From Theadora Brack in Paris—
Trekking to Paris during the months of November and December? If so, don’t miss the lights and “Vitrines de Noël” (holiday windows) on the hustling, bustling Boulevard Haussmann. The festive, gussied-up stroll both soothes and re-energizes my spirits every time. Yes, the lights are much brighter there!
This year, however, I’ve decided to pump up the volume by attending the holiday kick-off events at grand magasins Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. After getting word that chanteur Charlie Winston and couturier Karl Lagerfeld would be making cameo appearances, there was no winding back for this hot stepper.
Shall we prance?
Galeries Lafayette Haussmann
40 Boulevard Haussmann, 9th arrondissement
(Metro: Saint-Lazare or Havre-Caumartin)
On Tuesday, November 8th, Galeries Lafayette launched their brand-spanking-new “Noël Rock ‘n’ Mode” just a wild hair after l’heure bleu (twilight). It rained and poured, but I bravely faced the elements and crowds, knowing that Charlie Winston would soon be wooing the crowd.
If you’re not familiar with Charlie, check out his tune, “Hello, Alone.” Named after Charlie Chaplin, the English singer is sizzling hot in France these days. And yes, Audrey Tautou was featured in one of his videos!
And so, with a dramatic five-to-one countdown, Charlie flipped the switch, letting there be light. This year, New York artist Andrew Yang dressed Galeries Lafayette’s windows. Rocking ‘n’ rolling, his animated and oh-sew-gorgeous, doe-eyed Kouklistar poupées boast Vogue-worthy poses. And let us not ignore their starlet names like Brigitte, Imany, and Inna Modja, along with Mademoiselle K, Medi, and Cyril Mokaiesh. Made of soft muslin and hand-painted, they dance away any wintertime heartache magnificently.
As you make your way down the Boulevard, nip inside Galeries Lafayette, and get an eyeful of its show-stopping tree! Decked out in 55 glorious neon signs and measuring in at an impressive 66 feet, it almost reaches the grand magasin’s equally breathtaking Belle Epoch “coupole” (domed ceiling, circa 1912)!
64 Boulevard Haussmann, 9th arrondissement
(Metro: Saint-Lazare or Havre-Caumartin)
Meanwhile on the following night at nearby Printemps, designer Karl Lagerfeld held court along with his favorite muse and model, Vanessa Paradis. Together they launched the grand magasin’s “Noël, Rêves d’Evasion,” a tribute to metropolitan cities everywhere.
A fantastical series of tableaux with a gleaming futuristic twist attached, the vitrine scenes were created by Jean-Claude Dehix, a master creator of marionettes and puppets with 35 years of experience at pulling all the right strings.
Down in front
This time it wasn’t raining or pouring. But here’s the rub. The eager, goggle-eyed public, along with any rubbernecking writers who were there (like yours truly), were positioned well behind the elevated television cameras. Even my sharpest elbows and laminated press pass were of no avail. So what color was Karl Lagerfeld’s dapper tie? I couldn’t tell, because there were three-dozen cameras in the way!
A note of constructive criticism to Printemps: Don’t forget the power of the written word or social media. This time we’ll have take their word for it that the glitterati were there in droves, but they shouldn’t forget who ultimately is going to do the actual shopping! If the proverbial (and the handsomely decorated) tree falling by itself in the woods doesn’t make a sound, is someone still a celebrity if none of us can see them well enough to celebrate them? Just saying.
Nevertheless, the windows were ultimately the real story, and they are knockouts. “Impeccable reams of escape” indeed!
Also, let’s not forget the smaller shops! All across Paris restaurants, pâtisseries, boutiques, and even pharmacies get the spirit going by hiring artists to create holiday murals or window displays of their own. Some are amazingly beautiful, a few inevitably fall into the category of so-bad-they’re-good, but each and every one contributes a little something more to the color and dazzle of this season of transformation.
This is the time of year when the City of Light lives up to its old moniker most of all. So, shine on. Cheapos!
Also in the guide: Heading to Paris this holiday season? Check out the reviews of our favorite budget accommodation. All of our “picks” have been inspected, photographed and reviewed by our editors. Best of all, they’re all located in central Paris. Read more in our Paris guide.