dimanche 13 mars 2016

Chateau d'Eau

After a late morning stop by the Agnes B galerie to check out the Malick Sidibé and Omar Victor Diop photography exhibition, I took the metro line 4 and exited at "Chateau d'Eau" station. I needed to restock on my favorite Mizani's cream gel to achieve my afro.

For a long long time, this neighborhood at the North East of Paris has been one of the only place for Black women to find beauty and care products (the good, the bad and even the very toxic life threatening skin lighteners), hair salons, fabrics, food also. I can't remember for how long I've been going to that place, certainly when I moved back from Benin after high-school graduation.

There are touts everywhere once you're out of the metro trying to coax you up to get your hair/nails done in "their" salons, it can be very annoying but I get that it's their way of making ends meet since they're paid on commissions depending on the number of clients they bring, usually a simple "non" or negative head shake and they'll move on to the next potential customer.   

Now that most of the French corporations realized how much money they were losing by ignoring the Afro-descendants purchasing power, one can find a (sadly often apart segregated) "ethnic" corner in most supermarkets and boutiques dedicated to our special needs have opened up in gentrified areas, mostly White arrondissements of Paris. Not to mention, how internet has simply revolutionized French Black women's information access and shopping for haircare, skincare and makeup.   

Still whenever I need to buy synthetic hair to get braids done or stock up on coconut oil, Eco Styler gel, Shea Moisture products etc., I make the trip all the way to Chateau d'Eau despite the distance from my home, despite the hustlers.

First, products there are a lot cheaper and considering how pricy some brands are in France (looking at you Mizani and Shea Moisture with your average 15 to 20 euros per product) a few euros saved are always worth it in my opinion. I get that location can justify a price increase, sometimes I'm willing to pay the extra bucks but usually I'd rather add an extra 10 minutes metro ride to pay less!

Second, the store I go to has a great diverse stock, a pleasant quiet atmosphere, sales assistants are polite but not overwhelming, have rad hairstyles and useful comments on products.

Finally, I've always been quite conservative - I did a brownish hair color 3 weeks ago to cover my grey hair and already had a hard time adjusting lol - but I love to see the variety of hairstyles, wigs demonstrating the creativity and cleverness of my sisters. I find it inspiring, uplifting too, so shout-out to all the women of color outhere fearlessly embracing themselves and being free!

"Ironically", I posed in front of one of those whitening skintone brands I despise which are preying on Black women's suffering and centuries of self-hatred bashing. I can't fathom the inner wounds it would take to believe that a lighter skin tone is the solution.

I was wearing : Coat: Uniqlo / Sweater: Isabel Marant Etoile / Jeans + scarf: Cos / Sneakers: Nike x Comptoir des Cotonniers / Bag: Céline

7 commentaires:

  1. I've been reading you for a couple of years now (both for the Style and because I love to visit Paris, either IRL or virtually), and I don't think I've commented before. Delurking because I'm so pleased to see someone expand the usual representation of Paris. I've walked through that area, passed by those shops and their hustler/hawkers, and have found it a good antidote to a certain ennui and discomfort I feel in the face of so much expensive consumerism, so much retail beauty that excludes... Thanks for this post and for your blog in general. I do enjoy your very chic pragmatism and the regular peeks at Paris.

    1. Ha! I was desperately looking for the words "hawkers" but my mind was blocked on the from Lagos term "hustlers"!
      All those men and women, old or young, up at the crack of dawn, working their way up or just getting by is so common in West Africa. I guess in a way their presence in this parisian neighborhood feels familiar to most African descents. I remember a co-worker feeling sorry for me because in his mind it was harassment. I had to explain to him it's just business, there's no tension nor fear. It's just annoying to have to repeat "no, I don't want to do my hair" all the way till destination but no harm will come from it.

      And yes, there are definitely sides of this city that are worlds apart, kept under wraps, it's too often the same parisian clichés (litterally).

      Thanks so much for the kind and heartening words, I truly appreciate them.

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  3. It's quite easy to find (for lack of a better term?) non-white beauty products in NYC, there are entire neighborhoods in all the boroughs dedicated to specific nationalities. In Philly it's a bit more spread out, and I always found it amusing that they have an "Ethnic Beauty" section in the local KMart. Sadly even in Asian, South Asian beauty it's all about the skin lightening!

    1. Oh dear, so the French didn't invent anything? lol!
      It always irks me that I have to get my beauty products in an separate supermarket "ethnic" section in a country which refuses to proceed to ethnic statistics. The hypocrisy.

      Just saw a campaign about the "fair skin" issue in several parts of the world including South Asia, it's saddening the futile pain and mindgames we inflict on ourselves.

  4. Réponses
    1. Indeed. "Que la terre lui soit légère", as we say in West Africa.