Azzedine Alaïa doesn’t care much for convention; he doesn’t even bother to follow the Paris fashion calendar to present his ethereal creations. This skilful designer only cares about the female body, or so it seems to anyone who has ever worn one of his magnificently crafted dresses. Just remember the ultra-sculpted lycra dresses worn by Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford or Linda Evangelista during the supermodel era and you will quickly understand why this Parisian couturier is also known as the King of Cling. A former student of sculpture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis, Alaïa has diligently studied the human silhouette, making it his goal to create clothes that will adapt to the body like a second skin, flattering every curve. His impossibly stylish boutique in the heart of the Marais is an absolute must-visit.
Azzedine Alaïa, 7 rue de Moussy, 75004 Paris, + 33 (0)1 4272 1919
Hubert de Givenchy, master of the Little Black Dress, single-handedly turned the fashion world upside down and gave Parisian couture an international audience never previously dreamed of. While his contemporaries were ruled by classic style, Givenchy consistently sought inspiration in the avant-garde. Givenchy’s distinctive heritage lies today in the trustworthy hands of Riccardo Tisci, who follows previous high-profile heads John Galliano and Alexander McQueen and has positioned the brand well into the future. Tisci’s forward-thinking skills and undisputable couture talent mean Givenchy continues to be a trendsetter instead of a follower. This utterly French couture house can be only properly be assigned to a league of its own.
Givenchy, 28 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris, +33 (0)1 4268 3100
Originally founded by Frenchwoman Céline Vipiana to dress the Parisian bourgeois, Céline is as French as the sweet smell of a fresh, buttery croissant in the early morning. Yet it took a Briton to make this fashion veteran compatible with the needs of 21st-century women. The often impractical wow-factor of male-designed pieces prompted designer Phoebe Philo to impose a more sober look on Céline. The ingenious Londoner introduced cool, clean minimalism to the brand, inspired by the clear, uniform lines she found in male fashion, to produce an efficient look, reliable and sincerely stylish without any artificial special effects. With this strategy, Philo revamped a dusty brand and today the modern Parisienne could not live without Céline.
Céline, 24 rue François Ier, 75008 Paris, +33 (0)1 5689 0791
The perfect marriage of couture and rock’n’roll, Balmain is a favourite among fun-loving women, including those rare creatures who manage to look impeccable at 3 o’clock in the morning after an action-packed night on the town. This was undoubtedly what Pierre Balmain, its founder, had in mind, when he heralded what has been described as a return to opulence in 50s Paris. Rich embroideries, pared-down shapes that shifted focus to lavish fabrics and an utterly vivacious attitude were perfect for his typical client: active, yet immaculate and elegant, with a hint of insouciance. This style appealed to Brigitte Bardot, who was dressed by Balmain for her break-through performance in And God Created Woman, as well as Audrey Hepburn, who wore a Balmain wedding dress. Today, Kate Moss, Anja Rubik and Daria Werbowy regularly opt for the brand’s vivid look.
Balmain, 44 rue François 1er, 75008 Paris, 33 (0)1 4720 3534
Free-spirited and effortless, ultra-feminine with a hint of vintage, utterly wearable and confidently laid-back – this is the wardrobe of the ultimate Chloé woman. The French brand is the epitome of relaxed chic, so romantic, light and pretty it takes hours to pick a piece from its enchanting collections. Chloé can boast a rich heritage. The house founded by Egyptian Gaby Aghion has seen Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo come and go. With another British designer, Clare Waight Keller, at the helm, Chloé appeals to every woman who longs for a true sense of freedom, uninhibited style and genuine credibility.
Chloé, 44 avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris, +33 (0)1 4723 0008