Couture Shock

More than the number of bakeries and patisseries, more than the number of perfumeries, I am amazed by how many couture stores there are in Paris. In one day, I might pass three Hermès locations. The flagship on Rue de Faubourg St. Honoré has a block long line up in the mornings, so they play music and have valet parking. There is always a queue at Louis Vuitton on the Champs Elysées. But are people buying, or are they shopping tourists? I see quite a few shopping bags, but they tend to be Americans shopping from American brands such as Todd’s or The Disney Store. My friend who is a buyer at a major Paris department store tells me that yes, sales are down across the board this year, so expect deep discounts at the sales, which start on January 6 -- and not before! Some people even fly in from North America for the Paris sales they are so notorious, and strictly government regulated.

One thing is for sure: the couture brands go all out for Christmas shopping. We watched a crane deliver a statue of a horse and Cavalier onto the roof of Hermès last weekend. Pictured is the massive light display at Christian Dior, on the Avenue de Montagne, by the Canadian Embassy. Now that beats a blow-up Santa Claus. Every morning that I walk Emmanuelle to school we see the glittering Baccarat chandeliers strung across the streets for Christmas, lighting the way to Saint Laurent and Gucci.

And how the women are dressed! Everyone is wearing fur coats by mid-November, even to walk their kids to school. When Murray and I had lunch at the Hotel Costes the other day, we were seated next to a particularly chic young woman, maybe 30. She was wearing a beautiful chocolate brown mink shawl (I’m guessing Fendi), tweed trousers and over-the-knee flat leather boots. Her grey quilted leather handbag was Chanel, her wallet, Hermès. She somehow managed to eat an order of ceviche from a tiny bowl while simultaneously smoking four slim cigarettes from her engraved silver case. The next day Murray saw her again, this time on the Champs Elysées. She was wearing the EXACT same outfit! So that’s how they do it, I think. They buy one amazing outfit and wear it every day. So practical!

Just when I am thinking I will never be able to afford to shop in Paris I meet my fashion angel. Her name is Alexandra Senes and she was the founding editor of Jalouse magazine (if you are in the fashion or magazine business you are perking up about now). She has also worked at French Elle and Hermès, and has recently launched her own line of travel-related fashion called Kilometre, which is how I met her. You may recall the custom-made market bag that I took to Ile de Ré in this post? I bought it from her pop up shop. Anyway, this week we had tea at her apartment, and she was on the phone half the time, helping me find people for an upcoming photo shoot, giving me the names and numbers of the best gynecologist and hair colourist in Paris. By the time I got home, my inbox was full of invitations for upcoming press sales – Sonia Rykiel, A.P.C., Courrèges. Finally, I was in!