By Theadora Brack in Paris—
Gather ’round my fashion Cheapoupées because this stroll c’est pour vous! Let’s sashay to one of my favorite streets in Paris, the rue de la Paix. Formerly known as rue Napoléon, it was given a new name during the Bourbon Restoration (led by Louis XVIII) of 1814. Connecting the Opéra Garnier to Place Vendôme, this centuries-old pet promenade and shopping district has never failed to woo this Cheapo or its au courant inhabitants and modish visitors!
Step up to the Rue de la Paix
Charles Frederick Worth (the father of haute couture) was the first to open up shop, at 7 rue de la Paix. Others soon followed suit. Jacques Doucet (#21), Jeanne Paquin (#3), and Chanel’s mentor, Caroline Reboux (# 23) also kept in step by moving here. Schiaparelli started her business on the top attic floors of #4, before moving to the ground level and then finally to Place Vendôme. Sadly, by now most of these fashion houses have moved away, though some of their awnings, signs and plaques linger on.
Luckily, in Paris, when one door closes, another usually opens. Today, on the rue, you’ll find a whole new mix of shops. Among my favorites? The Repetto boutique at #22. (Take a peek at their towering cubbyholes stuffed with satin ballet slippers.) Thank Brigitte Bardot for asking founder Madame Rose Repetto to make a street shoe model of the classic ballet flat in 1956 during the filming of “And God Created Woman.” Rose obliged her with a sublime pair in red and the rest is history in the shaking.
And speaking of shaking, Harry’s New York Bar (at 5, Rue Daunou), once a treasured Hemingway haunt, was the birthplace of both the Bloody Mary and the Sidecar! George Gershwin sat here too, but at the piano . . . and composed the musical, “An American in Paris.” Cheapos, our love is here to stay!
Rue de la Paix spills into Place Vendôme. Schiaparelli “pitched her tent under the shadow of Napoléon’s column” at 21 Place Vendôme in 1935, opening one of the first prêt-à-porter boutiques! Although Schiaparelli’s shop closed decades ago, its awning still flaps above the sumptuous entryway. Her “Schiap Shop” resembled a giant gilded birdcage made of painted bamboo. A publicity maven, she sometimes launched her collections with circus performances in the middle of the square, complete with prancing elephants and daredevil tightrope walkers!
Pinching from Schiaparelli, “If the wind catches your hat and tantalizingly blows it farther and farther away, you must run quicker than the wind if you want to retrieve it!”
Getting there and one last sweet smelling thing…
The Métro Opéra main entrance will give you a panoramic view of the Opéra Garnier, and once there, the Fragonard Musée du Parfum is just a hop, skip and pirouette away at 9, rue Scribe. Sing a few praises to the Opéra, and then jeté across the street to the free fragrance museum. Here will you not only get an eyeful of their eclectic collection of vintage bottles, powder boxes and labels, but you’ll also learn how perfume is made in Grasse, the fragrance hubbub of the world. For more info, check out our post on this sweet smelling – and free! – musée.
Tips: Don’t miss the gift shop because it’s here where you’ll find exhibited several more of the museum gems. Look for my favorite: a candle-snuffer-shaped number called “Sleeping,” created by Elsa Schiaparelli in 1938. Mad about Dada and Surrealism, “Schiap” frequently worked with artists like Jean Cocteau, Dali, and Man Ray. News Splash! The Fragonard shop is also full of affordable perfumes, soaps, and lotions, decked out in gorgeous boxes, all boasting French national monuments. Ooh, la la.