It is Fashion Week in Paris and SOME LIKE IT HAUTE. Haute Couture is a French phrase for high fashion. Alex Simons, style writer for The Weekly magazine, has her complete head to toe outfit for each runway show she will be attending entered into an Excel spreadsheet. Every piece of clothing --- including her black La Perla bra with matching thong, Chanel skirt, trusty black jacket, Tahitian pearl choker, Mabe ring and black Balenciaga bag --- is laid out and ready to slip on. But, "Oh no," her Manolo slingbacks are missing. Thus begins our adventure with Alex's obsession with shoes, shopping and the exclusive world of Haute Couture in Paris.
For most women, Parisian design houses are a fantasy land splashed across the pages of Vogue and W magazines. We look at the photos of perfect models dressed in Valentino, Chanel, Gucci, Dior, Givenchy, Yves St. Laurent, Prada and other famous designers with desire, envy and yearning. Alex reports, "Wearing couture suddenly made you stand straighter and taller, move a little more alluringly." Lust takes on a new meaning as we imagine ourselves in the VIP rooms being measured and fitted for a designer gown to wear for a special man or special occasion.
SOME LIKE IT HAUTE fulfills our fantasies and speaks to the indulgent shopper behind those Chanel sunglasses wearing those Manolo Blahnik designer shoes. Designer shoes and accessories have become the sophisticated woman's entree into Haute Couture and leading lady status. With the increased profiles of American and European shoe designers Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Stuart Weitzman, Jimmy Choo and Prada, coupled with Carrie's obsession with stilettos in HBO's hit "Sex and the City," women have permission to indulge in jewels for the feet.
Alex Simon's guilty pleasure is designer shoes, and she shares this pleasure and a description of each unrestrained purchase. I have to admit, there's a certain adrenaline rush to buying sexy shoes. I'll never forget The Harrods Sale slogan, "Real temptation…" I was giddy at the first sight of the monumental temple of designer items, tempted by the word "sale," intoxicated by the time I got to Luxury Room number two and one pair of sexy designer shoes richer when I reluctantly left at closing time. Shopping is a sensory experience that fuels our fantasies and turns them into reality via temptation and indulgence. Like Alex, I can define my life by the ultra sexy shoes called "Lightshow" I bought with a best friend at Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, those little gold sandals purchased at Harrods, and shoes that were complimented by a man or a stranger. There is little doubt in this reviewer's mind why shoes and couture shows are the themes of SOME LIKE IT HAUTE.
Julie K.L. Dam's debut novel is the Bible of the "haute" shopping experience. "I didn't even ask the price; I just jumped right in." When we really want something, isn't this what we all do? Haute Couture is artistry. Shopping is an art too. Alex defines herself through "retail therapy," as she calls it. The "ceremonial rites of browsing and buying" are more meaningful" when she is getting over a man, forgetting an ordeal at work, or her public collision with a model during the Chanel showing in Paris. Alex heads to Prada for consolation, where she brazenly says to the saleswoman amidst a room full of clothes and accessories, "I'll take it. All of it."
Excusez-moi, but what fantasy land in Paris would be complete without romance? Lucky for Alex, Nick Snow makes the same collision faux paux and the headlines replace Alex as Scandal of the Week. Alex and Nick meet at a showing of Luis-Heinz, a mysterious new designer. A kidnapping plot is unnecessary and out of place in this fashionista novel. The romance between Alex and Nick is treated lightly, without any real substance beyond the 25-dozen red roses Nick sends to apologize for keeping his purpose in Paris a secret for so long. Romance should be light and fun, especially in Paris.
The perfect Hermes tie, and "sparkling and hazel, almost gray" eyes bring Alex and Nick together, and we are treated to accurate descriptions of their ride past the Parisian shopping landmark Bon Marche, the Eiffel Tower, along the Champs-Elysees and the Seine. In an interesting and mainstream twist, Nick shares his guilty pleasure with Alex with this revelation: "Alex, I'm a contestant on a reality-TV show." Alex is livid --- I won't give the premise away. True to Alex's identity, she compares the fight for a man to a fight for a pair of shoes on sale at Bergdorf's. In my opinion, if anyone could understand Nick's TV fetish, it would be a member of the media and a shoe whore.
"You could toss a pebble anywhere in Paris and hit a romantic spot." You can also toss a credit card anywhere in Paris and buy a pair or two or three of designer shoes to remember your Parisian shopping experience. Before you say "Au revoir" to Paris or the nearest upscale mall, splurge on designer shoes. When one is "haute," one is "hot."
Reviewed by Hillary Wagy on January 23, 2011
Some Like It Haute