This is the story of the craziest week of my life. Buckle up, it’s a lot.
On Sunday, October 30th, I woke up at 3am, grabbed my expertly packed backpack… and walked to school. I was going on a field trip. This was never my idea of what happened on a field trip either, but when you go to fashion school, especially fashion school in Europe, Paris Fashion Week qualifies as a field trip, so we departed Polimoda at 4:30 for the completely empty Florence airport, where we departed for France. After arriving in Paris and dropping our bags at our hotel in the 9th arrondissement, we were handed our Paris metro passes and the schoolwork began. We started with two guided retail visits to Printemps and Galleries Lafayette, two of the first department stores to ever exist, legendary retail locations, and meccas of hyperluxury. Think of them like malls, if malls only sold $500 baby booties and had three-story Louis Vuitton stores.
As a broke college student, these stores were torture, but as a fashion major, I was in heaven. Two and a half years of professors encouraging me to “use my retail eye” on store visits led up to this moment, as I went around from section to section salivating over all of my favorite designers in one place. I probably spent about an hour just in Saint Laurent, The Kooples, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, and Marc Jacobs, but due to our group’s time constraints, I had to move on. Both Printemps and Galleries Lafayette have gorgeous stained glass domes to let light in, since they were built before stores even had electric lights, and Galleries Lafayette had a roof deck which offered sweeping views of Paris. This was the first time I got to see the Eiffel Tower, and it was incredible.
I got even closer to the Eiffel Tower that night, during our boat tour of the city from the Seine, after a stop inside Notre Dame and a very Parisian dinner of…Chipotle. Listen, we were craving Mexican food and for two girls from New York, a month and a half is a long time to go without a burrito! Regardless, the boat tour was stunning, and we got to the Eiffel Tower just as the lights went on for the 9pm show. Exhausted, we headed back to our hotel and settled in for the night.
Monday was probably our busiest day. The first part of our day was dedicated to the main reason for our visit, Tranoï. For my non-fashionistas, Tranoï is an incredible showcase of the innovation, talent, and art coming out of the fashion world and puts these creatives in touch with the global buyers looking for these fresh ideas. The collections shown are in accordance with Paris Fashion Week, so all collections on display were for Spring/Summer 2019. Tranoï is split up between two venues, Palais de la Bourse and Carrousel du Louvre, so we visited both. Standing outside of Palais de la Bourse, I was really nervous. We had several big assignments that centered around observations and interviews conducted within Tranoï, and we were the only students allowed to be there. We were instructed to be flies on the wall, not interfering with the buyers and sellers, and if interviews had to be conducted, they had to be done efficiently, not irritating the vendor and not intruding on a business deal. Absolutely NO photos were to be taken. I walked inside, white-knuckled, with my Muji pen in one hand and my little black notebook in the other, taking it all in and observing everything I could, taking note of anything that jumped out at me. We continued on to our second venue at Carrousel du Louvre, where I was less nervous, but just as intent on getting as much information as I could.
Since we ended near the Louvre, we were given a quick lunch break and then headed to the art museum for the remainder of the afternoon. As someone who has always had such a deep interest in art and history, the Louvre was like a lifetime achievement for me. I tried to see as much as I could, but just like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it’s impossible to see everything. I did get to see the Mona Lisa, but alongside the Mona Lisa I actually saw Shia LaBoeuf and FKA Twigs on a date!
After going back to the hotel to throw on sneakers, sweaters, scarves, and our newly purchased 5 euro berets, a few of my friends and I headed to the Eiffel Tower to grab some crepes for dinner, some wine, and hang out on the lawn to watch the sun go down and the light show sparkle every hour. It’s something so cliché that everyone does while visiting France, but it’s so worth it, and it was definitely one of those I-can’t-believe-I’m-here moments.
On Tuesday morning, we headed to the neighborhood of Marais, which is like if the Upper West Side and SoHo had a baby, to visit Merci, a concept store founded by two retired industry super-execs who wanted to say thank you to the industry and city they loved. It was a merchandising student’s dream, a feast for the eyes. Carrying everything from luggage to clothing to books to homewares, Merci was really my dream store. While it was pricey, it was stunning, and every piece left me wanting to take it home. I soon fell just in love with Marais as I was with Merci, as the neighborhood had everything I adore about New York. As we strolled around on our way to lunch, I couldn’t help myself from stopping inside every boutique and thrift store. Upon the recommendation of our professor, we got falafel for lunch from a place that she said has the, “Best falafel in the WORLD!” I was a skeptic, but she was so, so right, it might have actually been my favorite meal that I ate in Paris. Sheer perfection. Perhaps Marais tugs at my heartstrings so much because it was a Jewish neighborhood for much of the early 20th century, becoming an LGBT hotspot in the 1980s, and is now a grungy-hip neighborhood, much like a lot of New York.
Full of falafel, we headed to Li Edelkoort’s offices, the headquarters of Trend Union, for a lecture and presentation. For those not as literate in fashion, Lidewij Edelkoort is a Dutch trend forecaster who dictates pretty much everything you see. No, seriously. She founded Trend Union, one of the world’s top trend consulting agencies, and releases bi-annual forecasts to her clients for color, design, and lifestyle. We were privileged enough to spend two and a half hours in a big white room sitting on very chic, uncomfortable benches watching one of her right-hand men teach us about how exactly she came up with this trends and how trend prediction works exactly. It was probably my favorite fashion thing that we did on this trip because I find Li Edelkoort so fascinating and really believe that she’s one of the greatest minds in fashion that no one really knows about.
After my awesome afternoon at Li’s office, we took a trip up into the hills to the highest point in the city to visit La Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, a massive neo-Byzantine cathedral dedicated to the Sacred Heart that watches over all of Paris. The inside is stunning, and we were lucky enough to visit while mass was going on, so we explored the outer chapels while listening to the organs echo throughout the cavernous vaults. We didn’t stay for long, because we had dinner plans back near the hotel, where I had probably my best dinner during our time in Paris. I tried escargot for the first time and loved it, probably because I love seafood, and had some amazing salmon as an entree. We had grand plans of exploring Paris’s nightlife while we were there, but with our early wake-up times for our school visits and jam-packed exhausting days, we really didn’t have any choice but to have drinks with dinner, maybe pop into a bar for a bit, and then go to sleep as soon as possible.
Wednesday was our last full day in Paris, and we started the day at Fondation Louis Vuitton, LVMH’s art museum/concert hall/event space hybrid just outside of the city. The building itself, designed by one of my favorite architects Frank Gehry, was a piece of art, and we were fortunate enough to get a tour of the structure and get the views of Paris from the roof deck. Downstairs, we saw the collection that they had on display, which featured the works of the brilliant Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Continuing on with our luxury-themed day, we headed to the Champs Élyseés where we first stopped at the iconic Arc de Triomphe before arriving at the Louis Vuitton flagship store for the tour. The store was, of course, gorgeous, but it was so interesting to see the mix of people, from tourists looking to splurge a little on a small wallet to billionaires being ushered into private rooms where they purchase tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. After leaving Louis Vuitton, we continued on shopping down the street and exploring the neighborhood, grabbed some lunch, and happened upon the Princess Diana memorial at the exact spot that she was killed. It was really unexpected, but really beautiful. Our final appointment of our trip was at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris, which I was SO excited about because YSL is one of my favorite designers of all time. The museum is his former residence and office, but most of the exhibit focused on his body of work, specifically his use of Asian inspiration. The top floor featured his working space where he produced his collections, and to see his desk with the ashtrays and pencils still intact was really special. Afterwards, we decided to grab some of Laudrée’s iconic macarons, which were so adorable and so delicious!
Our very last day in Paris was spent at a place that I’ve dreamed of visiting for as long as I can remember, the Palace of Versailles. We caught the hour-long train ride out of the city to get there when it opened so that we could squeeze it in before our flight later in the day. It was so magical! I love history, art, and architecture, so it was the perfect combination of all three. While the interior of the palace was amazing, the gardens were by far my favorite part. We spent what felt like forever exploring the miles and miles of trees, ponds, fountains, and flowers. Even though we didn’t get a ton of time to explore Versailles, I was really glad that we got it in before we departed.
Thursday night we finally ended our marathon Paris trip to begin another jam-packed trip in Ireland!! I’d promise that you’ll hear about that soon but at this point, who knows. Thanks for sticking through almost 2,000 words, I really do appreciate it. Have you ever been to Paris? If so, what was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments below!!