Le Bal in Paris — celebrating youth, excellence, the empowering of women, and the harmony of nations

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The Débutantes at this year's "le Bal" at Shangri-La Paris.

A debutante coming-out, Le Bal des debutantes in Paris, also known as “le Bal,” was inspired by the 18th century English tradition of the debutante ball, a “coming out” into the adult world where the young ladies are were introduced to society as young adults. Historically the objective was to present them to the world to which they would belong and mature. Frequently this was followed by  acquiring a mate and beginning the establishment of a new family of the old order.

In France, however, the traditional debutante ball, the introduction to the society to which they were born into, was first established in 1957 and had a very short existence — ending sixteen years later in 1973.

Shangri-La Paris déco, the location of le Bal.

19 years later, in 1994, Ophélie Renouard created a modern version. It called for the gathering of 20 exceptional young women, along with their cavaliers, reflecting and promoting the name of Haute Couture, high jewelry and for the ultimate benefit of charity.

These days with almost all traditions retired from social purpose (and potential adult mergers) debutantes make their debuts on social media. Le Bal, however, is staged for an unforgettable moment of their haute couture and media premières.

Le Bal in Paris is also the only débutante ball in the world by invitation only. This year’s rendition, which is traditionally held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, took place at the splendid Shangri-La Paris hotel — which is the former private residence of a nephew of Napoleon; and in the 20th century the salonniere of the social doyenne, Elsie de Wolfe.

The event is a rare combination of old world protocol and elegance and internationalism. It is a modern approach to the definition of “elite.” The debutantes and their families hail from fifteen different cultures from all corners of the globe including India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, China, the Philippines, Greece, Italy, Great Britain, Hungary, Germany and the US. Some represent ancient aristocratic clans; while others exemplify individual achievement and excellence (the Hapsburg archduchess had competed for her country in equestrian sports and gold medalist Eileen Gu also made her debut.)

Le Bal supports two important organizations: WCK World Central Kitchen, which provides meals in the wake of crisis in different parts of the world, and the French hospital Necker-Enfants Malades, the first children hospital in the world.

Ondine Peck-Voll, Bristol Fales-Hill, Wenhao Cai, Natasha Connery, Leah Behn, Princess Inayatinder Kaur, Annabel Zimmer, Teale Burrell, Almira Bowo, Eleanor Fales-Hill, and Eileen Gu.

The past attendees include royalty such as TIH Princesses and Princes Victoria-Louise and Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia and Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia, TRH Princesses and Princes Aude, Charlotte, Elizabeth, Zita, Amaury, Henri and Michel de Bourbon Parme; Charlotte, Paul-Louis and Leopold de Nassau; Fawzia Latifa and Mohamed Ali of Egypt; Louise, Hélène and Philippe d’Orleans; Lorenza, Livia and Wenceslas de Liechtenstein; Lady Amelia Windsor; Luis de Borbon, Delphine and Antoine Arnault, Lauren Bush, Kyra Kennedy, Anoushka Delon, Lily Collins, Kayla Rockefeller, as well as Scout and Tallulah Willis and Francesca Eastwood.

Annabel Zimmer (in Gaultier Paris and Jewelry by V MUSE ) and Ignacio De Borbón Díaz.
Bristol Fales-Hill (in Stéphane Rolland HC and Jewelry by V MUSE ) and Count Rufus de Renusson d’Hauteville.
Cai Guo-Qiang and his wife Wu Hong-Hong.
Countess Olimpia Rimbotti (in Stefan Djokovich and Jewelry by V MUSE) and H.III.H Count Leonardo of Waldburg-Wolfegg-Waldsee.
Eileen Gu (in Guo Pei), Almira Bowo (in Carolina Herrera), and Wenhao Cai (in Iris van Herpen) wearing jewelry by V MUSE.
Eileen Gu dancing with her cavalier Count Felix de Limburg Stirum.
Eleanor Ford Uzielli (in Oscar de la Renta and Jewelry by V MUSE) with HSH Prince Alexandre d’Arenberg.
L. to r.: Teale Burrell (in FOVARI and Jewelry by V MUSE) and Archie Campbell, the Marquess of Lorne; Ondine Peck-Voll (in Elie Saab HC and Jewelry by V MUSE) and Count Ivan de Poligny.
HIRH Archduchess Sophia von Habsburg Lorraine (in Franck Sorbier HC and V MUSE Jewelry) dancing with Prince Leopold de Baden.
HIRH Archduchess Sophia von Habsburg-Lorraine (in Franck Sorbier HC and Jewelry by V MUSE) with Prince Leopold of Baden.
HRH Princess Hélène d’Orléans (in Georges Hobeika Couture and Jewelry by V MUSE) with HRH Prince Philippe d’Orléans.
Kimm Ann Uzielli, Olivia Ford Uzielli, and Alessandro Ford Uzielli.
Leah Behn (in Giambattista Valli HC and V MUSE Jewelry) and Princess Martha Louise.
Leah Behn and HH Maharaja Lakshraj Prakash of Sirmour.
Natasha Connery (in Alexis Mabille and Jewelry by V MUSE), Harper Peck, Cecilia Peck, and Daniel Voll.
Natasha Connery and Harper Peck.
Ondine Peck-Voll (in Elie Saab HC and V MUSE) with parents Daniel Voll and Cecilia Peck Voll.
Leah Behn (in Giambattista Valli and V MUSE Jewelry) with Stephane Bern.
Wenhao Cai and Guoqiang Cai.
Wenhao Cai and Louis Aubry.
HRH Princess Hélène d’Orléans (in Georges Hobeika Couture and Jewelry by V MUSE) with her father HRH Prince Charles-Louis d’Orléans, Duke of Chartres.

Photographs by le Bal/Yunling Fang/Studio Vanssay/Sylvie LeFort

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