I was not disappointed because I did not expect much. The new La Samaritaine is in a similar way as Le Bon Marché, a luxury store for famous brands with no spirit and no imagination, it is managed by the DFS group, duty free shopping. “Tout ça pour ça” as we say I French after more than 800 millions € spent over a period of sixteen years! There are (ten) eateries on most floors and in every corner and none of them is appealing. The worst, Voyage, populated with ugly customers on the top floor under the original decor, is just depressing. Where is the charm of Le Toupary, the beautiful terraced restaurant with a view over the whole of Paris, which was decorated by the whimsical Hilton McConico and affordable for everyone to try?
The reopening of this mythical department store started under a bad omen. President Macron appeared on the 8 o’clock news cutting the ribbon with its owner. Since when does a President, caught in a world crisis, inaugurate stores? The second negative news was the blackening of the windows by the extremist group Attac, on July 3… to denounce billionaires getting richer over the pandemic. Something about the opening was not done right.
La Samaritaine was once the popular shop where you could find everything: “On trouve tout à la Samaritaine” was its motto and the old façades still publicize, music, cristals, faience, hunting, Amazonia, hats, etc… written on its tiles. Now you will have to get used to the idea that it is a luxury brands-only place with an art book published by Assouline (95€) and a special edition of Connaissance des Arts at the entrance. The shop is treated like a museum which it is not.
A whole floor (2) is dedicated to watches and jewelry, on 4 you find only ladies shoes, and two levels on rue de Rivoli are dedicated to sportswear for men. I was very curious to discover the SANAA wing with its glass wave and was so disappointed by it, inside and outside. After their magistral building for the Louvre in Lens, I became fascinated by this Japanese architecture firm. Their talent is not visible here. As Andrew Ayers, Architectural Record’s Paris correspondent, brilliantly relates in his recent article, “the milky, diaphanous, rippling façade like draped silvery gauze” (nicknamed the shower curtain) is not appealing. “It is glassily dull like a dead fish eye”. The two floors on rue de Rivoli are “low ceiling and lackluster… and joyless”.
A corner with Devialet music systems is pretty and armchairs in the main atrium are useful for tired shoppers. The floor I preferred was underground, the perfume and beauty level with a spa, a “make up bar” and a “Kure Bazaar” for hair. It reminded me a little bit of Bloomingdales with lots of attractive saleswomen and many many brands.
So sadly, this premium spot facing Ile de la Cité and Hotel de La Monnaie will not regain its past popular splendor nor its usefulness. An add in 1971 featured a pink elephant shipped from Africa for a demanding customer! We are far from this sense of humor and personal shoppers will deal with customers from DFS.
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