Dining, Shopping, Living, And Loving In Paris With Babette Aquino-Benoit
Having forged a name in some of the world's most influential fashion houses, the life of fashion maven and devoted Christian Victoria "Babette" Aquino tells the story of a jet-setting past and colorful present full of lessons to learn and successes to aspire for.
Unlike the ambitious and headstrong women of this modern age, Babette found herself expecting her first child at 17 and became a wife at 18. Young and searching for ways to express herself, she quickly picked up designing clothes and found that she had an eye for beauty and style. The hobby turned into a small business that catered to friends, and before she knew it, she was designing clothes sold in her own boutique.
The young mother had woken a passion that could not be put to rest, but the self discovery was partnered with her separation from her husband of eight years. Searching for meaning and the next chapter of her story, a then 26-year-old Babette moved to Paris where she dabbled in a job as a fitting model for the House of Kenzo and the export of French garments that she sold back in Manila.
She went on to work with fashion heavyweights like Armani and Lanvin, but it was also during this time that she found her two true loves that revealed her ultimate purpose: her husband, French businessman Paul Benoit, and her Christian faith.
Finding God allowed her to realize that her gifts were meant to be used for the betterment of others, rather than simply for personal gain. Her husband, on the other hand, showed her the meaning of loving unconditionally and balancing family and career. Soon, Babette found herself changing gears, moving out of fashion houses and into churches.
While she still designed clothes for selected clients, her main preoccupations were holding Bible studies in her home in Paris' “Golden Triangle," the city's most affluent neighborhood, as well as preaching in church services. There, Babette often gave talks to Filipino domestic helpers about how to find pride in being Filipino in a foreign land, as well as how to fit into French culture in order to find employment and be accepted.
Sadly, after a long and fulfilling marriage, Babette lost her husband when he suffered from complications after an open heart surgery. But even so, the widow known in Manila for her fashion label Manna carries on with positivity and motivation.
Today, Babette has, in fact, gone back to designing and shares her creations under the label Victoria A. Benoit. The endeavor was done in remembrance of her beloved husband who always encouraged her to pursue her passions. The fashion line already caters to shoppers in Paris and Tokyo, and will soon be launched in Manila in the second or third quarter of this year.
She continues to shuffle between Manila and Paris and continues to create coveted designs for the stylish woman—this time, with a sharper sense of purpose.
To get a glimpse of Babette's fashionable Parisian life, check out her ultimate guide for the City of Light's must-visit dining destinations, shopping spots, and beautiful sights:
1. Passage 53 (one of my favorites): I like it for the Japanese precision and minimal aesthetic as well as their use of great French produce combined with umami Japanese flavors.
2. Kisin: The Udon place near my apartment. The noodles are so good.
3. Marché Des Enfants Rouges: It is like a food mall with Italian, Moroccan, French, Japanese etc. offerings.
4. Breizh Cafe Crepes: Must-try for crepes!
5. La Fontaine de Mars: Good French food (Cassoulet - heavy, though).
6. Laduree: Champs Elysee pastries
- Jill Sanders
- Acne Studios (Marais)
- Études Studios (Men and in the Marais)
- Lemaire (Marais in front of Thomas Greyhound)
Shops with great mix of a lot of brands:
- Thomas Greyhound (Marais)
- The broken arm (Marais)
- Éclaireur (Marais)
*Expert's tip: Le Bon Marché on the shoe floor has all of this.
Other young designers:
- Pigalle Ashpool
- Pigalle (Ashpool Pigalle in the 9e - It’s the French Supreme street brand)
- Veja shoes (The new Stan Smiths, but made in France and done in vegan leather)
Photos from @victoriababette (thumbnail and cover photo)