Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The greener grass across the pond

American women - well, some, maybe not Ann Romney - want to be French. French women, at least the demographic equivalent of the American women who want to be French (cosmopolitan, vaguely hipster or fashion-ish) want to be American. Some of this is gender-neutral (food trucks, say), but some is not.

First up, there's personal-style blog Le Blog de Betty, whose protagonist is on a tour of the Southwest that involves wearing a bedazzled bustier in a run-down part of Texas; sporting a feathered headdress as if PC had never been invented, because she's always found the look "somptueux"; and, alas, picking one day to pair an American-flag t-shirt with a just adorable handgun necklace, 'cause you know, when in Rome.

This is all of it offensive in a way that will be familiar to readers of high-fashion mags, where they periodically send a white model to some impoverished brown-or-black-person country, to be artfully photographed with smiling but suffering children surrounding them, or with adult locals around them posed as background objects. But the difference here is that it comes from a place of genuine admiration. It's the French fantasy of Americana, not quite as patronizing, I suspect, as it seems. I mean, slightly - could it be Fashion to have a spread of an American girl in Paris, dressing "French"?

Then there's Paris concept store Colette trying to peddle something called "Brooklyn Beauty." This is the rare happening that will provoke chuckles in equal measure from those familiar with Old Brooklyn and New - neither working-class immigrants nor Birkenstock'd Co-op-goers nor stringy-haired trustafarians are known for having covetable skin-care routines. It's not offensive, just seemingly lost in translation, like t-shirts that say odd things in English, tattoos that convey the wrong thing in Chinese. What would Frenchwomen, who have that parapharmacie at their fingertips, want with Brooklyn? What gives?

The point - how was this not obvious? - is that Brooklyn suggests artisanal, and artisanal is the hot new thing in beauty. Heritage-chic isn't really a thing in France, and the English real deal isn't quite as much fun as the paraben-free New-Brooklyn Mom variety.

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