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In the Footsteps of the Fashion World

As capital of the la mode, Paris is second home to many of the world’s most fashionable people who flood the city four times a year for Fashion Week. Fashion editors from Vogue and Elle, designers from the Haute Couture houses to the up-and-coming prêt-à-porter labels, super models, and stars from the music, film and art worlds come to see the latest trends. But that’s not all they come for.

When away from the catwalks the fashionistas can be found at the latest branché (literally, ‘plugged in’) boutiques, cafés, restaurants, clubs, bars and hotels. Mere mortals may never step foot in a live fashion show, but you can always catch a bit of the electric atmosphere by following in the jet-set’s stiletto’d footsteps through Paris!

Where to Stay: The Hôtel de Crillon, Ritz Paris, Hôtel Meurice, and Le Bristol need no introduction. If you can afford to stay in these classic Parisian palace hotels, make sure to book in advance, as they fill to capacity with the beautiful and famous (and their inevitable entourages). Sleek and comfortable, the Montalembert is one of the young and fashionable luxury hotels in the St-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, once a place for Bohemian intellectuals, today home to designer concept stores and boutiques. Nostalgic Parisians and rock stars stay down the road at L’Hôtel, a decadent hotel where Oscar Wilde spent his last days. Some hotels are a world unto themselves where you can sleep, eat and party all night long (or just visit for a digestif if you can’t afford the suites). The Plaza Athénée has one of the best designer bars in town, and a restaurant run by superchef Alain Ducasse. Hôtel Costes (239, rue Saint Honoré, 1st Tel: 01 42 44 50 00) is part of the Costes brothers’ empire, so trendy that it sells the music compilations played by the world-famous DJs in its bar. Be sure to book lunch here at least once for the people-watching. The Hyatt Regency Paris-Madeleine is in a prime haute couture shopping district, which keeps its restaurant and bar “M” filled with the manicured “locals” until late into the night. Le Pershing Hall, decorated by André Putnam, has a hanging garden in the courtyard where you can dine during sunny days.

The bar is an elegant and sophisticated place to pose with a potent cocktail like the June Bug. Less expensive (from about €150), L’Hôtel du Bourg-Tibourg (19 rue Bourg-Tibourg, 4th, Tel: 01 42 78 47 39) is still stylish and well-placed in the party-central Marais. If you’re looking for an artistic-bohemian-punk atmosphere at bargain prices, try the Hotel Eldorado (8 rue des Dames, 17th, Tel: 01 45 22 35 21). For rooms under €60, you’ll have to content yourself with the “undiscovered” talent and the laid-back courtyard bar.

Where to Shop: Shopping in Paris is a no-brainer for the truly fashionable. Stick to the 8th and 1st arrondissements and you won’t get very far without stumbling onto a hot spot. Avenue Matignon, rue du Faubourg St-Honoré and rue St-Honoré (one turns into the other around the Place Vendôme), and the boutiques of the Jardins du Palais Royal are where you’ll find most of the luxury and designer boutiques. Head over to rue Etienne-Marcel and rue des Petits-Champs for a funkier fashion look. As always, Colette (213 rue St-Honoré) remains the must-visit concept store for every visiting fashion guru, and this year’s favorite beauty shop is the Parfumerie Générale (6 rue Robert Estienne, 8th; off rue Marbeuf).

After Dark: “Before’s” are very popular since dinner is so late in Paris. The latest place to order an apéro is Le B4 Café (30 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, 4th), in the Marais. Closer to the action, the Barbara Bui Café (27, rue Etienne Marcel, 1st) has a smooth DJ to take your mind off the height of your heels. Dinner and dancing go hand-in-hand (and make it easier to get past the bouncers) at the Cabaret (place du Palais Royal, 1st), La Suite (40, avenue Georges V, 8th), Nirvana Lounge (3, av. Matignon, 8th) and Man Ray (34, rue Marboeuf, 8th). Dress like you just came off the catwalk yourself and hide any shyness behind a big ol’ pair of Italian sunglasses.

To find out the dates of the next Fashion Week in Paris, check out the official website of the Fédération Française de la Couture.

This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’ve republished them in autumn 2019 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris” Broken and dead links have been updated or deactivated, but otherwise the article remains unchanged. 

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