It’s hard to pinpoint why a city alters its mood: the reasons can be as random as the flight of a butterfly. Lately the breeze of change has been blowing through Paris and a vibrant, revitalised capital is emerging. A new breed of entrepreneur is putting down roots, bold new faces are heading up stalwart luxury labels and it’s even possible now to find a taxi late at night. Being able to travel around the city with ease has in itself liberated Parisian residents and visitors – there has never been a better time to explore the city.
‘There’s a new energy in Paris – an electricity and a sense that things can be achieved,’ asserts nightclub entrepreneur André Saraiva, who has accommodated the city’s penchant for after-hours activities for the best part of a decade, setting up nightclub Le Baron and reviving exclusive nightspot Chez Castel along the way. Working in music, photography and as a graffiti artist, Saraiva is a prime example of the new breed of hyper-connected, polymath talents who are making reinvention their business.
This energy is also coursing through fashion houses and brands, from high-end established labels to start-ups. Nowhere is this clearer than in Nicolas Ghesquière’s newly invigorated Louis Vuitton. Ghesquière has rebuilt the label’s DNA around the idea of Louis Vuitton as ‘the house of adventure.’ This concept is clearly manifest in his ingenious collections, which carefully fuse retro and futuristic sensibilities, haute luxury and street-level cool.
‘There’s no ghost – it’s about today. At Louis Vuitton there is patrimony and a strong history but also this name that is free and completely contemporary. This is fresh and inspiring to me,’ says Ghesquière, who has infused a sense of effortless cool into his collections. For autumn/winter 2015, for example, 1980s-inspired leather trousers were slipped under outsized fur coats and paired with shiny silver trunk-shaped bags.
Ghesquière is whisking away the structures of old, with their impenetrable sense of uptight chic. This can also be seen at Sonia Rykiel, the leading knitwear label founded on the Left Bank in the late 1960s. Creative director Julie de Libran has revamped the brand’s flagship store on boulevard Saint-Germain, in collaboration with art director Thomas Lenthal. The result is a stunning salon, with rows of vintage books lining red lacquer shelves.
‘Sonia Rykiel was very attentive to what was going on in the street and in culture, and Saint-Germain was a hotbed for the arts. I want to bring that energy back to the boutique – make it a place to hang out,’ says de Libran of her new vision. ‘I love the emotion you get from clothes, the memories – it’s like listening to a song.’ The designer’s autumn/winter 2015 collection taps into our appetite for nostalgia, with 1970s-tinged knitted fur coats, button-front suede flares and Breton-striped sweaters.
A new guard of Parisian designers is emerging, such as 25-year-old Simon Porte Jacquemus, who has twice been nominated for the prestigious LVMH Prize. Jacquemus, from the south-east of France, is a self-taught talent. He takes inspiration from the rebellious kind of beauties that you might find hanging out in the street wearing mismatched, street-savvy ensembles: cue collage-style dresses with surrealist hand-shaped straps clasped over the chest.
Eyes are also on Wanda Nylon, a niche outerwear label specialising in PVC, and the tailoring, denims and leathers of Each x Other. Created by Ilan Delouis and Jenny Mannerheim, Each x Other also collaborates with artists, writers and musicians on capsule collections. The reconstructed designs of emerging label Vetements, headed by Demna Gvasalia, are also garnering a cult following worldwide. Pieces include outsized tailoring and reconfigured fireman’s salopettes.
Paris is also home to a burgeoning neo-foodie scene. Claus Estermann, a former press officer for Givenchy, opened his own organic grocery and breakfast spot, Claus: L’Épicerie du Petit-Déjeuner, in 2011, in response to a growing demand for more exciting places to eat. In formerly neglected neighbourhoods, restaurants and bars are now popping up everywhere, including Ratapoil du Faubourg, which opened last year just a 10-minute walk from the Gare du Nord.
From fashion to dance floors to eateries, Paris is embarking on one big adventure. Why not join in?