in Paris at the Balenciaga store on Avenue George V with sweaty palms and tears in my eyes. The sales assistent was about to swipe my credit card when I panicked, what was I doing? Was I really about to spend over $1000 on this bag? I couldn’t go through with it and left the store empty handed. An hour or so later I was finally ready to take the plunge. After years of studying and landing my very first serious job just a few months earlier, this would be my ultimate reward.
It’s been four years and I haven’t regretted my purchase for one second. I get excited every time I take it out of its dust bag as it reminds me of a lot of hard work and perseverance. And yes, also because it’s absolutely gorgeous. Ghesquire was right in his observations. The fact that it has no visible logo and looks like an old vintage bag after a while are two of the things I like best about this bag. It’s fairly discrete and hardly anyone recognises it as a designer bag.
Now, after years of intense wear, the handles are slowly starting to fray and the corners are slightly damaged but I don’t mind. Bags are meant to be used, no matter the price. What I love about this particular bag is that it’s super lightweight and made of durable, distressed leather. Unlike most other bags that look their best untarnished, this bag only gets better with time. Its days as an it-bag might be over but I look forward to wearing my Balenciaga city bag for many more years to come.
Do you own a bag with a story?
I love to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes of a large fashion brand. Especially when it concerns one of the most iconic fashion houses in the world. I’m currently spending my day in bed sick and have been re-watching the making of several Chanel Haute-Couture collections. Even though I don’t consider myself a Chanel woman (not a fan of the flashy logos on their bags and I could never pull off a classic Chanel look), I do find the process of creating a new collection incredibly fascinating. The amount of time and energy that goes into each garment is absolutely mind-blowing. Each piece of clothing is made with the utmost precision and care.
If you have a little more time to spare, I also recommend the behind the scenes documentary ‘Signé Chanel’ from 2005 which shows the design process from sketch to finished product. While the Chanel Haute-Couture making of videos mostly focus on the intricate details of different garments, Signé Chanel also focusses on the designer but most of all on the people who turn his sketches into real clothes; his atelier. My favourite and, without a doubt, most interesting character is Madame Pouzieux, a then 75 year old farmer who is also responsible for the signature Chanel braids which she creates on an antique loom in her farm house. You can watch the episodes here.