Paris When it Sizzles

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Au revoir New York!

Those who think glamour is dead should visit Paris during fashion week, particularly during the couture shows.  I happened to be there – the first week of July – to visit a friend, Baroness Jacqueline von Hammerstein-Loxten, who was helping Ethan Koh, a designer, launch a handbag collection.  Another friend, Danielle Rossi Hirsch, also flew into town and joined us for some wonderful dining, shopping and viewing of gorgeous jewelry and handbags.

I was there to see the sights too, of course, but the people-watching provided perhaps the best spectacle of all – men and women dressed to the nines, in the latest cocktail attire, dripping with jewels and sporting fancy footwear. It’s rare and lovely in this age of ubiquitous athleisure wear to see people making an effort to look their best. The weather too sparkled – warm and glorious – bathing the City of Light in a bright glow.

I flew to Paris on La Compagnie – an all-business class airline with direct flights from Newark to Orly. I had the exit row, so there was plenty of space.
Upon my early morning arrival, I took a walk around Avenue George V, where I was staying. While waiting for my room to be ready at the Prince de Galles hotel, I ducked into the American Cathedral in Paris – coolly inviting on a very warm morning. There I discovered a quiet and picturesque courtyard. One of my favorite things about Paris are the beautiful corners like these that are tucked away, a refuge from the bustling city.
I also slipped into the George V hotel to admire the fields of flowers in their gleaming lobby.

The next night, after recovering somewhat from jet lag, I met up with Danielle for dinner at LouLou located at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs at the Louvre. We were seated outside on account of the balmy evening where we gorged on truffle pizza among other delicious dishes with I. M. Pei’s pyramid serving as backdrop. The fashionable crowd provided additional viewing pleasure. Heaven!
The following evening found us at the Hotel Ritz for cocktails where the fashion parade continued unabated. Here I am with Thai celebrity hair stylist, Mark Thawin.
The aperitifs continued in the garden at the Ritz before we moved on to a private soirée hosted by luxury jeweler, de Grisogono.
The opulent jewelry was matched by the opulent gowns of Elie Saab who treated the audience to a fashion show during dinner.
The next day, a little shopping was in order. First stop was Dior at 30 Avenue Montaigne. The famed boutique is currently wrapped in a huge 1960s-inspired tarpaulin, emblazoned with the timely messages of “Women Empowerment” and “C’est non, non et non. ” Photo: deskgram
A classic look from Dior.
Inside the boutique, the past provided inspiration with a softer take on the famous couturier’s New Look, mod-inspired boots …
.. and lady-like, logo-emblazoned, bow-tied pumps.
Chanel and Givenchy provided additional retail therapy …

Down the block, I had to stop and admire the Hotel Plaza Athenée – always a treat for the eyes. Fun fact: the Plaza Athenée is home to the only bakery left on Avenue Montaigne. Yes – the uber-fashionable street once housed bakeries and cafés.
The glamour continued the next day with Christie’s who hosted a tea followed by a private dinner in the elegant Salon Louis XV at the Ritz. Both occasions showcased Ethan Koh’s bespoke creations alongside some spectacular jewelry.
The elegant table setting at the Christie’s-hosted dinner at the Ritz
Danielle and I with Jacqueline who is holding one of Ethan’s bespoke creations.

Ethan Koh is a fourth generation scion of a Singapore family business – Heng Long – a tannery for top quality exotic animal and reptile skins. The business supplies skins to Hermès, Chanel and Prada, among other purveyors of luxury goods. Gardens continue to serve as inspiration for the London-based designer who grew up surrounded by exotic fruits and spices, a benefit of having grandparents who were fruit and spice traders.

Opulent jewels and handbags stole the scene. “To this day,” says Ethan, “when I am in Singapore, I walk through my family’s garden and the markets to collect the beautiful colours of the fruits and spices to take to the tannery where my brother and I use a special technique of infusing the colours of the fruits into the skin.” Ethan’s bags are available at Harrods, at Saks Fifth Avenue and by private order.
The hedgehog, inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, is one of several woodland fauna adorning Ethan’s work: “Each creature had its own story,” says the 31-year- old designer. “The hedgehog was the nimble explorer who enjoyed travels and adventures whilst the frog represented luck and fortune and the snake represented sensuality and desires.”

Ethan Koh and Christianna Psarros with Cathy and Leo Hon.
The festivities continued the next evening at the Pagoda Paris for the official launch of Ethan’s “Endless Discovery” capsule collection. Inspired by this unique building’s history, architecture and colors, the collection espouses an “East meets West” aesthetic. Danielle and I pause before the Pagoda’s ornate gate.
Built in the 1920s by legendary Chinese art dealer, C.T. Loo, the Pagoda, located in Paris’ tony 8th Arrondissement, is used today for private functions. Chief among its treasures are entire rooms lined with priceless 16th and 17th century lacquered panels.

Leaving the wonderful shopping, window shopping and dining aside, for me, no trip to Paris is complete without a museum visit.  With that in mind, I headed to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, one of Paris’ best-kept secrets.  The manageable museum has a world class collection of 20th and 21st century art and holds exhibits of cutting-edge, contemporary artists.

Fernand Léger.
Raoul Dufy.
Henri Matisse.
Amadeo Modigliani.
Kees van Dongen.
Chaïm Soutine.
Marie Toyen.
Raymond Hains.
Léonard Foujita.
Arman (Armand Fernandez).
Arman (Armand Fernandez). The artist had emptied bottles of red nailpolish into a plexiglass box.
Paris makes us happy. Alors, a bientôt!

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