Melissa's Travels

Letter from Paris: Melissa’s Fall 2023

Parisians continue to polish their jewel of a city for next summer’s Olympics. Landmarks like the Madeleine and Notre Dame are sheathed in scaffolding, while others like the Bourse are already gleaming from recent restoration, and the Seine is being decontaminated and readied for swimming events. This fall art lovers descended on the city in droves for the second edition of Paris Plus, aka Art Basel Paris, which brought art installations to the Tuileries and Design Miami to the late Karl Lagerfeld’s mansion on the Left Bank. Art fans continue to stream in for the blockbuster Mark Rothko retrospective at the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

Here is a roundup of some highlights and news from my recent trip.

Fashion as a Language of Discovery

I came to host the fourth edition of our Indagare x Vogue Fashion Insider Journey, which is not a shopping trip, though purchases are often made. Rather these trips are a series of fun educational experiences that combine a visual feast and a deep dive into French culture and history. After all, etiquette was born in the court of Louis XIV (and on our trip we dined in the salon where Marie Antoinette took piano lessons). Elsa Schiaparelli expressed the avant garde ideas of her artist friends like Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dali in daring sportswear, and we are invited into her former apartment on the Place Vendome to see how she lived and how her vision is being reborn under designer Daniel Roseberry. Schiaparelli’s archrival Coco Chanel is credited with liberating women from corsets with her “poor girl” look, and the house of Chanel has recently saved many of the small artisans who handcraft accessories and embellishments in a state-of-the-art campus, where we try our hand at creating. Fashion reveals the essential nature of a culture while telling the story of its time.

Read More: Why Our Fashion Trips Are Not About Shopping

Join Melissa in Paris

This fall, join Melissa on our Indagare Journey group trip to the world’s fashion capital. Connect with designers and influencers during private receptions at insider addresses and the flagship ateliers of legendary French fashion houses, and more.

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Paris Hotel News

There are many boutique hotels like Le Grand Mazarin and La Fantaisie popping up around the city, and another hotel trend is what I’d call family-style super exclusivity. The Scheufele family, owners of Chopard jewelry, have transformed the building that houses their flagship boutique at 1 Place Vendôme into a 15-suite hotel for “friends of the maison” only. I checked in for the weekend and discovered a new Parisian experience: being in the center of everything and yet remaining gloriously apart. Located just steps from the Ritz Paris, the corner mansion has a cozy living room with a working fireplace and bar area reserved entirely for in-house guests as well as a private dining room that can be booked if you wish to invite friends. Designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, who has designed major "wow" hotels like the Four Seasons Georges V, has brought real residential glamor to the rooms with access to the family’s art collection of Warhols and Picassos. Each of the 15 rooms has been decorated differently with fabric wall coverings and carved marble details in the bathrooms. A staff of 45 is on hand to provide full-time butler service, overseen by legendary hotel veteran Didier Le Calvez, who formerly managed Le Bristol. “It has the hardware of a palace hotel and the software of a private club,” Le Calvez has said. “Where else in Paris can you find complete privacy and yet open the door and be in the middle of the city?”

And across town on the Left Bank, on the fifth floor of the city’s oldest and most storied gourmet restaurant, Tour d’Argent, the Terrail family has added the finishing touch to the property’s major renovation: a newly finished apartment that may offer the best bedroom view in the city. L’Appartement, which pays homage to the family’s matriarch who once inhabited the space, has a living room and bedroom overlooking the Seine, Île Saint-Louis and the back of Notre Dame. Thanks to the property’s recent overhaul, you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner on different floors of the tower, never leaving the incomparable kitchen or view.

Restaurant News and Standbys

Despite all of the restaurant openings of the past year in Paris, it can still be a struggle to book a table last-minute, to find a great place to eat out on a Sunday night or to book a private room. But thankfully, two recent transformations have helped with these last two issues. The landmark Laurent, a former royal hunting lodge in the mini park beside the Champs-Elysée has been reborn by the Paris Société group (those behind Girafe, Gigi and other hot spots), and it now has a series of great private salons on the second floor. And just down the way, Nonos at Le Crillon has been transformed into a sleek yet cozy grill, making it the perfect Sunday night spot. Some of the other new spots and neighborhood standbys I loved on this trip are:

  • Riviera Fuga, for a chic meal on a barge on the Seine
  • Anna, a stylish Greek restaurant in the Golden Triangle
  • Tekés, a great Israeli vegetarian restaurant from the group behind Balagan
  • Café Louise, a nothing-fancy, neighborhood café in St. Germain
  • Golden Poppy, an ode to Californian vegetarian cuisine from star chef Dominique Crenns

A New Rothschild-worthy Retreat in the Countryside

The Paris Société folks (same ones who manage Laurent, Monsieur Bleu and more) have taken their magic touch to the French countryside. The newly restored Abbaye des Vaux-de-Cernay is a country house retreat that formerly belonged to Baroness Charlotte Rothschild. In the countryside less than an hour outside of Paris, the property has been seriously glammed up by Cordelia de Castellane, the design darling who crafted the interiors of Café Laperouse and oversees housewares for Christian Dior. Stay tuned for our team’s review.

Shops To Know

While part of the joy of shopping in Paris is just strolling down favorite avenues or rediscovering areas of Saint-Germain or the Marais, I also love finding those stores that are not yet on everybody’s radar or that are still independent. Two heritage French brands that my most fashionable friends are buzzing about are Joseph Duclos, which is being touted as the more stealth Hermès, thanks to the arrival of former Hermès alum, Ramesh Nair, and Carven, the house that once popularized the fashion runway show, and has been reborn by Icicle, and is already a cult brand in Shanghai. I also had time on this trip to make two of my favorite beauty stops: a facial at Biologique Recherche and stocking up at discount beauty haven Citypharma. Some other new or favorite shops that I was very glad to have visited on this trip:

Culture Calendar

In the same way that New York buzzes about theater openings, Parisians make art viewing a point of civic pride, and this fall, the offerings have made people giddy. The Mark Rothko exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation is the must-see exhibit of the moment, with his early works shedding light on his evolution. Lovers of Van Gogh, should head to the Musée d’Orsay’s exhibition of the works he completed in the last two months of his life, which is on until February 4. And the largest retrospective ever of beloved abstract painter Nicolas de Staël’s works have been gathered at the Musée d’Art Moderne through January 21. And for lovers of decorative objects and jewelry, Galerie Kugel is hosting an amazing Amber show that is only up through December 16.

Published onDecember 1, 2023

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