As the fashion industry descends upon Paris for the season’s final week of runway shows and presentations, Culture Trip explores the Marais with two Fashion Week professionals to find out why its chic eating spots and hidden vintage stores makes it the most stylish place to be.
“At Paris Fashion Week (PFW), your invite is your most stylish accessory,” says Anna Vitiello of accessories-focused Instagram account and website, And Finally. She has been attending fashion weeks with with her business partner, Florrie Thomas, since they first started their careers as editors at Harper’s Bazaar UK in 2011. Today they represent their own brand which spotlights trends, supports emerging designers and offers online styling advice.
PFW is a pivotal time for the duo and their business. It’s the finale of fashion month, which spans New York, London and Milan, “Brands really go for it here – it’s not like Milan where you know what to expect,” says Thomas. “The big names like Louis Vuitton and Chanel set the tone. It’s overwhelming and exciting all at once.”
Both name the spring/summer 2019 Isabel Marant show as a particular highlight. It took place in a disco-themed space in Tuileries and featured model of the moment Kaia Gerber. “It felt like everyone we knew was there,” says Thomas. “There’s definitely a sense the industry descending upon the city for the week – it’s almost like a convention.”
Spanning eight consecutive days, PFW welcomes the best and most in-demand designers as well as buyers, editors and influencers from all over the world. “Any brand you want to see you can see in Paris,” says Vitiello. “Even if they’ve already shown in Milan, they’re likely to host a dinner or a showroom here too.”
For spring/summer 2019 Italian footwear label Roger Vivier transformed a run-down house into a set that mimicked an opulent hotel room to present its upcoming collection. “That venue took three days to transform,” she says. For emerging brands, thinking outside the box is key and British designer Deborah Lyons used the Eurostar as her runway, inviting guests to enjoy the show en route to the city.
Suitcase essentials for the week are surprisingly practical. “A low sculptural heel is perfect,” says Vitiello. “It’s fashion-focused but wearable – the days are long and there’s a lot of walking involved. We always pack a few statement bags because they’re the simplest way to pull a look together.”
In an industry so focused on clothing, what to wear is a key priority and Vitiello and Thomas are worried that they haven’t packed enough. “The vintage stores in this city are second to none,” says Thomas. “You can find some amazing designer buys but they’re either super cheap or super expensive – you have to shop around.”
Coiffeur in the Marais, Thanx God I’m A VIP and Room Service – which is run by a jewellery designer who also stocks her own designs – top their list of recommendations. “I bought my two favourite pairs of trousers from Coiffeur,” says Vitiello, “and I found some beautifully restored Dior shoes for €70 on a Paris vintage run once.”
The Marais in Paris is loved for its vintage stores and Coiffeur Vintage is a treasure trove of pre-loved finds. Prices are affordable, with jeans and trousers costing approximately €10 per pair, but shoppers must be prepared to search for the perfect piece; it’s a small space, but filled with heaving clothing rails and overflowing cardboard boxes of accessories.
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Stores like this are easy to stumble upon in the Marais – a vibrant area filled with independent cafés, hidden boutiques and cosy wine bars. It’s here that the duo call home when in Paris, despite most of the action being closer to the Louvre or around Tuileries. “It’s the place we would want to spend the weekend if we weren’t here for Fashion Week,” says Thomas. “We like being able to switch off when we can as well, and there are so many cute little coffee shops that open early in the morning, which is essential. Terres de Café serves the best we’ve found.”
On downtime, both Vitiello and Thomas explore the galleries and concept stores around the city for an extra dose of inspiration. “Even when it’s not Fashion Week, Paris is full of inspirational things to do,” Vitiello says. “Merci is one of the most creative concept stores in Europe and it always has a themed installation so it’s different every season. Clingnancourt flea market is really worth a visit for anyone who wants to find a unique piece of clothing or furniture.”
“There’s also always some sort of amazing exhibition that’s just opened,” says Thomas. For autumn 2018 it’s the Yves Saint Laurent museum and its Dreams of the Orient exhibition that tops their to-do list. “It’s positioned in the designer’s original atelier so that in itself will be really interesting to see.”
After dark, the new lobby restaurant at Le Pigalle is among their preferred spots for a casual dinner and a choice of cocktails and they frequent popular Fashion Week hangout Hotel Amour at least once a season. But it’s hidden boutique Italian restaurant Amici Miei that they’ve coined their new favourite. “Sometimes it’s the places you stumble upon that serves the best food,” says Vitiello. Marais is perfect for that – there’s something around every corner.”
Positioned in the lobby of artsy boutique hotel Le Pigalle, the restaurant offers a casual menu of sharing plates and a premium cocktail list that features classic recipes as well as some house signatures.