If you ever find yourself in Paris during Fashion Week, you don’t need a front row invitation or a backstage pass to be part of the stylish action — you can feel the energy simply when walking the streets, where you’ll invariably come across gaggles of gleaming-skinned models, stylists and Instagrammers dressed to les neufs, and all sorts of other interesting industry insiders.
Nevertheless some spots are particularly tried-and-tested for fashionable-people-watching …
Location, Location …
Unless you have a few thick, gold-embossed tickets tucked away in your designer tote, it’s difficult to find out where the various shows will take place. It’s easy enough, however, to discover when they’re on — and if you really want to be a groupie, you can always stalk the locations where brands tend to pitch their tents.
For example, Saint Laurent has been showing at the Place du Trocadéro of late, Valentino at Les Invalides, and Louis Vuitton in the Cour Carrée of the Louvre. Meanwhile Chanel has long taken over the nave of the Grand Palais every season for its latest fashion extravagance of a show, so you could always hang out nearby to be part of the off-catwalk excitement …
A great Grand Palais vantage point: the terrace of the Mini Palais restaurant (above).
Traipsing the Tuileries
These beloved gardens have long been the stomping ground of Fashion Week types, as many brands have showed here in pop-up spaces or below the Louvre. Now it’s the domain of Dior, which has partnered with the Louvre to fund the restoration of the Tuileries. It’s a fitting partnership because not only is Dior pushing the message of climate awareness, but fashion and foliage go back centuries here. The first public Parisian park, the Tuileries flung open its gates in 1667, and instantly became the place where Parisians came to eat and drink, promenade and pose. One catch: you had to be deemed adequately stylish to be allowed in. So Paris’s first social scene was also a kind of fashion runway, at a time when the French luxury industry was coming into its own. The editor of Le Mercure Galant (the first journal to report on fashion) came here often, to interview the chicest women about where they shopped, while illustrators sketched these Parisiennes, who would drape themselves over benches and by statues … just as so many Instagrammers do these days.
Beyond Fashion Week, you’ll spot all kinds of shoots going on by the ponds and parterres, and in the immaculately landscaped allées and leafy copses. And if you look the part, well, perhaps a streetstyle photographer (a modern-day fashion plate illustrator?) will snap you, too!
If they’re not backstage or front row, the people of the beau monde might just happen to be …
Bar Hemingway (15 Place Vendôme, 75001). Rightly revered, this nook within the Hôtel Ritz is no less than the best bar in town. It fills up quickly, so get in line ten minutes before its 6pm opening (perhaps even earlier during Fashion Week). Then settle into your comfy tufted-leather seat, order one of the best cocktails you’ll ever have the pleasure to drink (they’re pricey but come with an endless supply of complimentary snacks), and people-watch to your heart’s content. You never know, you might find yourself sitting next to Kate Moss!
Hôtel Costes (239-241 Rue Saint-Honoré, 75001). It’s tricky to make a restaurant booking (you have to call within a couple of days of your desired date) and the service can be, let’s say, haughty … but the crimson-velvety, rose-infused, gilded glamour of it all, along with the fabulous voyeurism to be had here, are second to none. (Phone: +33 1 42 22 50 00).
Café de Flore (172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006). Whether it’s first thing for a black coffee and buttery croissant, midday for a salade niçoise, late après-midi for apéro, or even later for a sneaky serve of tarte tatin, if you sit en terrasse here during Fashion Week, chances are you’ll be rubbing up against some very stylish shoulders.
Wild & the Moon Saint-Honoré (19 Place du Marché Saint-Honoré, 75001). If it’s early in the morning, you might just find a few Fashion Week types at this popular health bar, ordering some much-needed detox juices.
Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées (60 Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 75008). If you’re looking for a just-so new outfit, you’ll probably locate it within the expertly curated collection of clothes and accessories here, but come for food as well as fashion. Instagram star Simone Porte Jacquemus, of the coveted label Jacquemus, has two eateries (in conjunction with cult caviar purveyor Kaspia) in this Galeries Lafayette, which isn’t so odd once you learn that he’s, at heart, the son of southern French farmers. Following the success of his Provençal-themed café Citron, he recently opened, on the second floor, Oursin (above), again with a southern flavour. The small and sunny space is as hot as the Mediterranean sun right now, so make sure to book well in advance.
Fashion on Show
In a city where clothing and accessories have long been art in their own right, an easy and inexpensive way to get a fashion fix is at a museum. While we wait for the completion of the Palais Galliera (10 Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, 75016) renovations — and for it to reopen as a permanent fashion museum (with a Chanel retrospective to kick things off) — you could always head to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs within the Louvre complex.
The museum of decorative arts is also undergoing a style makeover — of its fashion galleries — but in the meantime you can check out its new retrospective of the magazine Harper’s Bazaar (28th February-14th July), with its timeline of exquisite couture gowns (such as the 1955 Balenciaga dress above), alongside an exhibition devoted to the art and history of the shoe, Marche at Démarche (until March 22nd).
Speaking of shoes … There’s also an exhibition dedicated to the imagination of Christian Louboutin, over in the east, at the Palais de la Porte Dorée (293 Avenue Daumesnil, 75012).
And fashion lovers should not miss a trip to Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris (5 Avenue Marceau, 75116), a gem of a museum celebrating the iconic designer’s style legacy. A dazzling display of gowns, jewels and art are housed in Saint Laurent’s old haute couture headquarters, and the museum also recreates the atmosphere of his former studio, with original notes and sketches pinned to the wall.
It’s a surreally special place. For some of us, it might be the closest we come to being in the presence of a fashion icon — and if so, that’s just fine.