February 13, 2012

A luxury tour from Chanel to Hermès

“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”
Coco Chanel

Admittedly, nobody in their right mind, living in Paris all year round, would venture outside on a guided tour at -9°C this week. But I can assure you the motive was justifiable.

When the spirit of Coco Chanel calls, it is difficult to resist temptation. So, off I went on a sunny freezing winter morning. Our group met infront of WHSmith which I have wanted to visit since I arrived in September but somehow coming down to the first arrondissement is just asking for trouble. All this Parisian designer temptation. The French call it "chic, cheque et choque". (Tempted by the elegance, writing out a check and then in a state of shock in realizing what you have just done!).

Walking into WHSmith - full of English books - was like walking into a candy store. I spent nearly an hour browsing through the huge two story bookstore and ended up not only buying two books but also my PG Tips teabags, Jelly and tea biscuits.

But back to my main reason for venturing towards the world-renowned heart of fashion. From traditional French chic to modern pizzazz in the rue Cambon, rue St Honoré and the beautiful place Vendôme, the traditional centre of the luxury trade, we trod the trails where the biggest names in luxury have set foot many decades ago.

The fashion specialist guide gave us the background on the fashion houses and elegant shops of today, talked about the life and influence of Coco Chanel. Did you know that in 1945, she moved to Switzerland, eventually returning to Paris in 1954, the same year she returned to the fashion world.

Frank Horvat
Paris, 1958 - Coco Chanel, hiding in her staircase to watch her own fashion show through a mirror, unaware of the photographer who watches her through another one.

We stopped to visit the Hermes and Chanel boutiques (we only glimpsed, I promise) and fantasized about Mademoiselle sitting on the staircase leading from the boutique to the ateliers on the top floors.

The Hotel Ritz, where Chanel resided for over 30 years until her death in 1971 at age 87, was tremendously inviting sparking in the cold sunshine.

But I think I'll wait until my Mum visits me in Paris when we can treat ourselves by going to have tea at the Ritz.

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