The one thing I miss most about life in France

The one thing I miss most about life in France

I spent a lot of time during my visit to Paris last week wondering (out loud, much to my husband’s dismay) whether I had make a mistake by leaving such a beautiful city. Now that I am back home in Palo Alto, I am fairly certain that I have not, mainly for reasons involving the number of sunny days in a year, ease of access to swimming pools, and abundance of palm trees. But there is one thing that I will really, deeply miss about my life in France.

I know what you’re thinking –  fashion. And you’re not wrong. But it’s bigger than that. It’s the reason the fashion is so good. It’s the reason the food is so good. It’s the reason that Americans flock there in hoards.


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The evening Christian Constant: Apero chez Cafe Constant and dinner chez Les Cocottes

In fact, I am not really sure how to characterize what “it” is. The closest words I have found to describe “it” are cultural identity, or maybe cultural cohesion. All European countries seem to have it. It’s something that seems to require history – long history – the time to develop a sort of standardized set of common habits – like drinking strong espresso after lunch, or buying fresh bread daily from the bakery.

France’s cultural identity is so strong that it subsumes sub-cultures and immigrant cultures to a much greater extent than many other countries. If you live in France, you are first and foremost French, before being Moroccan or Algerian, Catholic or Jewish, or whatever your sub-identies are. You are not allowed to wear a head scarf at school, even if your religion requires it, allegedly because in France there is separation of church and state, but in reality I think it’s because French women just don’t wear head scarfs et c’est tout – fin de discussion. Think of how starkly different this is from the United States, where people latch on to their immigrant history and proclaim to be Irish before they tell you they are American, despite being 4th generation US citizens.


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Obligatory baguette selfie and breakfast at Le Petit Cler, which was basically an extension of our apartment while I lived there

Don’t get me wrong, there is something wonderful about the cultural diversity of the United States. Our American cultural vacuum has allowed sub-cultures to flourish here in a way they do not in France. There’s an Indian restaurant down the street from my house that is – as my Indian colleague puts it – more authentic than Indian food in India. Within a 10 mile radius of my home, I can get very authentic Japanese cuisine, Mexican cuisine, Burmese cuisine, Greek cuisine… And I can attend a not-so-small version of the Indian Holi festival, Cinqo de Mayo festivities, Chinese New Year festivities, you name it.

But these are not my cultures, and while I appreciate them, I still feel like a tourist, an outsider, whenever I participate. And what are my cultural traditions? What is my cultural heritage? Super bowl Sunday? A tradition that has become as much about the advertisements as the match itself? Sometimes I feel like America, with its obsession over free economy and commerce, has let consumer culture replace what could have been our common cultural identity. I thought about this a lot when I was searching for an apartment in the Bay Area. I realized that one of the most important criteria for me was that the place I live should have a downtown – a place where people come together to eat, drink, enjoy whatever little culture there is in Suburban California. And I was socked by how few districts in Northern California have a downtown. Most of them are centered around sprawling strip malls where the gathering places are generic chains like Starbucks and Chipotle.


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Our bed and breakfast in Dijon (Bourgogne) where we attended a wedding 

In France, every town has it’s central square. Even in Paris, the city is organized by arrondissement, each with its own set of local merchants – a separate shop for bread, cheese, wine, produce. The stores are independently owned, and anything but anonymous. The merchants know the customers, the customers know the merchants, the customers know the customers. People live within the arrondissement almost as if it were an extension of their home. Cafes always have a counter where you can stop for a quick espresso on your way to work or a beer on your way home and chat with the clientele or the barista. It’s more common to eat meals out and Brasseries serve dishes that are similar to local home-cooked meals. Fast food chains have attempted to gain a foothold in France but have nowhere near the penetration they have of American towns and cities. People simply prefer the traditional ways of eating, dressing, living.


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The perfect morning: shopping the first day of private sales in fashionista heaven, le Bon Marche, followed by my favorite brasserie lunch, hot goat cheese salad

This dichotomy is equally true of fashion. Americans are obsessed with fast fashion – Forever21, H&M, Zara – brands that allow them to consume one season and throw away the next. It’s generic (how many times have we seen someone wearing the same Zara dress we just bought?) and anonymous (we have no relationship with the maker of the clothes or the brand and we do not care to know).

In France, the shopping experience is different. There are two or three depots-ventes in the city where I used to regularly check in for new merchandise. The owners knew what I liked and would even set things aside for me or call me when something came in. They were always honest with me – they would tell me something didn’t look good when it didn’t, even if it cost the sale. This time while I was there, I scouted out a boutique that sells leather handbags and briefcases called Leo et Violet. I had seen a French Instagram influencer post a photo with one of their bags and loved it. The shop was about the size of a walk-in closet, sandwiched in between ramen restaurants on Rue Saint Anne. The owners are a young Parisian couple who started out selling briefcases online, funded by a Kickstarter campaign. Today, they make about 10 styles in a few colors each, and everything is perfectly crafted in a workshop in Italy. The prices are reasonable and there is no obnoxious logo splashed across the merchandise in big gold letters. I love the bag, not just because it is beautiful (it is) but because of its story and authenticity.


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Outside of Charvet Place Vendome – the frenchest of french brands (Monsieur Charvet worked for Napolean and apparently invented the shirt as we know it), and with my new Leo et Violet bag, plus an Isabel Marant blazer from my favorite depot-vente, La Marelle.

Even the big fashion houses – Chanel, Celine, Louis Vuitton – are a deeply intertwined with French history. Dressing well is simply part of the French cultural identity. Walking for kilometers through the rain in high heels and stockings is not practical, but maintaining a certain aesthetic is important enough to make it worth it, just like taking a two hour lunch break to eat a three course meal during the work day is not practical, nor is going to three separate stores to buy the ingredients for dinner. But all of this is part of the French savoir-etre and as such, it is essential.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the practicality and comfort of my new American life. I love driving home from work in my big car and opening my big fridge for a big beer at the end of the day, and drinking it in front of my big TV on my big couch. I love talking too loudly on the phone without people staring. I love that I can go to the supermarket in my PJs and no one gives a rat’s ass. And I love piling my big bags of groceries into the trunk of my car, instead of lugging them four blocks home, only to do it all over again two days later, because that’s all that will fit in our fridge. But I will miss French culture and feeling like, even as an American, I was part of that culture. I will miss the sense of community, the attention to detail, the care and importance people attach to things like food and fashion. Maybe I will find that here, with time, or maybe I won’t. Maybe I will decide that, despite this romantic article I just pulled out of my rear, I actually prefer comfort and frappucinos. But I think France will always be a big part of my life (I married a frenchman, after all) and either we will succeed in cultivating some of the best parts of French culture here in our home, relationships and lifestyle, or we may some day find ourselves migrating back across the Atlantic.



How my generation shops and why traditional retailers should be worried

How my generation shops and why traditional retailers should be worried

I walk into a physical store to shop about twice a year – usually luxury department stores during the big bi-annual sales – and walk out with a few nice things. But my monthly shopping budget is at least double what I spend on those bi-annual escapades, it is mostly spent on high-end or luxury fashion, and I buy 90% of it online.

When I worked as a digital strategy consultant in Paris, we pitched a lot of luxury fashion houses on projects to help them keep pace with the digital revolution. Most of the time they told us that the digital revolution did not apply to the luxury fashion industry. People don’t buy luxury online, they insisted. They want service. They want to feel and see the items.

This may be true for a ultra high-end, world-renowned brands like Chanel. And it may be true now, but as their current clientele ages, I believe things will change even for these bastions of the fashion industry.

Why? I lot of it has to do with Instagram.

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A few of my favorite Instagram influencers, @thefashionguitar @slipintostyle and @camillecharriere

About three years ago, I started using Pinterest and Instagram as a source of fashion inspiration. Before then, I read Vogue and Elle, but I mainly drew my fashion inspiration from my peer group or spontaneously bought things I liked in physical stores. Today, I follow all the top Instagram influencers and my wardrobe is based on the trends they champion. They have taught me how to dress and inspired my interest in real Fashion with a capital F. Before Instagram, I was like Anne Hathaway on her first day of work for Runway in The Devil Wears Prada, looking down at my cable-knit sweater and school-girl skirt and asking Meryl Streep, “What makes you think I’m not interested in fashion?”

Apart from radically shifting my taste and style, my obsession with the Instagram fashion world has dramatically changed the way I shop in the following ways:

1 – I always have a very specific idea of what I want to buy before I start shopping. I almost never browse an online store, even during sales, just to see what they have in stock. If I am shopping, it is because there is a new trend I want to follow or a specific look I am trying to imitate, and I need a key piece to complete it. This is why I love multi-brand luxury platforms so much. I know I can go to Net-a-Porter and search for oversized white blouses and have access to a well-curated selection from all of the top designers where I can compare prices and styles. This is much harder to do in a physical store, even multi-brand luxury department stores, because you can’t just type in the keywords.

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The last look that I blatantly ripped off from one of my favorite influencers, @sjuloves. Everything in this look was purchased from online platforms, except the jeans, which are my mom’s from the 80’s 🙂

2 – I am a cult follower of emerging, influencer-driven brands. These are the pet brands of my influencer idols. Most of the time they are highly specialized (selling just colorful enamel bracelets, for instance) and are available only online or have only a small physical presence compared to their overall reach. Some of these brands have become such a fashion-week phenomenon that they are more coveted than the established designer brands. I am thinking of Staud bags, for instance, that took the latest fashion week by storm. The specific bag that Leandra Medine featured mulitple times on her feed was sold out for months on every platform on the internet. The brand certainly got more media attention than Chanel or Gucci, and since their bags are both more innovative in terms of design and retail for about a quarter of the price of the giant luxury brands, which would you rather buy?


The fashion week Staud bag phenomenon

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Me with my Staud bag

3 – I increasingly shop directly in the Instagram app. Most influencers tag the brands they are wearing in photos, and brands that are digitally savvy will have an Instagram account and a link to “shop” directly within the app. If I see Camille Charriere wearing a Ganni top, I can click the tag and I am redirected to their page. From there, I can click the shop tab. If they have featured the same item on their feed, then the link will take me directly to that item. If not, I know the brand and can shop their full website within the app and am sure to find what I am looking for (unless it’s sold out, which happens often with influencer-promoted items).

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Camille Charriere, wearing a Ganni sweater that I obsessed over for almost a year and just bought via Instagram

4 – I love the myriad of ways one can buy or borrow clothes on the internet, which are typically impossible or prohibitively expensive in a traditional retail setting. When you shop from a physical store, there is pretty much only one way to do it. You walk in, try things on, decide what you like, and then buy it. Once you buy it, you own it. Of course, there are physical consignment shops, but I find they have nowhere near the selection and fair pricing as peer-to-peer luxury fashion platforms like Vestiaire Collective. I also love models like Material World that send you a box of pre-owned designer clothing that is personally curated for you based on your taste (and the influencers you follow). You can hire a personal shopper to style things for you at Bergdorfs, but you had better be willing to spend a fortune. I have even experimented with clothing and jewelry rental from the likes of Switch and Rent the Runway.

To be fair, within my friend group, only a small fraction actually shops like this. But the ones who do have an outsized monthly shopping budget, an interest in luxury fashion, and a social media presence likely to generate buzz for the brands. They also tend to be slightly younger than I am, which leads me to believe we haven’t seen the end of this trend. I think the most threatened institutions are the physical department stores – Le Bon Marche in Paris, Bergdorf’s in New York – who have a very nascent online presence and do next to nothing to leverage Instagram. (Le Bon Marche launched it’s website only within the last year, after hiring away talent from Apple). But the brands themselves are not immune either. If I were to launch a fashion business in this day and age – and maybe I will – I would spend my investment dollars on a seamless online platform and Instagram marketing rather than real estate and print ads.



Wardrobe detox: a few reasons why investing in natural fabric is worth it

Wardrobe detox: a few reasons why investing in natural fabric is worth it

When I sweat, I smell bad.

I used to think this was the norm, until I met my husband, who can play back to back tennis matches and come home smelling like roses. I searched for years for his secret deodorant, but apparently he doesn’t wear any. Hopefully our kids will get his body odor genetics and not mine.

When I was in middle school, I used money from my piggy bank to illicitly buy anti-persperant deoderant (my Mom claims it’s bad for you – it probably is) which I kept in my school backpack. It was the spray-on kind – which made it shareable – and it soon became a popular post-recess routine for me and my 10 closest girlfriends to sneak off to the bathroom for a little spray sesh. It made us feel like big girls.

So, you’re thinking, what does this have to do with fashion? I’m getting to that.


Featured image (above title): blue floral 100% silk skirt from Ganni, 100% cashmere sweater from H&M premium, italian leather boots by Dear Frances

above: 100% linen suit from Massimo Dutti, bag by Staud, sandals by Puma

One of the luxuries that has come with growing older and earning more money is my ability to afford clothing made with natural fibers – silk, wool, cashmere, quality cotton, linen – instead of the synthetic junk they sell at Zara and Mango. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my fare share of Zara in my closet. But while it might look almost as good as the designer stuff that comes for 10x the price in an instagram photo, what I’ve come to realize is that it never feels as good. There is just something so luxurious about putting on a silk dress and feeling the light softness on your skin.

And here’s where we get back to the stuff about BO (I know, you were waiting with baited breath) when I wear natural fabrics, I don’t smell bad! It’s amazing – I can bike 30 minutes to work in a silk blouse, and when I come home and give it the sniff test, it doesn’t even need to go in the hamper! Am I the only one who has noticed this? On the other hand, don’t we all have one of those synthetic tops that no matter what we do, it smells like sh*t by the end of the day?


100% cashmere sweater by H&M premium, 100% suede skirt by H&M premium, Dear Frances leather boots, wool-cashmere blend Marella coat (purchased on Vestiaire Collective for 150 euros)

But if you weren’t already convinced by the BO argument (which I find very compelling, but maybe you are like my husband and have no sweat glands) then here are another few reasons to invest in quality fabrics:

  • They have less environmental impact. A polyester shirt has more than double the impact of a cotton shirt in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, and if you tend to buy a lot to follow trends (like me) this could be significant.
  • It might be hard to tell on instagram, but in real, up-close, in-person life, they really are much nicer looking.
  • They last longer. Ever noticed how your Zara synthetics lose their shape and texture after 10 washings? Natural fiber clothing will hold up over time if properly cared for.
  • Natural fiber is less toxic. 60% of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream, and the manufacture of synthetic clothing uses a lot of chemicals.
  • They just feel great to wear (I know I already made this point, but it’s important).
  • They make your significant other want to pet you.

Ok that last point is maybe a little less convincing, but you get what I am trying to say here!

NOW, I can read your thoughts, and this is what they say: that’s all fine and dandy if you work in tech and make enough money to afford designer clothes, but I will continue to satisfy myself with Zara!

To which I say, Brown Sugar! There are many ways to buy quality fabrics on a Zara budget. Here are a few of my tricks:

  • Buy second-hand. There are a million great platforms out there where you can buy second-hand luxury clothing (which is almost always high-quality natural fibers) for a reasonable price. I love Vestiaire Collective and Material World (which sends you a monthly box of used designer duds based on your personal style). If you are motivated by the environmental impact reason above, this is an even better way to reduce your footprint.
  • Shop the premium lines of low-cost brands. H&M has a premium line that makes amazingly soft cashmere and mohair sweaters, as well as silk dresses, suede skirts, you name it. Expect to pay more than H&M’s normal line, but still highly affordable.
  • Buy fewer, better clothes! I know this one is hard, ladies, but wouldn’t you rather have a closet full of pieces you love, that stand the test of time, than the cheap imitation of some trend you wanted to try, wore once, and threw out?


My favorite, lightest, most breathable silk blouse from Charvet (purchased on Vestiaire Collective for 100 euros)

So, are you convinced? If so, by which argument? Do you already buy natural fibers? Do you completely disagree? Thoughts and comments welcome (link at the top of the article).




Why real techies regret Mark Zuckerberg’s fashion choices

Why real techies regret Mark Zuckerberg’s fashion choices

Mark Zuckerberg has a very clear position on fashion:

“I’m in this really lucky position, where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than a billion people. And I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life.”

Fashion silly? Fashion frivolous?! Honestly, I don’t know how he doesn’t fall asleep getting dressed every morning putting on that gray teeshirt for the 100000000000th time. But thankfully, I recently discovered that not every tech geek has an arrogant and dismissive a position on fashion as Marky Mark.



Not-boring hoodie look #1   – Silk and cashmere blend hoodie from Vestiaire Collective, pants by Celine, bag by Staud, shoes by Steve Madden

As it turns out, I was wrong, at least when it came to these two chaps.

After his second glass of wine, my buddy confessed to me that he has a real penchant for 3-piece suits with french cuffs – especially the french cuffs – a passion he picked up while attending undergrad in Paris. “But wearing a three-piece suit at Google would be career suicide,” he tells me, “I could walk in wearing a skirt and high heels and people would laud me for my individuality and courage, but wear a three-piece suit and you’re dead.”

He’s right. The more I think about it, the more I realize that here in the Bay Area, we have just exchanged one set of strict social codes (white button-up shirt and suit) for another (hoodie and jeans, and the occasional guy in a skirt). Wearing a suit to your coding job at Google here is just as clear a sign that you are not taking your profession seriously as if you wore a hoodie to work at Goldman Sachs in New York. Peter Thiel says in Zero to One that his first investment criteria when evaluating tech companies is whether the founders wear suits (no go) or hoodies (continue the due diligence). A girlfriend of mine who works in tech once told me that when she wore a skirt and heels to work the people in hoodies would ask her to make them coffee (now she wears hoodies).

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Some excellent not-boring hoodie looks, from some excellent bloggers – Pernille Teisbeak and Tiffany Hsu

This got me to thinking. Am I harming my career in the tech world by wearing my Prada shoes to work? What if I wear them with a hoodie? Would that make it any better?

But then I thought, maybe there is an advantage to being different…

I have a theory that most people, deep down, are creative and eccentric, but feel too constrained by social norms to express it. Only when they have achieved a level of comfort and acceptance in society do they let their true eccentric selves shine through. Have you ever noticed how famous public figures often have a very distinctive and eccentric style or some kind of trademark look? And is there an argument to be made for the “fake it till you make it” approach? That is to say, can we, by dressing differently from the norm, project confidence comfort in society, and thereby accelerate our careers?

I leave the question to you, but for now, I have told my friend to try wearing french cuffs to work.


Not-boring hoodie look #2 – same hoodie, skirt by See by Chloe

Why are “ugly” clothes so incredibly appealing?

Why are “ugly” clothes so incredibly appealing?

Let’s talk about this jumpsuit for a second.

Is it sexy?


Is it pretty, like a flowery dress or a ruffled blouse is pretty?


Is it practical?

Not if you consider that you have to entirely undress – I mean get in the BUFF – every time you want to pee – an awkward situation in public restrooms where the crack along the door hinge is a little too wide. I am speaking from personal experience.

And yet I paid full price for this little Isabel Marant unit from Le Bon Marche in Paris – something I rarely actually do – and I have not regretted it one second. It is one of my all-time-favorite pieces.

In general, I have noticed that over the last 5 or so years of my life, I increasingly gravitate towards clothing and fashion trends that my 20-year-old self would have found downright ugly. I like oversized clothing, masculine styles, strangely-angled cuts, clashing patterns and colors. The weirder the better!


Sunglasses by Stella McCartney, jumpsuit by Isabel Marant

Even worse, I find myself judging people who wear perfectly respectable clothing. I think, “how dare she strut around in those perfectly normal skinny jeans with that nice-fitting teeshirt? Doesn’t she know that she is making me fall asleep just looking at her?” I find myself shocked that extremely attractive women who wear form-flattering clothing attract such massive Instagram followings. I mean, you call that fashion? Aren’t we OVER being pretty yet? I want to comment on her post and say, “you could look really freaking cool if you just added some nerd-glasses and an oversized houndstooth jacket (you know, British-grandpa-style) to that cute little sundress you’re wearing.”

But the deeper question I have been asking myself is, where does this newfound love of ugly fashion come from? Have I been completely brainwashed by what the French fashion industry has told me to like (I’m looking at you Celine – with your baggy, masculine suits and scrunchy-in-all-the-wrong-places boots) or what Instagram influencers wear (I’m looking at you Leandra Medine, with your pattern clashing and socks-with-sandals)? Or have I, like any other true fashion diehard, just gotten sick of buying and wearing the same old things? Is the evolution of taste in all things fashion and art just driven by a raw desire for originality, so that once all of the good stuff has been done, we make and buy increasingly ugly and outrageous things and convince ourselves that they are cool, and most of all, that we know better than the people who stuck to the classics?

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Three of my favorite “ugly” looks, from 3 of my favorite bloggers/designers (from left) Leandra Medine (a.k.a the Man Repeller), Celine, and Reese Blutstein (Double3xposure)

The jury’s out on this one, folks, but what I do know is that I continue to buy and wear and love ugly and outrageous clothing.



How to be a serious professional in an orange fish intarsia sweater

How to be a serious professional in an orange fish intarsia sweater

In addition to my dilemma concerning how to mix my love of hiking with designer dresses and footwear, another serious struggle that I have to deal with in my day to day life is reconciling a love for eccentric, high-fashion clothing with the fact that I work a corporate job, in a male-dominated sector, where “looking professional” means wearing a button-down shirt, khakis and a sleeveless polar fleece (preferably with your company’s logo on it). I often find myself pondering some semi-outrageous outfit in the morning and wondering how badly I really want that promotion. At least in Paris, land of extreme labor protection laws, I never had to ponder whether I might actually be FIRED for wearing an orange fish intarsia sweater to work. And despite having overly-formal workplace dress codes, Paris also has a fairly high tolerance for eccentric dressing, as long as it’s Celine, Chanel, Saint Laurent, Isabelle Marant, or any of the other french labels that make the French economy go round. They understand.


Sweater by Stella McCartney, boots (pictured above) by Isabel Marant

As many of you know, I recently left my beloved Paris to move to the San Francisco Bay Area. Specifically, to Palo Alto, which has a population of 67,024 yoga-pants-wearing ladies and their hoodie-wearing husbands.

I moved here to take a job at a big company that sells IT infrastructure – not exactly a fashion mecca. As the name of this blog suggests, my hardware and software expertise has thus far been limited to jewelry (do you think this is white gold or platinum?) and sweaters (is virgin wool softer than cashmere?). For some mysterious reason, they hired me anyway.

But boy is it culture shock. Yesterday my boss looked down at my new Staud bag that I was proudly swinging and just said “what is that?”

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Sweater by APC, silk blouse by H&M premium, skirt and shoes by Prada

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Shoes by Prada, socks by Happy Socks

So the question is, is my passion for hardwear and softwear reconcilable with my newfound interest in hardware and software? Will anyone take me seriously if I continue to wear pink socks with sandals to executive meetings?

Only time will tell, but I will say this: at the end of the day, good work is good work, whether you did it in an orange fish sweater or a company-logo polar fleece, so why not have some fun?

3 tips on how to survive the NorCal wilderness in high style

3 tips on how to survive the NorCal wilderness in high style

One thing I have worried about moving here to the Bay Area is that outdoor hiking and beach activities will take over my weekends and I won’t have anywhere to wear my fancy clothes. After all, office culture can limit a girl’s creative flair when it comes to fashion (though not too much, as will demonstrated in my next post) and though I love few things more than a beautiful sea-side hike, it is not always conducive to fashionista-ing. Or so I thought….

Here I will share 3 tips on how to survive the wilderness in your very fanciest clothes.


Tip 1: You must wear comfortable shoes

This does not, however, mean that they cannot be gold and sparkly. People tend to assume – wrongly – that gold sparkly shoes are not built for comfort. It turns out that I have yet to find a more comfortable pair of shoes than these Gucci loafers. Of course, you do want to avoid getting them muddy or wet, so it is advisable to have a sherpa who can carry you and your shoes through any rough patches of the hike. The added benefit of a sherpa is that they can also double as your photographer. Just make sure they stay focused on you and your shoes and not the distracting nature and scenery around you.

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Tip 2: Wear a coat that can double as a sleeping bag

The Bay Area is notorious for warm sunny days and freezing cold nights, so be prepared. Fortunately, very large, warm, oversized coats are all the rage this year. I love this one, by Marella, that I got for a steal on Vestiaire Collective. It’s a cashmere/wool blend, sure to make your practical, polar-fleece wearing friends jealous. I find it goes particularly well with this floor-length, silk-blend dress by Paul & Joe, which also makes for great warm-weather hiking gear: so light and airy. You may also have noticed that I have removed my Gucci shoes and have given them to my sherpa, along with the rest of my previous outfit, in anticipation of crossing a small stream. Which brings me to my last tip …

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Tip 3: Always bring at least 3 changes of clothing, even for day hikes

You never know what you might encounter out there in the wild, and it’s always better to be prepared.