Cashmere Aura

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I spent this past week in Paris. Paris is different in the fall than New York. She turns a beautiful tone of grey, softness in the sky, everything becomes sort of fuzzy. It was cold for the first time this autumn and I found myself wanting to be wrapped in cashmere and bathed in that perfect Parisian light that angles through the windows glowing off the surfaces of skin and disappearing into folds of fabric. Matching my current mood and experience completely was Donna Karan’s Cashmere Aura perfume. I have been a fan and a client as one of her photographers, for many years. Donna Karan represents the kind of woman I strive to be. Independent, confident, successful, world traveled, strong, elegant and most of all… a New Yorker.

But here I am in Paris, exploring the light and exploring new sides of my creativity, taking the time to really feel confident about who I became in New York, what all the hard work was for, and where I want it apply it in my work moving forward. I’ve been making notes about attributes about myself that I can now come to say define me. One of those is my love for scents. I am always perfumed. It’s a daily ritual for me. My hair is scented, my sheets are scented, my baths are scented, my candles are scented, whatever it is about my senses that loves the taste of good food and a beautiful painting also loves a beautiful scent.

I change my perfumes based on the weather. I change my perfume based on my mood. I apply the scents to my neck, behind my ears, on my chest, behind my knees, on the inside of my ankles and always before bed and most certainly on my way out the door. In all the apartment buildings I’ve lived in New York, I’ve always had neighbors comment to me how they loved the way I smelled and always knew when I had passed through the halls that day. That aura that we leave behind, that delicate piece of our existence.

This is a new fragrance in my collection sent to me by Donna Karan. In its luminous rose gold bottle, this mini art sculpture is inspired by the work of Donna Karan’s late husband which is something I’ve always found so touching about her perfumes. The notes are a bright and sparkling balance of modern florals with cashmeran, coumarin, vanilla, sandalwood accord, cassie absolute, ylang ylang, orris accord, sparkling aldehydes, Italian bergamot, and orange oil. A perfect projection for essence of a woman, confidently feminine, and her aura into the world.

My days in Paris were marked in my memories by this scent… and I hope a little piece of my aura was left behind. Below are images captured from moments of my life where I found the intimacy of perfume, skin, light, and life beautifully enraptured in creating the scent of a woman.

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Vinalhaven, Maine

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In a small writer’s cottage tucked away on a quiet cove in Vinalhaven, Maine I spent the last week of summer with the promise of autumn quietly whispering with each rolling wave of the fog kissed shore of this tiny island that feels lost to the sea. In our modern times of fast communication and speedy travel we can blink an eye and be anywhere in the world.

But here…. here it is a journey. It takes time and you feel time change on the voyage to this sacred place. First a flight to Portland, Maine, then to a car, then ferry, with each passing mode of transportation the clock ticks a moment slower. I watched the shores of Maine while standing on the windy top deck of the ferry as they grew more distant. I looked at America, at a landscape not unfamiliar to the first settlers who came here on the hope and dreams of a new and better life. A life, to a certain extent, I was trying to escape from. The boat carried me away and I let go as land slipped away.

Maine is perfect in the summer. It’s classically American and dynamic in nature. Each hour yielded to a new exciting atmosphere.  It reminds you we are merely passengers on Earth, witnesses to nature’s show. I had to escape Manhattan’s monolithic skyscrapers that blocked sunsets to be reminded of what was out there bigger than me, bigger than my city, and beautiful… so very beautiful. While we watched the tide come in and out each day, distant lobster fishing boats bobbing in place, we took ease in the simplicity. The smell of the salty ocean, the feeling of the damp mossy forest under our feet.

Jet lagged from France, I would take rests in the afternoon with the old windows open so that I could listen to the wind in the trees and feel its coolness on my face as autumn promised itself to be just around the bend.

It is an quiet island in comparison to places like Nantucket but that is what makes it great. A place where you can turn off the noise, turn on nature and remember what it feels like to simply be alive. The kind of place with a handful of local and beloved stores, a tiny farmer’s market and one gas station where you buy the daily catch. When everything closes at 5pm and you wonder how you’ll ever survive until you discover we don’t need as much as we thought, or nearly as much as we’ve been sold. I think about this place often and when I do I’m standing right there on that cool gray rock, wrapped in mist and lost in thoughts…

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Above dress and white dress in the fog by Brooklyn designer Christine Alcalay (more…)

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A night at the Le Bristol

A stay at the historic Le Bristol Hotel Paris.

I was so thrilled last week to attend the book launch of fashion illustrator Megan Hess at the Le Bristol Hotel in the heart of Paris. Her new book “New York through the Fashion Eye” was a wonderful walk down memory lane for me with all the sparkle and glamour that makes New York the fashion capital it is. Flipping through the book brought back a rush of memories and made me, for a moment, homesick for the city that had become my adopted hometown.  Even as I spend this extended time in France, I do still feel like a New Yorker and this book was a reminder of all the beauty she bestows.

The fashionable event was held at the historic Le Bristol Paris, a five star luxury hotel in operation since 1925 and is one of my absolute favorite Parisian hotels. The hotel is part of the Oetker Collection which has announced the Australian born illustrator as their ongoing artist in residence and will be traveling the world to all Oetker properties creating exclusive fashion and lifestyle illustrations for the luxury brand.

After the event I checked into my room on the 8th floor. Always breathtaking, the Le Bristol is classically French from the linens and drapes to the Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture and of course, the Eiffel Tower views her windows gaze out upon. What The Carlyle Hotel is to New York, the Le Bristol is to Paris…. that perfectly Parisian dream.

A stay at the historic Le Bristol Hotel Paris. A stay at the historic Le Bristol Hotel Paris. A stay at the historic Le Bristol Hotel Paris. (more…)

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On Learning French…

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One of the first questions everyone asked me when I told them I was going to France for an extended stay was, “Do you speak French?” My reply: “Non.”

When I was growing up in Texas and it came time to learn a second language I declared I would be taking French, to which my parent’s reply was “no, you’re taking Spanish. You live in Texas, after all.” But in my mind, I wasn’t going to stay in Texas and wherever that life was taking me I was sure it would have much to do with Paris. I lost that battle and I regret not fighting back harder for what I wanted now, while reflecting back from a small French village where 90% of the population only speaks the local vernacular.

I took private lessons (if you are in NYC and want my tutor’s info, email me. He was fabulous!) before arriving which was barely enough to make me appear to be not a total idiot. Perhaps the most important thing he taught me was Je suis désolée… I am sorry. I think a lot of people would be terrified to live in a country where they can’t communicate but this sort of thing doesn’t bother me, it’s part of it. It’s part of the opening yourself up to new experiences and putting yourself in unfamiliar situations to test your character on how to survive each day and make it the best it can be.

When I arrived at my little apartment in the south there was an old stack of books on the fireplace mantel, faded from the sunlight streaming in the window on those gloriously quiet afternoons and dusty from years of idle use. Sitting there, just the size of my palm, was an old french language handbook from the late 1960’s. I sat in the sunlight that afternoon practicing the unchanged phrases of French culture and wondering as I felt the texture of the old thin paper between my fingers, what wary travelers had held this book in their hands and fumbled through the phrases as I am today. I imagine them filled with hope that each line of expression will unlock another door in my journey through this foreign land. Where did this book, stuffed into a back pocket, take them and who will possess it after me? What is it that brings us all here, to France, weaving an invisible thread between us?

I have for most of my life been an incredibly social person. My mother always called me a social butterfly. Living in a place with no one to talk to was a release of an invisible social responsibility I had given myself. I don’t know anyone and I can’t really know anyone. There are no parties to go to, no friends to call upon to meet up for drinks. I can’t check in with the neighbors or commit myself to random photoshoots.

It was a relief.

Taking socializing off the table opened up so much time for myself to focus on other things, and to think about photography. It was in a sense a freedom from obligation and made me feel invisible. When you are invisible you are free from the definition you have created for yourself, or has been created for you, and can become a truer form of what you are destined to be.

As the days have turned into weeks people have begun to recognize my face around town. I keep a pretty set routine. I go to the patisserie first thing each day for my baguette. Then to the café for my cafe créme. I buy my cheese at the market from the same man and my eggs from this adorable older couple. Then this marvelous thing started to happen. They each started trying to teach me words. Always with an expression of amusement they say it slowly to me, I repeat it back to them, they say it again back to me. I try to remember it the next time we meet. In these moments I feel what a 2 year old child must. My cheese monger taught me plus and minus, my little vegetable grocer taught me rosemary, the woman at the fromagerie taught me Bon Dimanche (Good Sunday), which is used around town starting Saturday afternoons. This past weekend the organic grocer emptied out my coin purse onto the counter and sat their teaching me how to count change in French. Connecting with another human though their kindness and patience of sharing their knowledge with me has been one of the most generous gifts I’ve received.

I can’t believe I could have possibly lived my life without ever knowing these human experiences, the freedom from myself and the beauty of kindness in others to want to help you learn and participate in this shared life with all walk through together.  Though for the most part I have no idea what these people in my little village are saying to me, I feel more a sense of community with them through their kindness toward me than I have ever felt before and the opening up of my brain as it makes room for new words.



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