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An exhibition of Claiborne Swanson Frank’s portraits of American women opened at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco.

FOREVER FRANCE: In her atelier or on the road, designer Catherine Malandrino plays music from her native France as inspiration for her contemporary designs, even at public appearances like Thursday afternoon at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco. “I’m really particular about there being something French always around me,” she said, with Jacques Dutronc serenading in the background, followed by tunes that she brought from Michel Legrand, Françoise Hardy, Etienne Daho and Philippe Katerine, among others. “I’m always balancing the effortlessness of the south of France and the energy of New York,” she said, wearing a black floppy hat tilted to the side, large glasses and one of her black ruched jersey dresses.

The designer said she looks to French actresses Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and Romy Schneider as muses, as well as designer Loulou de la Falaise, as part of her overarching design influences, which includes the Seventies and late Sixties.

For her trip to San Francisco, her first, Malandrino was channeling other classics from the era: Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Bisset in the 1968 movie “Bullitt,” filmed in the city, and Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate,” filmed in Berkeley across the bay. “There’s something very timeless about that period. Very feminine,” she said.

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