Lagerfeld, Vuitton, Avenue Montaigne, Plaza Athénée… Is Paris still a trendy destination? – Meanderings through France
Don’t you sometimes get the feeling that whatever capital city you’re in throughout the world, fashion shops have the same names, brands and clothes giving you an inevitable feeling of déjà vu? Zara, H&M, Desigual, Ralph Lauren and many other brands have shops everywhere selling the same clothes shown in the same way and costing the same price. Once inside you might just as well be shopping in London, Paris, Milan, New York or Shanghai: welcome in the world of uniformity. Fashion does not escape from globalization and there’s not much we can do about it.
Or is there? Although the vast majority of us can’t afford to shop in Haute Couture boutiques, originality and uniqueness are the preserve of luxury fashion brands. If their snobbish sale assistants intimidate you or if you think that fashion shows only present unwearable clothes there are other ways to discover the world of fashion designers where precious and costly materials are allied to the knowhow of French Haute Couture workshops. Over the last few years, fashion designers became aware of ordinary people’s curiosity for their work and of their will to get closer to their creations. And it only came as natural that Haute Couture found its way to museums.
Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Alaia and several other designers have all lent dresses and other outfits for thematic exhibitions or even for their own one. In Paris they are very successful and people patiently queue to get a chance to see these masterpieces. This fall at least 3 exhibitions should draw your attention: Karl Lagerfeld, Louis Vuitton and countess Greffulhe are waiting for you.
The Galliera Museum is dedicated to fashion and unlike most museums it opens only for temporary exhibitions. It will reopen its doors on November the 7th for a new one called “Les robes trésors de la Comtesse Greffulhe”, “The treasure dresses of Countess Greffulhe”. She was an icon of the Belle Epoque and of the Roaring Twenties and always ahead of the curve wearing exuberant dresses, doing and undoing fashion but was also able to provide financial assistance to innovative artists or famous scientists of the time such as Isadora Duncan, Diaghilev, Marie Curie or Edouard Branly. Marcel Proust thought that she was “the most beautiful woman he had ever seen” and when his famous novel “In search of lost time” was published every reader knew that Proust’s glamorous Duchesse de Guermantes actually was Elisabeth Greffulhe. Of course she also inspired fashion designers; Worth, Fortuny, Babani, Balmain… all were eager to see her wearing their creations. The exhibition will be a rare opportunity to admire her velvet coats, her kimono-like jackets, her day dresses with oriental patterns, her muslin evening dresses as well as portraits, photos and films.
To get a true vision of the way Karl Lagerfeld sees fashion you’ll need to go to the Pinacotheque (located on Place de la Madeleine) where until 20 March 2016 “Karl Lagerfel, a visual journey” highlights his talent as a photographer: fashion photography of course plus landscapes, portraits and self-portraits, Paris by night even abstractions… This multifaceted artist will surprise you once more always being where he is not expected: “You must not stand still, not in life, not in fashion and not in photography”.
“Fly, Sail, Travel” is the beautiful name of a new exhibition dedicated to Louis Vuitton from 4 December 2015 until 21 February 2016 at the Grand Palais. Since 1854 this famous luggage and bags maker rhymes with luxury, yachting, travel and elegance. Handbags, suitcases and trunks, leather goods, shoes from the very first production to our days you will discover the most beautiful or unusual objects handmade with an impressive knowhow.
To make your luxury tour in Paris complete you need to stay at the Plaza Athénée hotel located in the Avenue Montaigne. Stretching from the Seine to the Champs Elysées, the Avenue Montaigne is part of Paris Golden Triangle and combines an incredible amount of luxury fashion shops: Chanel, Dior Gucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Jimmy Choo, Fendi… It is twined with Madison Avenue in New York, with Avenue Louise in Brussels and with the Ginza district in Tokyo, creating a “club” of luxury areas throughout the world. The ideal place for window-shopping!
For more than a century the Plaza Athénée defines itself as “The Haute Couture address in Paris” and in his time Christian Dior used to present his fashion shows in the hotel. After buying the building next door in order to create more spacious and luxurious suites, the hotel was closed for 12 months and reopened in September 2014 entirely refurbished. Push the door and enter a cocoon of elegance and pleasure with a French style service dispensed by a zealous staff. The hotel decorator Marie-José Pommereau, chose warm tones of sun-infused yellow and silver, and used precious materials such as damask, embroideries and plain silks to create a snug atmosphere. Cherry on the cake, the hotel was recently awarded for its flower decoration.
The Michelin 3-star chef Alain Ducasse oversees all the hotel kitchens but each restaurant has its own style. The “Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée” serves a contemporary French cuisine summing up all of his savoir-faire and to make your meal a very special one you should be aware that the vegetables are grown in the vegetable garden of Versailles Castle! Doesn’t it make them taste different? At the heart of the building in a courtyard surrounded by walls of greenery “La Cour Jardin” is perfect for a summer dining while it is turned into an ice rink in wintertime! Every last Wednesday of the month a different jazz band plays live music in the “Relais Plaza”, the Art Deco brasserie of the hotel: an happening unheard of in any other Parisian 5-star hotels!
Does Paris still deserve its title of world capital for fashion? Not so easy to say, but as French people say “Paris will always be Paris”!
Exhibitions info at:
Plaza Athenée info at:
Text © Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny