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Sheetal Mafatlal demystifies French Riviera chic

Luxury maven Sheetal Mafatlal demystifies French Riviera chic. She dissects beach chic, decodes evening glamour, season’s coveted swimsuits and art of accessorising in an exclusive column for CineBlitz

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Couture, caviar, and champagne — the three Cs have been synonymous with the South of France. The sunny SaintTropez and luxe-lit Monaco have been playgrounds for the  International jet-set monarchs, billionaires, aristocrats, Hollywood glamazons, couturiers and artists. In the swinging ’50s, the ultimate French femme fatale — Brigitte Bardot, put Saint-Tropez on the global firmament as she frolicked in the sunny fishing village in the celebrated film And God Created Woman (1956).

Whatever the decade, the French Riviera chic has continued to evolve since the 1950s. Think Breton stripes, cropped trousers, basket bags and straw boaters — the sartorial picks of the likes of Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Jane Birkin. All they needed was a pair of high-waist shorts, slinky shift dresses worn nonchalantly with espadrilles, cat-eyed sunnies and a head scarf to create some magical moments in the silver screen history. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that these actresses really defined the Riviera style.

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Last year, the three luxury houses — Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Gucci, couldn’t resist the allure of the charming French Riviera, and showcased their 2019 Cruise lines here. Louis Vuitton’s Resort show, which was Nicolas Ghesquière’s fifth for the house, was held at the Fondation Maeght in St. Paul-de-Vence, and Gucci airlifted 400 guests to Arles at the Alyscamps burial ground.

Coming here every summer to soak in the balmy sun and the ever-inspiring street style is always the high-point of my travel calendar. I have always believed that anyone who enjoys glamour and harbours a curiosity about myriad art forms and sub cultures, should visit the South for a vacation.

Also, the fact that most French design houses have beautiful stores here, adds to its allure. From Dior’s country house to the Chanel cafe – the Riviera has some surreal spots to explore and expound on.

And if you enjoy sailing and magnificent super-yachts are your passion, then Monaco is your Mecca — the beacon of luxury known for one-of-a-kind sports cars, glittering galas, and an eclectic mix of celebrities. Fancy buying a 300-foot-long private yacht? There is no better place to be in than the Monaco Yacht Show.

DISSECTING BEACH CHIC

It’s interesting how the Riviera chic is a drastic and off-kilter departure from the Parisian chic. While the French capital glamour is usually high on the moody hues of noir and navy, as one moves South, one begins to see a wide array of soul-searing hues.

While the summer whites stunningly offset the tan, Gothic beach dresses aren’t an uncommon sight. Prints like florals, stripes and gingham stand out against the blue of the sky and the ocean.

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You cannot dress for the Riviera without something from Pucci — a label though Italian, has been synonymous with Riviera chic since the 50’s. Pucci, known for its geometric prints in a kaleidoscope of colours is the ultimate label for Cote d’azure glamour. Also worth mentioning are Roberto Cavalli’s printed tunics, Etro’s printed come-hither playsuits, and Dolce Gabbana’s printed beach dresses.

Jacquemus’ gigantic beach hats eclipsed the style landscape last season, and the label’s fun interpretation of beach chic is vibrant this season too. We all know that stripes are a Riviera signature, but it isn’t just about Breton tees. Striped, long sundresses are also a key component of any French girl’s vacay closet.

A chic pair of espadrilles is a staple, and this season, my eyes are set on Gucci’s striped grosgrain and canvas wedge espadrilles, besides Sophia Webster’s vinyl and patent leather wedge sandals. I’d also recommend investing in a pair of Christian Louboutin Barbaria Zeppa wedge espadrilles.

DECODING EVENING GLAMOUR

The Riviera soirees are truly legendary and everyone goes all out and looks impossibly glamorous and ultra-chic. Head-to-toe shine-on dresses, impeccably beaded gowns, and high-voltage shimmery numbers with thigh-high slits do all the talking.

The contrast of floaty and fluid fabrics and painstakingly done surface texturing creates a dramatic tension, injecting oomph and va-vavoom into the after dark hours. Whenever I’m here, which is every summer, I enjoy dressing up in embellished, feathered, fringed, high-octane dresses and ultra-high heels.

Given the all-pervading vibe of glamour, I like to accessorise with crystal headbands and tasselled clutches. Smokey eyes, big hair and statement red lips echo unapologetic glam resort chic like nothing else.

SEASON’S COVETED SWIMSUITS

Look no further than Missoni’s sequinned swimsuits, Dolce & Gabbana’s exuberant take on the floral print bikini-top, and Versace’s Baroque print monokini swimsuit with matching accessories.

ART OF ACCESSORISING

Complete your look with Gucci’s square, oversized acetate sunnies which flatter your face, or look of-the-moment edgy in Balenciaga neo, mirrored over-frame acetate sunglasses. Add a hat to up the glamour quotient, and dump all your beach essentials in an artisanal Loewe crystal embellished woven straw tote.

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