Galeries Lafayette probably chose the most dramatic times to open their new flagship store on the Champs Elysées but Minister Bruno Le Maire insisted, in his inauguration speech, on the Renaissance of the avenue with this magistral cathedral of design. A department store conceived like a museum, this is not new in Hong Kong or in Japan or even in Miami but for Paris, it is a step ahead. There is no mystery that these Galeries Lafayette are aimed at trendy International tourists, and suburban visitors were very impressed on Thursday when they were allowed to have a glimpse. The good news is that below the shoes, make up and dresses, sits a wonderful “food court”, geek style.
I went up and down the beautiful glass staircases and the escalators. The 6 500 square meters shop is like a cathedral with, for the opening weeks, Chanel corners everywhere. Shoes, sunglasses, handbags are presented like pieces of jewelry, so you don’t really feel like buying anything: products are almost abstract, they are so beautiful! There are pretty pink charging machines for your iPhone and clothes hang ten by ten very orderly, almost too orderly.
I had a major problem with the signage of the brands. Some geniuses at M/M Paris have invented new characters which you can’t read. But the staff (there are 300) patiently explained to me, that I would get used to it… with all the consideration that ninety year old customers deserve… I forgot to ask them about the connected hangers? Next time.
What is beautiful besides the Eiffel Tower in the hallway, is the light that comes through the very high windows on the Champs Elysées and crosses the whole building. This used to be a funky Virgin megastore were books and records were having a ball. It has become the temple of trendiness with every member of staff saying hello in the most charming smile. At least they are perfectly trained!
There are 650 brands represented which is not a lot, and all the right foods, Caviar Kaspia, A la mère de famille for sweets, Verot for charcuterie, Marcolini for chocolates, Stohrer for cakes and Mariage Frères for teas… In this area located in the basement, the “visual identity” is signed Tyrsa, a former graffiti artist, and is fun and lively. You can buy your food and sit down with a tray on the central tables.
There will be many events taking place there and I am sure the store will soon feel more lived in. Like a new house, it needs to find its marks, but at the moment you can see that the restaurant and food halls are the only places that are truly attractive. When I asked if the saleswomen had a uniform, the reply was that “personal stylists” dress as they wish… this says it all.
It is worth visiting though, like a monument dedicated to design and good architecture. The Art Nouveau space with a monumental staircase, was adapted to the 21 st century with great luxury and imagination. Shoes sit on steps covered with a heavy wall to wall carpeting, glasses are part of a sculptural wall lit like a night club. It is all about having fun and being ahead of fashion.
Galeries Lafayette, 60 avenue des Champs Elysées, from 10.30 to midnight and on Sunday from 10.30 to 9 pm.
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