EST. 2009

July 8, 2014

That Vie en Rose

DUBBED "LA VILLE ROSE" FOR THE ROSE-COLORED GLOW of its brick and white stone buildings, Toulouse blushes with a beauty that rivals that of France's more popular destinations. This time of year especially, the city's pink hue graces more than just the buildings, finding itself in a glass of rosé, in the steak tartare, or on the ruddy cheeks of someone who's been walking in the sun.

Characteristically too, the Toulousains exhibit a rosy demeanor. Huffington Post describes Toulouse as "possibly the friendliest town in southern France" and I happily attest to the description. Over the course of a long weekend, we discovered an amicable side to the French that was generous with smiles, with service, and most conveniently, with English. Merci beaucoup!

While bathed in pink, Toulouse is also accentuated by the color blue, painted onto window frames and balustrades, among other architectural details. Even the roads bear a cool, cobalt undertone in the shade. The blues remind of Toulouse's history with pastel, a blue dye that became the city's major export in the 15th century. Also called "woad" after the plant from which the dye is produced, pastel sparked a prosperity in the city that allowed Toulousain art and architecture to flourish. It was not a prosperity that lasted though, as trade routes opened up and ushered in the stronger blue of indigo.

Thanks to a modern-day revival of pastel, Toulouse continues to produce the dye for both textiles and cosmetics. From soaps to scarves, to bedding and balms, a piece of Toulousain history can be bought in specialty boutiques like Graine de Pastel and La Fleurée de Pastel, or in various gift shops and pharmacies around the city.

As for that glorious pink glow, alas, you can't take that back with you. No rose is without even a little thorn.

Toulouse center, La Fleurée de Pastel, Hôtel les Bains Douches, Le monument François Verdier and Place Dupuy, Toulouse, France. Photos by Lady San Pedro and Jaime Sese.

July 3, 2014

That Terrible Twosome

JEAN SEBERG AND DAVID NIVEN are a hedonistic father-daughter duo in Bonjour Tristesse, Otto Preminger's 1958 film adaptation of Françoise Sagan's novel of the same name. Both fit, flirtatious and fun-loving, Seberg and Niven as Cécile and Raymond indulge in a life of excessive leisure and liberty, acting at whim with little regard for the characters around them. The two display such behavior throughout the film, which takes place in two distinct parts: a monochromatic Paris in the winter, and a lusciously-colored flashback of the French Riviera in the summer.

The film's main conflict comes in the form of a somewhat serious, prudish Deborah Kerr as Anne Larsen, whose presence in Cécile and Raymond's lives threaten their carefree lifestyle. Cécile, spoiled and selfish, reacts to this threat with adolescent cunning; her schemes resulting in damages far greater than planned.

The events in Bonjour Tristesse are as overly-simple as its characters, described in 1958 by The New York Times as "plainly the creatures of a child's mind that make no sense in a presumably adult film." The novel itself is perhaps partially to blame. Film critic Bosley Crowther further adds that "The lack of discernment on the part of the author is carried over in the film."

But what Bonjour Tristesse lacks in substance, it makes up for with style. Cinematically, Preminger's CinemaScope views of the Côte d'Azur elicits a desire to vacation by the Mediterranean, while his breaking of the fourth wall makes voluptuous appeal of Seberg's gamine beauty. "Whatever Seberg does in Breathless, she's already done in Bonjour Tristesse." Explains director Mark Rappaport in From the Journals of Jean Seberg. "She looks at the camera for long periods of time, with zero expression on her face, with her voiceover accompanying it. This was the first time this kind of technique had been appropriated."

Sartorially too, Bonjour Tristesse offers up plenty of eye candy at the hands of no other than Hubert de Givenchy. From Deborah Kerr's smart, sculptural ensembles, to Seberg and Niven's almost coordinated leisurewear, the costume design not only visually echoes each character's persona, but also serves to add visual interest where profundity is lacking. That Cécile wears her father's clothes is more than cue enough of her inheriting his amoral disregard. That bit at least, I find terribly brilliant.

Bonjour Tristesse, 1958. Directed by Otto Preminger.

June 26, 2014

That Immediate Present

THEY ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL, FASHIONABLE and appear to all belong to the same beautiful, fashionable sphere that is the work of Alex Katz. "Bucolic" was a word used by Barbaralee Diamondstein-Spoelvogel in an interview with the artist, in describing his smooth, "wrinkle-free" subjects. In response, Katz explained that his style and subject matter have mainly to do with portraying the immediate present. And to Katz, that immediate present normally consists of his immediate social circles: a milieu of poets, critics and other art world colleagues.

While his large body of work includes landscapes and groups of figures, prominent in Katz's work are portraits of women. Rendered in striking color and cropping, Katz depicts his subjects in a way that he describes as both "aggressive" and "life-sized". Seemingly strong a word for such delicate-looking characters, the portraits can indeed be aggressive, commanding attention even when juxtaposed with larger paintings of varying subject matter. "You wanna burn the image in someone's head." Katz comments in a 2009 feature by the Smithsonian. Indeed, billboards attract and distract in the exact same way. As for the portraits being life-sized, Katz considers the term to be relative. A person could be standing inches from you and they look large. Meters from you, and while still life-sized, they could appear very small. The idea always goes back to appearance and the sensations of the immediate present; themes that have provided Katz his signature style and subject matter through an illustrious 60-year career.

Personally appealing to me too of Katz's work is the notable degree of fashion incorporated into the pictures. There is much attention paid to the women's outfits, their hairstyles, their headwear. Even makeup seems to not have been left out, albeit the subjects' faces appear clean and natural. Having always been a fan of illustrators like Jordi Labanda and Bo Lundberg, whose images portray a similar simplicity, luxury and emotional detachment, it is only natural that I be drawn to Katz's art.

On an interview with Artnet in 2011, the now 86-year-old Katz described his audience to have been "increasing a lot in the last 10 years." As it happens, it was on Pinterest that I discovered his work, a portrait entitled Eli's Friend, occupying a frame amongst other Pins no wider than a fifth of the screen. It looked hardly life-sized but it was aggressive. It was love at first Pin.

Cheesy? Just being like Katz and keeping to the immediate present. Unfortunately, it's not sounding quite as lush.

Blue Umbrella, Sarah, The Orange Band, Song, Alba, Black Scarf and Julia and Alexandra by Alex Katz, all images from


LadyLikes is a lifestyle and culture blog by Lady San Pedro, a writer and designer based in Barcelona. Text and images on this site are property of the blog author or of their respective proprietors noted at the end of each post.

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