March 16, 2015

Mercedes-Benz Travel Season: Paris, the runways Mecca

Paris is, of course, the City of Lights. But there are, it seems, a few extraordinary locations – through their history, renown and public affection – where the lights shine particularly bright. More precisely, brighter and more dramatic as needed for the setting and stage decors of the grand catwalks Paris Fashion Week entails. These are places of a rare beauty, of a remarkable past and that are also able to prove, again and again, the versatility that always new designers, seasons and visions demand. They are Grand Palais, Carrousel du Louvre and Jardin des Tuileries!

Even if it truly is Paris’ iconic image, the Eiffer Tower also doubles as one of the most spectacular runway backgrounds in the world. It has often been host to truly high class fashion shows, having been turned into a catwalk for the most craved for models.

Even if it truly is Paris’ iconic image, the Eiffer Tower also doubles as one of the most spectacular runway backgrounds in the world. It has often been host to truly high class fashion shows, having been turned into a catwalk for the most craved for models.

The first among these classic and couture landmarks of Paris is truly formidable. Grand Palais – an exhibitions’ temple of 72 000 square meters, with baroque and classicist style facades and topped by the biggest glass ceiling in Europe (covering an area of 13 500 m2) – it’s all the more extraordinary if we come to think it took just 3 years to build. And 100 years ago – when the 6 000 tons of steel of the Nave (more than the Eiffel Tower) and 200 000 tons of stone amounted to an even greater technical challenge than today!

Nowadays, the Grand Palais wants to continue being relevant and in step with the trends and is supposed to undergo a subtle functional transformation to be orchestrated by Snøhetta – the innovative design firm from Norway famous for ultra-modern projects the world over and for the contemporary look (gotten viral) it lent to its country of origin’s currency.

It is, after all, a place used to the grand and to the cosmopolitan. Built for the 1900 universal exhibition, to this day it has hosted exhibits and not only. The Bulgari anniversary – 125 years of Italian magnificence, annually, the Saut Hermès equestrian contest (this year between April 10 and 12), from April 1 to August 3 2015 the Jean Paul Gaultier display. All thanks to the Parisian cultural center’s prided cultural engineering know-how allowing it to provide its clients with world class support.

Grand Palais, the grand location of the Chanel show

Grand Palais, the grand location of the Chanel show

Just the type Dries Van Noten, Saint Laurent or Chanel are looking for. The House under Karl Lagerfeld’s creative helm (who discovered the magic of the Grand Palais as a child, when attending an auto show) has gathered an entire portfolio of concepts turned reality under the 8.5 tons Art Nouveau glass ceiling: a brasserie, an arctic land, a supermarket, a green house… but the greatness of the images speaks for itself.

The avenue du Général Eisenhower palace is open Monday through Sunday. Every year, it hosts 40 major events and is visited by 2 million people.

Part of Paris’ high fashion triangle is another great attraction of the city on the Seine. This time it’s a cultural, archaeological, shopping, even railway center all at once. Le Carrousel du Louvre is a department store & subway stop & museum entry that happens to overlay the location of the city’s vastest (2.5 hectares) archaeological site. In close proximity of the Louvre, this is a place whose main role is still to be defined.

During the day, commercial area of over 10 000 m2 with quintessentially French boutiques such as that of Mariage Frères Tea Emporium. During the night, Da Vinci Code mysteries hotspot (this also being the location of the famous reversed pyramid included in the famous novel’s intrigue). Periodically, host of commercial events such as Salon Belles Montres (luxury watch making fair bringing together the likes of Chopard, Gucci, Boucheron, Girard-Perregaux or Ralph Lauren).

And, every February and every September of every year – the focal point of Paris Fashion Week. Hermès, Dior, Balmain or Miu Miu have all shown here. And, until last fall (at the opening of the Fondation Louis Vuitton), Louis Vuitton used to invite the who’s who of the industry at extravagances located and, sometimes, apparently inspired by the Carrousel du Louvre. Do the escalators and cotton candy carousel conceived by then LV Creative Director Marc Jacobs ring a bell?

Another famous Parisian landmark that it’s almost impossible to miss is Jardin des Tuileries. And not only for featuring a Ferris wheel that lures the grown up to enjoy a breathtaking vista over the city. And no, that’s not just a metaphor! The famous wheel stops every visitor at a turn, at the very top for a few minutes – maybe even less, but to me it seemed to be foreeever – swinging in the quite breezy wind up at that height. I promised myself not even again to go up such a contraption, even if the view truly is marvelous. This if you get to glimpse it before the panic attack sets in – the moment you look down and see the people by now ant-like and realize that you’re in a sort of a two seat chair, no bars or any kind of protection in place to keep you fastened should the wind decide to wrestle. This besides the metallic creaking sounds it makes – horror-movie-like – that get you wondering about the last time – year or decade – the wheel actually got a revision!

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As it’s easy to see, it left me with quite a memory! Yet Jardin des Tuileries truly is impressive if you’re there to see the trees carefully trimmed and let grow no higher than 2.2 m, to enjoy sculptures by Rodin and Giacometti or Monet at Musée de l’Orangerie or for being in the to and fro between the museums of the Louvre and Orsay.

The garden quite simply is one of those places with an excellent TripAdvisor rating that also happens to have been, in its turn, the jardin of Catherine de Medici, Henry IV, Louis XIII and the Sun King, Louis XIV.

With such an illustrious royal passage over the centuries, starting off as a Tuscan garden and ending up in the typical French style, sister to the one at Versailles, Jardin des Tuileries is home not just to flowers, but also runways. Lanvin, Chloé, Nina Ricci, Issey Miyake, Viktor & Rolf…

Elie Saab always holds its shows here. And, sometimes, the garden outside joins the inspiration for the dresses and together make for the models to run among rustle of leaves. Sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally…

The conclusion? Paris continues to inspire. And not only those in love… But also designers and the in love with fashion. It a truly was memorable Paris Fashion Week tour of the city, enjoyed next to my usual travel companion, Mercedes-Benz GLA from Ţiriac Auto.

 

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Photos: snohetta.com, hypebeast.com, Chanel, carrouseldulouvre.com, Louis Vuitton, pariscentral.com, worldtoptop.com, commons.wikimedia.org, Elie Saab