A French Affair In Melbourne

Image: Kerry-Ann Bartle (centre) with Janine Lum (L) and Peta Doran of EWIB

Un événement merveilleux – a wonderful event; in both languages it totally describes my excitement attending A French Affair at the Sofitel in Melbourne, held by European Women in Business (EWIB). Their aim is to bring “professional women together to create networking connections,” allowing women to “share in knowledge, experiences and resources … or just sharing an interest in European culture.” Throughout the night, the emphasis was on networking, from exchanging business cards to seeking out new opportunities.

Sweet accordion music ringing in my ears, elegantly dressed guests and a stunning display of French delights lay before me. With the room adorned in all that exudes French style and class, I was taken back to my own memories of Paris and the French Riviera. And so my journey began.

First was the delicate and flowing illustrations by Michel Canetti, his brush strokes expertly capturing the female figure. A celebration of feminine beauty and style, “mixing together flowing rounded curves and sharp, sophisticated detail.” Michel has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands, from Chanel to Peugot, and from Beverly Hills Magazine to book covers for Marian Keyes. As one of France’s leading fashion illustrators, it was an honour to be in his presence to say the least.

Michel Canetti's illustrations
Michel Canetti’s illustrations

Next, I met Nicole Langdon from Castille De Fleur Savonnerie and bespoke soap maker. Her family celebrates ancestral ties to France, which sparked her passion for French Provençal castille soap. She explained that her unique scents are created using only the best botanical products from around the world. The resulting natural perfumes are natural and gentle, without compromising the gorgeous scents; just as nature intended.

Learning from Nicole Langdon about the art of soap making
Learning from Nicole Langdon about the art of soap making

As I ventured further, I came across the amazing visual artisan chocolate from Shocolate. My taste buds were astounded by an assortment of handmade Belgian chocolates, ganaches and truffles. I was delighted to meet owner, Pamela Raschella, and chat to her about her passion for chocolate and unusual flavour combinations and ingredients – the kick of chilli, saffron or salted caramel. As a self-confessed chocolate lover, I was in heaven.

With Pamela Raschella of Shocolate
With Pamela Raschella of Shocolate

While we were nibbling delicious hors d’oeuvres and enjoying French wine from The Ballande Groupe, Janine Lum introduced the evening’s guest speakers. Michael Bula from MBS shared his expertise on purchasing property in France while keeping guests entertained with his French. Beatrice Imbert, author of “The Secret Diaries of Inspirational Women,” told us to follow our dreams no matter what. I had the pleasure of meeting her, but not before a representative of Anton Jewellery introduced us to the fabulous collections on offer on the night.

Beatrice Imbert and I
Beatrice Imbert and I

Talk about a girl’s best friend! At Anton Jewellery, I ogled at the unique and precious pieces on display, encased in glass cabinets and twinkling under the lights. From priceless Cartier timepieces to the dazzling Hot Rocks collection, it would be a lucky lady who could treat herself to these gems.

The delights from Anton Jewellery
The delights from Anton Jewellery

Finally, I met the ladies of Aaizel, a Melbourne based fashion label by Minhee Jo, who painstakingly handcrafts ornately detailed and unique pieces. Aaizel juxtaposes “femininity and masculinity in harmony; accented by hardware features, and ornate embellishments” on luxurious materials: fine laces, silk velvets and jacquard brocade. The ladies modeled the designs of Nouveau Départ, Aaizel’s first collection, and they looked absolutely beautiful.

Itxel Burgos, Minhee Jo, Milana Scerbakora, me and Seema Ratna
With the ladies of Aaizel – Itxel Burgos, Minhee Jo, Milana Scerbakora, me and Seema Ratna

I picked up a goodie bag full of vouchers, skincare, cosmetics and gifts from the sponsors and participants and ended my journey at home, enjoying my copy of the French Provincial Magazine over a glass of wine. A French Affair was a journey of pure French eloquence, and opened my eyes to some of the finer French influences in and around Melbourne.


Kerry-Ann Bartle

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