“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening,” exclaimed Coco Chanel.
No place on earth exudes that essence more than Paris. The birthplace of haute couture — and Coco Chanel — Paris is the quintessential fashion capital of the world. Twice a year, the well-heeled elite flock to the French capital to attend Paris Fashion Week. One of the “Big Four” — along with New York, London and Milan — the event is the culmination of the biannual fashion fete.
The emergence of American designers in the ’60s helped launch the iconic fashion spectacle. In an effort to keep up with its New York contemporaries, Parisian designers formed the Fédération Française de la Couture and brought a collection of shows together for the Semaine de la Mode. On November 28, 1973, the Battle of Versailles pitted five American designers (Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Stephen Burrows, Anne Klein and Halston) against five French counterparts (Marc Bohan for Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin, Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Emanuel Ungaro). The American designers stole the show by featuring 11 black models — an unprecedented number at the time.
Today, Paris Fashion Week comprises more than 90 runway shows, industry events and star-studded soirees. While access to official PFW activities is reserved for the fashion world’s elite, there’s still plenty to see and do in the City of Lights.
Onetime headquarters to Parisian fashion house Céline, Maison Albar Céline is nestled between the chic shopping districts of rue Saint-Honoré and rue de Rivoli. The 1920s-inspired boutique hotel is walking distance to the city’s most lauded landmarks, including Musée du Louvre, River Seine, Champs-Élysées and Le Marais.
Guest rooms are well-appointed, with touches of velvet, brass, wood and leather. The marble-adorned bathrooms feature rain showers, indulgent toilet-bidets and Lalique toiletries.
Amenities include an on-premise tailor and laundry services, fitness and spa facilities and a swimming pool.
Bistros abound in France’s capital, and few chefs do it better than Michelin-starred Christian Constant’s eponymous cafe. Located next to the Eiffel Tower, Café Constant features an ever-changing menu designed around local food markets’ offerings.
The recently renovated Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Paris is a bucket list destination for anyone yearning for the classic Parisian experience. The landmark, known for being liberated from the Nazis by Ernest Hemingway, exudes old-world charm.
Situated in the historic halls of Musée des Arts Décoratifs is Italian eatery Loulou. Named after Loulou de la Falaise, a fashion muse and designer for Yves Saint Laurent, the restaurant is a favorite among fashionistas and A-listers.
If money isn’t an object, rue de la Paix is fashion’s ultimate fantasyland. Here, displaying merchandise price is considered faux pas — if you have to ask the price, you probably cannot afford it.
Paris’ most well-known landmarks — the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre-Dame — are a must-see, of course. Tap into you hotel concierge — often, they can arrange front-of-the-line passes for popular attractions, including Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Musée Rodin and Arc de Triomphe, as well as access to some of Paris’ greatest hidden gems such as a behind-the-scenes tour of the Louis Vuitton Fondation, Musée du Parfum and a private viewing of Coco Chanel’s apartment.