Iconic Beach Cars

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As many return from overseas holidays, stay-cations and City breaks I wanted to send a “wish you were here” digital postcard – also my 300th Aestheticons post – from a wonderful visit to France’s Cote d’Azur, more particularly, the iconic French beach-side town of St Tropez with it’s simply beautiful pastel shaded port.

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Fame was assured for this picturesque coastal town when the 1950’s French actress, Brigitte Bardot, born in 1934 and still a local resident at Baie des Canebiers, featured in the 1956 Roger Vadim directed and ground breaking “And God Created Woman” (“Et Dieu Crea la Femme”). Mdme. Bardot’s impact on the region has been honored by local baker “Senequier” who in 1956 launched the delicious “La Tarte Tropezienne”, a delicate almond cream filled brioche topped with powdered icing sugar and chopped pistachio.

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Shot on location in and around St Tropez the film also provided a springboard for the world renowned beach club/restaurant “Club 55” that was founded from a dilapidated beach shack by the parents of current owner, Patrice de Colmont, who provided food for the cast and crew of filmmakers. Rumored to have recently been offered €30m for his iconic beach club M Colmont is understood to have politely turned down the offer as he preferred not to become one of his clients eating the signature dish of “Panier des Crudites” with anchoiade mayonnaise!

The town’s along this stretch of the Cote D’Azur are each rather distinct and have their own style. The beach is never far from people’s minds as they negotiate, sometimes to the frustration of the locals, the summertime traffic of fellow tourists.

Naturally in this style capital it is vital to get your beach or port transport right. For those not seeking to impress in the vast array of American muscle cars that are to be spotted in many locations, my preference is to celebrate the more quirky and classic vehicles.

Aestheticons readers will already know of my passion for the GRP bodied Citroen Mehari – see our previous post here – Citroën Méhari – A reliable French classic that is patriotically supported and really enjoyed in St Tropez and its surrounding villages.

The Mini Moke, which has the look of a vehicle that was designed for the breeze of the Cote D’Azur, is a very popular ride either to the beach or to park up alongside a visiting boat transporting provisions for a day at sea. For the the right clients it is possible to rent one of these wonderful and iconic cars for your stay. See our previous posts here – Mini Moke Goes Electric .

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Closer to the original Mini, I have seen parked in Grimaldi Village, a beach version with wicker seats and no doors, called the “Austin Mini Beach”. It was very beautiful and, I understand, extremely valuable! See our previous post here celebrating the iconic Mini – Mini – the best selling car in Britain

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The third leaf of this Fleur de Lys of wonderful beach and port transport is the Ghia designed Fiat Jolly based on the equally iconic Fiat 500 – see our previous post here – Fiat 500 – 1957-2017

Seemingly one of the most valuable of these iconic beach cars price points of $100,000 have been mentioned for these basket weave seated, frilled canopied expressions of Italian style.

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Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis is said to have had and loved his Fiat Jolly.

In 2108 this charming little car celebrated its sixtieth anniversary and to coincide the guys at Fiat commissioned Garage Italia to produce a reimagined version of the Jolly, limited to 1958 editions, and called the Fiat Spiaggina.

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Image Credits – used with grateful thanks – Hemmings Car Auctions and Garage Italia/FIAT

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Philippe Starck

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Whilst a designer cannot be defined by one of their designs, Phillipe Starck’s “Juicy Salif” is definitive of an era when form and function were not mutually incompatible but certainly pushed boundaries. It’s designer has proved to be one of the most versatile and influential on an entire generation – or two – of consumers.

As many readers will know, I used to live and work in Paris in the early 1980’s for an international law firm housed on the Champs Elysees. I was intoxicated by Paris but it was not all Pastis and Gitanes. I knew of the young Parisien designer, Phillipe Starck, who had been appointed as Art Director to the furniture business of the House of Pierre Cardin, a client of the firms, but couldn’t have anticipated his impact on my World.

Starck was born 18th January 1949, after studying at the prestigious product and interior design École Camondo on Paris’ Left Bank, he worked for Adidas and founded his own design business Starck Design/Ubik. This led to his work with Alessi – see our previous post on the power house of Italian Design  – Alessi Bollitore kettle  in 1990, Starck designed the Juicy Salif for Alessi.

It is said that the idea came to Starck whilst having lunch on the Amalfi coast. He realised that his plate of calamari hadn’t been dressed by lemon juice and had an idea. He scribbled some thoughts onto a napkin that is now preserved at the Alessi Museum. Some say that the Juicy Salif is a triumph of form over function in that it’s said it doesn’t work that well …. for Starck, he is rumoured to have said: “It’s not meant to squeeze lemons, it is meant to start conversations.”

Early projects included the refurbishment of the interior of newly elected President Mitterand’s apartment at the Elysee Palace, followed by the interior design of the iconic Cafe Costes in Paris in 1984, for brothers Jean-Louis and Gilbert Costes, a design which included the now celebrated leather and bent-wood, Costes Chair.

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By the late 1980s Starck was designing environmentally sensitive buildings in Japan including the 1989 “Nani, Nani” and in 1990 the Asahi Beer Hall in Tokyo.

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The late 1990’s into the new Millenium saw Starck heavily involved in the revitalization of the hotel sector with signature projects in New York with Ian Shrager’s “Paramount”

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The Delano in Miami and in London, The Sanderson. The latter is sympathetically based in the Grade II listed 1950’s Reginald Uren’s designed building at 50, Berners Street, London W1 that until 1992 housed the showrooms of Arthur Sanderson’s fabric business deep in London’s Rag Trade area.

Starck interest in things nautical has led to commissions to design some of the world’s most stunning yachts including two “A” motor and sailing yachts for Russian Billionaire, Andrey Melnichenko.

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Starck’s more recent work has involved designing four e-bikes in partnership with Mousthache Bikes, customized to the environment of use including snow and sand….

and the Pibal cycle for the City of Bordeaux.
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UK TV viewers may recall the 2009 BBC2 series fronted by Starck “Design For Life” reality TV show. Over a number of weeks selected Design Students were encouraged – and sometimes railed on by the Gallic Starck – to revive an English passion for design. The weakest were iliminated and the winner was given a six month placement at Starck’s Paris office. Arriving on set with his wife riding pillion on his motor bike, Starck clearly engaged with a UK audience. A fluent English speaker, you were left wondering whether his elaborate pronunciation was part of an act. Excellent TV, but it didn’t make a second series.

Would you like to add a Juicy Salif to your kitchen? If so, click on the Amazon link below the image of the Juicy Salif

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Alessi Juicy Salif Citrus Juicer

Image Credits – with grateful thanks – Starck Network, Moustache Bikes and Alessi

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Jacques-Yves Cousteau

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If you ask anyone raised in Europe or the US between the 1960’s to 1980’s to name an iconic and impactful TV programme, I can assure you that for many the under water natural history films of Jacques Cousteau would rank very high on a not very long list.

From the curious French soundtrack of slightly strident strings, to the Gallic, faltering commentary – I can never hear the French pronouciation of the name “Philippe” (one of his four children) without thinking of Capt Cousteau – this was pioneering television at its best. It left such an impact on us, a Jacques-Yves Cousteau sized hole that I suspect David Attenborough fills, but who was Cousteau?

Born 11th June 1910, Cousteau, in 1930 studied at the École Navale in Brittany (West France) after graduation he joined the French Navy. His commission was brief curtailed by a car accident where he sustained breaks to both arms. In 1937 he married Simone, the mother of his first two sons, Jean-Michel and Phillipe, who both would accompany their father on subsequent adventures.

In the late 1930’s Jacques first used diving goggles and in 1943 he received an award for the first French underwater film, filmed on a pressurized camera, entitled “Par dix-huit mètres de fond“ (“18m Deep”). The same year Cousteau’s team made “Epaves” (“Shipwrecks”) – which resulted in his commission to establish the French Navy’s Underwater Research Group based in Toulon. During filming he using pro-type aqua-lungs incorporating the recently invented demand regulator.

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The resultant freedom of the Aqua-lung allowed his team to explore the depths of the oceans of the World and document them through a myriad of films. His first films from the late 1940’s were celebrated at the Cannes Film Festival in 1951 and his early adventures were captured in his book published in 1953 “The Silent World”.

In 1956, a film of entitled “The Silent World”, made with famed director Louis Malle won the Palm d’Or at Cannes and an Academy Award for the Best Documentary in 1957. The Rolex Submariner – Rolex – The Submariner – the first divers’ watch waterproof to a depth of 100 metres with a rotatable bezel showing the diver their immersion time, was featured prominently in his film which shows Cousteau wearing a pre-launch Submariner The Silent World – The Film

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Leaving the Navy in 1949 he founded in 1950 the French Oceanographic Campaign (FOC) and leased his trusty ship Calypso from its owner, for a symbolic one franc a year, and wealthy benefactor, Thomas Loel Guinness.

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The documentaries commissioned by US TV stations, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau ran from 1966 to 1976 followed by a second series “The Cousteau Odyssey” from 1977 to 1982. Cousteau had spent time growing up living in the US so his English was excellent but he retained his Gallic accent that added much to the authenticity of his films.

In 1979, Phillipe – Cousteau’s favourite child – was sadly killed when a sea plane he was piloting crashed in Portugal.

Following Simone’s death in 1990, in 1991 Cousteau remarried, Francine, already the mother of his two other children. Cousteau died from a heart attack on 25th June 1997 and Francine continues her husband’s work as President of the Cousteau Foundation and Cousteau Society. The Museum in Monaco – where Cousteau was a Director from 1957 to 1988 – is well worth a visit.

In the early 1970’s, like many other teenagers I enjoyed snorkeling. The clear influence of Capt. Cousteau stimulated my interest to know more that resulted in my first steps to undertake the British Sub-Aqua Club’s training course that included pool and open water diving. For quite some time, prior to me realizing my future lay not in the sciences, in response to that irritating question from a friend of my parents, “What do you want to do?” my response was always “To be a Marime Biologist” – Merci Capt. Jacques!

A lasting tribute in Cousteau’s own words: “The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.”

Join Jacques Cousteau’s on his undersea adventures – by clicking the Amazon link below the image 

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Jacques Cousteau – The Ultimate Collection [DVD] [2007]

May be for those who are not yet ready for Capt. Cousteau’s Ultimate Collection and would – how do you say – like to put a toe in the water….the Undersea World of Jacque Cousteau must the finest starting point – click the Amazon link after the image 

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The Undersea World Of JACQUES COUSTEAU 6 DVD Box Set PAL

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Image credit – with grateful thanks – Globalfirstandfacts.com, The Cousteau Foundation, The Cousteau Society, ABC, NBC, Metromedia and Fred Muller II.

Hubert de Givenchy

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Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy founded his eponymous haute couturier business in Paris in 1952 having previously worked alongside Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior.  His elder brother, Jean-Claude, became President of Parfums Givenchy with early fragrances being developed for Hubert’s muse, Audrey Hepburn, for whom he designed an iconic black dress worn beautifully in “Breakfast at Tiffanys”.

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The brothers – I suspect reluctantly – divided the House of Givenchy in 1981, with the perfume business going to Veuve Clicquot and, in 1989, fashion going to the staggeringly successful LMVH business. LMVH subsequently acquired Parfums Givenchy.

An elegant and tall M de Givenchy with piercing blue eyes was very noble. I am proud to say that I played a very small role in the dramatic personae of his iconic business in the early 1980s.

In 1980 I moved to Paris. I had read Clive Davis book on working at CBS and was enraptured with the idea of working with such an exciting American company. CBS’ European HQ was in Paris, a city that I have always adored. My hopes of working with this giant in the communications market were dashed but later history would complete that particular circle.

Ok so I was in Paris, I had a law degree and a couple of phone numbers. A friend from college had a brother who was a partner at a Law Firm on the Champs Elysees upstairs from what was the Bank of America and Monoprix supermarket that subsequently housed a Virgin Megastore. To my remarkable good fortune I was given a job with the firm.

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The firm’s roots were deep in old French aristocratic families and they specialized in representing couturier clients – many of whom became “brands”. There I met the people including Pierre Cardin, the master of brand licensing, Karl Largerfeld, who then worked for Chloe and brothers, Hubert and Jean-Claude De Givenchy.

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Hubert’s “atelier” was on Avenue Georges V – where th boss always wore a white lab-coat – for this impressionable 21 year old it was an Aladdin’s Cave. A heady combination of barely-dressed, striking models, celebrity clientele and the high art of French fashion design with wonderful fabrics.

Knowing my appreciation of his working environment, on the smallest pretense his team would call me over from the Law Firm’s office to his atelier just to lap up the atmosphere!

The firm employed me as a “Stagiere” – akin to a para-legal – that combined translating documents, standing in queues at the Company’s Registry, seeking signatures of clients to a variety of agreements, catching white Pugeot 504 taxis in the Spring sunshine on the Quai Dorsey and, almost every Friday, eating remarkably good Cuz cuz Royale in the Moroccan restaurant on Rue de La Boetie.

Ever encouraging I spent a lot of time assisting Hubert with legal matters. I was very touched as my “Stagiere” contract approached its end, Hubert called me to his office, said some very kind things and presented me with a huge bottle of his signature Givenchy “For Gentlemen”.

I was very sad to hear it announced that Hubert de Givenchy had passed away on 10th March 2018. He was a hugely talented designer, very charming and massively inspirational.

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Photo credit – with grateful thanks – Rex Features, LMVH.

 

 

 

Vilebrequin swim shorts

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The beaches within easy reach of most Northern European airports, namely those on the the Côte d’Azur, the Costa Smerelda and the Costa del Sol have for several years been the scene of a particularly charming Father and Son(s) bonding custom – which I am happy to admit my son and I have been part of. The engineer of this pan-European display are the nice people at Vilebrequin.

In 1971 photographer and motor racing enthusiast and Saint Tropez resident, Fred Prysquel, was inspired by the local artists, the light and colour of the Cote d’Azur to sketch a design for a pair of classic swim shorts – known as the “Moorea” cut – that would give birth to the dynamic and iconic brand, Vilebrequin. Curiously, its name is the French word for the “crankshaft” which we understand was inspired by the metal spiral staircase in the first shop to bear its name.

Given the prevalence of sailing in the area, Prysquel decided to use spinnaker sail cloth – noted for its quick during properties and resilient to sun and wind – for his shorts which, since their debut, have featured vibrant colours and maritime patterns. With the success of M Prysquel’s early design the signature and witty sea turtle image has become synoymous with the beaches of the South of France.

The brands fame spread to other European hotspots, becoming essential kit – almost a uniform – for the beach bound “Yuppy” where it would usually be accompanied by a signature and highly waterproof Swiss watch – up to at least 300m – often made by Rolex or Omega Rolex Submariner or Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Master Co-Axial

In 1991, Loïc Berthet, took over the brand and added new models. The original model was also enhanced by the addition of a over the brand. He further develops the brand by adding a back pocket secured with Velcro with an eyelet “draining” hole and a cotton lining.

As our Yuppy hero grew up he would often confront the challenges of parenthood. Vilebrequin, being savvy to their customer’s circumstances, realized that they could expand their collection and exponentially grow their market by the introduction in 1995 of the matching Father and Son range – with boy’s sizes starting at a minuscule 6 months.

My son and I each had a deep blue pair with curiously stylised wrapped toffees which we adored. His pair were a little large for him when bought so we had several years of seriously cool beach co-ordination! See our picture below on Spain’s Costa de la Luz – paradise but don’t tell too many others!

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In a decade from 1990 Vilebrequin opened stores in London, Paris, New York and Madrid with a distribution network in more than 50 countries.

In 2012, Vilebrequin was acquired by US fashion corporation, G-III Apparel Group, Ltd., who, in addition to a drive to expand its operations in the Far East, have extended the range with a “Mother and Daughter” collection.

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Photo Credits – with grateful thnaks – Vilebrequin and author’s own!