Archive for August, 2009


What Is Your “Normal”?

This is the picture of a woman sitting in her underwear with a smile on her face and a belly that looks…normal.  It appeared in the September issue of Glamour magazine and instantly became a social phenomenon.


 We live in the Photoshop era, where images of six-pack abdomens are bombarding our minds from shelves and screens everywhere. Do we even know what  “normal” is anymore..?

Watch this segment from Today Show, for more about the picture people can’t stop talking about:


Fashion Mags Cross Cultures Carefully

An interesting discussion of style and cultural sensitivity …

French women’s magazines taking root in Arab world, but it’s a tricky business

What is deemed acceptable content can vary widely between Middle Eastern countries — and even between cities in the same nation

PARIS — France-based women’s magazines Elle and Marie-Claire, are continuing a push into the Arab market but say having to adapt content to local sensitivities without contradicting their own ideals is no piece of cake.


The United Arab Emirates version of this edition of Elle (left) can get away with the model having bare legs and shoulders, and cleavage. The Saudi Arabia version (right) covers them up. France-based women’s mags Elle and Marie-Claire are continuing a push into the Arab market.Marie-Claire has editions in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and last week launched a monthly in Saudi Arabia, where competitor Elle magazine is already present, as well as in Dubai and Lebanon.

But the just-released 35,000 copies of the Saudi edition of Marie-Claire ran into immediate, if minor problems.

A story on Saudi women’s football, in which players are clad in trousers, long sleeves and headscarves, was allowed in full in Jeddah, but not Riyadh.

“Our problem is reconciling local culture with the Marie-Claire concept, which is no piece of cake,” said Laurence Hembert Wermus, who heads international development for the magazine, a touch less glam than rival Elle.

“Given the economic context, there’s no point in launching new magazines in France, but publishers can develop editions internationally, and the Middle East is definitely a growth market,” said Sophie Renaud, who runs the media consultancy Carat France.

“At home, developing internationally shows readers that the publication is dynamic, that it has ideas and convictions, that it’s striving towards change for women,” Renaud said.

Yet in many of these new markets, it remains impossible to run photographs of naked women or stories on a range of sexual practices.

Last April, the French-language Africa newsweekly Jeune Afrique was banned in the UAE because of a cover picture showing a naked woman’s back to illustrate a feature story on Muslims and sex.

So for magazines such as these which over the decades have backed feminist causes, taking root in the Arab world without negating their ideals remains a tricky exercise.

“We are very careful not to provoke uselessly, we don’t want to be banned. It would neither help social progress nor the status of women,” said Jean de Boisdeffre, who heads the international media arm of Elle owner company, Lagardere Active.

The magazine, for example, refrained from running a story on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial call to ban the burka.

“It would’ve been provocative and could’ve prompted readers to link the magazine with French policy,” he said.

Publication of pictures varies from country to country, said Marie Claire’s international editorial manager Florence Duluard.

“In the Emirates we avoid pictures on the fashion pages of girls in very mini skirts or necklines that plunge to their navels. In Arabia, it’s even stricter — no necklines and no knees.”

Both magazines have hired local journalists to provide content with a brief to highlight local designers and issues as well as the fashion labels so popular in the Middle East.

“They know how to broach a subject,” said Elle’s de Boisdeffre, who added that 80 per cent of the magazine was formulated in the region. “And we have enough fashion stories produced elsewhere to be able to choose garments that will please the tastes of all readers,” he added.

Next month’s Saudi edition of Marie-Claire, distributed largely via partner Al Wataniya’s subscriber base, is to run a story on female photographers in the kingdom.

“We do talk about problems in couples or women who are depressed,” added its editorial manager Florence Duluard. “But we never tackle these issues head-on, we take them on sideways, like asking ‘How to take a positive approach to the couple?’ instead of stating that a woman has problems because her husband doesn’t satisfy her.”

“We recently published a feature on hammams [spa baths] that enabled us to evoke a whole series of issues — relations between men and women, between parents and children, and sexuality,” said de Boisdeffre.


The Trenchcoat

Burberry Trenchcoat


“Put on a trench and you’re suddenly Audrey Hepburn walking along the Seine”   –

(Michael Kors)




With September right around the corner, a trenchoat is on many people’s wish list.  A classic trench can work in any kind of weather and goes well with almost anything. For work or play, it suites all ages and body shapes.

The trenchoat was first created by Thomas Burberry for the British Army officers in World War I.  It was designed to keep them warm and dry in the trenches (hence the name).  Jean Paul Gaultier and Yves-Saint Laurent have made careers out of reinventing different versions of the trench, but the basic elements remain the same.  The design has barely changed in ninety years, which is what makes the trench so glamourous and alluring.

Here are some tips on how to buy one:

–          If you opt for epaulets, make sure the coat fits well at the shoulders.

–          Make sure the rear pleat closes easily; if it falls open, the coat may be too small.

–          Although cotton gabardine is the classic fabric for a trench, if you’re looking for wrinkle   resistance  avoid lightweight cottons; blends are often better.

–          The belt is a must-have.

–          Don’t bother with the buckle.  Simply knot the belt around your waist.

–          Look for buttons sewn on by hand and reinforced on the inside.


Random Acts of Courtesy!

Remember a number of years ago there was a movement afoot called Random Acts of Kindness? I’d like to put forth a new concept, Random Acts of Courtesy! This summer, my kids and I have observed the courtesies listed below. We hope you’ll help start a “courtesy crusade” by adding to the list and encouraging others to as well. It’s a fun activity with kids and the things they notice will surprise you! There is so much negative in the news these days, we’d like some of the news to recognize the good that is happening too. Perhaps it will inspire even more courteous behaviours!

1. A driver kindly waving an acknowledgement and thanks to the flag person standing in the heat directing traffic through inevitable summer road construction.

2. A pedestrian, not even intending to cross the street himself, pushing the cross walk button to change the light for the cars hesitantly inching out to cross so they may do so more safely.

3. A shopper with a buggy-ful of groceries inviting the person behind with only a few items, to go through the check-out first rather than having to wait.

4. A fellow slowing his pace to walk across the street with an elderly woman who was slow in crossing and clearly anxious that the traffic light would change and she’d be trapped alone in the street.

5. A patron in the coffee shop offering exact change to the new cashier so that she didn’t have to nervously struggle with making change.

6. A number of people who made the effort to hold the door open and wait for the next person to go through.

We’re keeping our eyes open and look forward to welcoming you and your observations to our Random Acts of Courtesy movement! Pass this on and share your comments.

Top hat polite


Finding the Perfect Jeans

jeansFinding the right pair of jeans can be a daunting process. Here are some  quick tips to remember in the fitting room:

–    Any slenderizing jeans are going to be dark and made with strong fabric.

–    If your behind is large, one-on tone pocket embroidery helps detract attention from a potential troubled area.

–    Rounded pocket edges create a square behind a nice apple figure.

–    Stitching across the tops of pockets sends a person’s gaze up, not down.

–    Monochromatic stitching won’t point out thick thighs or bottoms.

–    If you have large hips, steer clear of tight ankles; they turn legs into drumsticks.

–    If you are blessed with love handles try mid-rise styles, 8 to 8.5 inches from crotch to waist.

–    Avoid boxy, “boyfriend” cuts if you have a boyish figure. They will mask your shape.  Also, look for pairs that rest on the pelvic bone.

–    To conceal a rounded tummy, look for jeans with a thick waistband.

–    If your figure is full, pockets that are too far apart will draw more attention to the backside.

–     And also remember that looking great in jeans requires a 360-degree approach – check out your rear view!


We talked about styles that suit your body shape.  Here is more on denim trends:,,20256726_20289967,00.html


More Cultural Tidbits

Finnish Tango
Finnish Tango

Did you know …?

  • Purple is a colour of mourning in Brazil.
  •  Bolivia has two official capiltal cities – LaPaz (permanent capital) and Sucre (summer capital)
  •  Surgeons in the United Kingdom are addressed as Mr. Mrs. or Miss. rather than Dr.
  • Argentina and Finland are both known for their popular versions of tango dancing.
  • Most Latinos strongly believe gifts depicting elephants should show the trunk held upward to capture good luck; it is considered bad luck for the trunk to face down as it implies the luck can run out. An elephant ornament should always face the door.

Cross-Cultural Moment – Romania

It is always good to study a country you’re visiting or doing business with. You’ll not only be prepared and respectful of the history but you never know what fascinating things you’ll learn!

Today’s video is the first in a series of occasional country- specific postings.  Ladies and gentlemen, today we bring you…..ROMANIA!