Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lacoste: the village, not the brand

Les deux Lacostes
J'adore the Lacoste ad campaign, Un peu d'air sur terre.
 (A little air on earth.)
But this post is not about the French tennis player, Réné Lacoste -- nicknamed the Crocodile --or the brand. It's about Lacoste, the old mountain village in the Luberon region of France, overlooking the Grand Luberon mountains. When I visited Lacoste last September, I discovered two fascinating aspects to the place. It was the home of the Marquis de Sade, the 18th c. writer and libertine, and today, it is virtually the private domain of Pierre Cardin, the French fashion designer and entrepreneur.
Entering Lacoste from the road below the mountain, one does not realize, unless one has properly done one's homework, that secrets lurk among the stone alleys.
Richard walks through the arch leading to Lacoste.
Secret gates lead to the castle.
Knock three times ...
I could only go so far up the cobbled lane for fear that I would aggravate my sprained ankle. I passed this house with blue shutters, and a gardener came down the steps and greeted me. Actually, he complimented me on my orange and blue Zara blouse. I love French men, except that he spoke English, so perhaps he was just an English guy who had become Frenchified. Whatever. It made my day. Don't think for a moment that women of a certain age don't like compliments.
After awhile, Dianna, Michael and Richard emerged from their exploration of the village. They reported that the castle, on top of the hill, had been inhabited by the Marquis de Sade. But not only that, now it was also the home of  a Pierre Cardin's art gallery!
The Marquis de Sade was a French aristocrat, revolutionary politician, philosopher, writer and all-around enfant terrible. He wrote erotic work emphasizing violence and blasphemy against the Catholic Church. For these deeds, he was imprisoned in an insane asylum for 32 years.
In 2001, Pierre Cardin, the iconic fashion designer of the 60s, added the crumbling castle to his fashion and hotel empire. (He owns Maxims restaurants and hotels.) Cardin, who is 90, founded his fashion house in 1950 and is known for his "Space Age" styles which feature geometric patterns, tunics, goggles, helmets and vinyl. He was the first haute couture designer to design a ready-to-wear collection which he sold at Printemps, the French department store.
A Cardin dress from 1967.
An announcement from the June, 1967 Vogue. Paris: Cardin's coming....
Cardin geometric designs. Je les aime!

In the past 10 years, Cardin has bought more than 40 buildings in Lacoste and is renovating them -- some as guest quarters. The jewel is the former de Sade castle -- which Cardin has turned in to a museum showing modern art. He also founded a summer music and theater festival called Festival de Lacoste.
A sculpture from Cardin's collection in the castle's courtyard.

The castle is also filled with antiques.

Cardin's vision, both in fashion and art, is extraordinary. 
Au revoir Lacoste!

I get immersed en français

This past weekend I attended a French "On the Go" 3-day immersion course at The New School in New York City. I have been studying French there for 6 years in the Continuing Education division. I am now at an intermediate level. I find that the weekend immersion courses are excellent because it's solid French all day, all the time -- and you can improve your speaking skills.
 Here's my class. 
Our teacher, Julia Anderson, is wearing the green sweater.
Julia gave us some rules for choosing the correct gender of nouns. This was useful except, like almost every rule in French, there are exceptions to memorize. I think David McCullough, in his magnificent book about Americans in Paris in the 1800s, The Greater Journey, says it best:
"To find that every noun had a gender -- that a hand was feminine, while a foot was masculine -- and that one was expected to know which was which, seemed to the newcomers too much to cope with, and often illogical or even unfair. Why were all four seasons -- hiver, printemps, été and automne -- masculine for instance. Could not spring perhaps be feminine? "
And, I might point out, the word for season, la saison, is feminine!
Oh well, c'est printemps à New York!
Sisters, Jeanne, Susan, and Carol, admire spring bonnets at Bergdorf Goodman's children's shop.

Thanks to Dianna Cramer for the photos of Lacoste in this post.

If you want to see the most charming pop-up book about Rene Lacoste, click here.
And all things Pierre Cardin, ici.

À Bientôt!

1 comment:

  1. Lacoste is a wonderful brand! They create gorgeous and attractive collections. Wonderful design, perfect style and brilliant materials.