Can luxury even have a national identity? I can think of other countries, like Italy, that are a match for France when it comes to luxury clothing and leather goods. Maybe my ancestry can explain for my preference for French luxury items?
In terms of beauty products, France wins hands down: Guerlain, Lancôme, Annick Goutal, Caudalie, and iconic names like Dior and Yves-St-Laurent that are synonymous with class and have also produced makeup lines. What would the world of perfumes be without their rich French history, still centred in the city of Grasse? France is Chanel No. 5. Is any other perfume so totally identified with a country? Here in Quebec, we have Neige by Lise Watier, but it cannot claim the history or international celebrity of No. 5. Still, the success of Neige is impressive when you consider that Lise Watier is a David in the face of all those Goliaths slinging their enormous promotional budgets.
And what about the great, historic French houses that continue to make us dream, like Hermes and Chanel, who have not yet gone over to (read: not yet been purchased by) one of the mega-groups like LVMH and PPR, also French, that increasingly are dictating the rules of luxury around the world.
There is nothing like a trip to Paris to soak up all this opulence, refinement and love of beauty found on every corner. Paris is a huge open-air museum where it’s impossible to remain indifferent to the city’s luxury and beauty.
Although the elegant Parisienne is an endangered species, I did notice that the women of Paris—from every background, as in many of the world’s major cities—have retained the quest for beauty when in comes to their shoes and purses. Young or old, in the subway, in museums, on the street and in cafes, every women I saw was carrying a quality handbag and wearing shoes, elegant or simple, that perfectly suited her outfit. Yes, lots of the women wear jeans, but with ballerinas or attractive comfortable shoes that you can’t find here. Like these shoes that I just brought back from Paris and that I can walk in comfortably for hours.
The ballet shoe specialist Repetto has zeroed in on the Parisian women’s desire for pretty, quality shoes, and I was delighted to discover their new stores.
There is so much to say about French luxury. This trip will definitely inspire more posts, because I also visited Les Sources de Caudalie in Bordeaux, the Le Creuset factory—a temple of luxury cookware—in Fresnoy-le-Grand, and AGATHA PARIS, a brand that still reigns supreme when it come to the finest, affordable ornaments and jewelry for us women.
To be continued…