Paris: Holiday Happenings

Paris: Holiday Happenings

Gourmet Delights

For Noel this year, France’s foremost designer of haute heels, Christian Louboutin, in partnership with Piper Heidsieck champagne, has revived a decadent 19th-century Russian tradition whereby noble admirers would drink from the demi-pointe slippers of their favorite ballerinas — a custom transplanted to Paris and continued by the saucy showgirls at the Folies Bergères. Just in time for the holidays, Louboutin has designed a black crystal stiletto with a clear, 6-inch cut-crystal heel — and his signature red sole, of course. Called Le Rituel, the handsome glass-slipper champagne sipper comes packaged in a limited edition boxed set with a bottle of Piper Heidsieck. €350, at La Grande Epicerie of Le Bon Marché department store (38 rue de Sèvres, 7th). Christmas shoppers can also pick up customizable Christmas card cookies, edible sugar-rose earrings, miniature leopard-skin handbags filled with chocolates and “molecular cuisine kits” for scientifically minded contemporary foodie foam addicts.

Then, travel back in time to A La Mère de Famille (35 rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 9th), the city’s oldest candy shop, which has been in the same lovely chandelier-lit boutique since 1761. The huge glass jars, filled with guimauve (marshmallows), hard-candy berlingots and the traditional French Christmas favorite, marrons glacés — sugarcoated chestnuts — are guaranteed to get you in festive feasting mode.

Window Shopping

Printemps is celebrating Noel in extravagant Slavic style this year with shop windows transformed into snowy wooden datchas featuring puppet personnages created by Chanel and Dior’s John Galliano and Victoire de Castellane. They’ll be accompanied by giant matryoshka dolls, decorations inspired by Russian fairy tales and in-house performances by the Ballet Russe de Paris, along with miles of pine boughs and garlands of lights, bouquets of red and white roses and some 130 Christmas trees. The ephemeral Christmas Boutique Noire this year has multiplied into five different locations scattered throughout the store’s three buildings, offering a glittering array of Christmas cadeaux ranging from Russian-inspired candles and ornaments to Atelier Ruby’s gold motor-bike helmets and coyote-fur mittens by luxury glove-makers Maison Fabre (64 blvd Haussmann, 9th).

Down the street, Galeries Lafayette has gone for an edible theme in 2009, its Christmas windows animated with teddy bears busily making chocolates while modeling the latest designs by Jean-Paul Gaultier, Kenzo and Marc Jacobs. The gift selection reflects the gourmet theme, including shelves piled high with chocolate chess games, high-tech fondue sets and Bernardaud porcelain plates decorated with sparkling patterns in gold leaf (40 blvd Haussmann, 9th).

Next to the Hôtel de Ville, quirky French fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac has illuminated the BHV — the Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville — with a multicolor riot of neon, and the store’s Christmas gift goodies this year come in a range of zingy pop hues (54 rue de Rivoli, 4th). And on the Left Bank, Christmas exclusives at Le Bon Marché include Gaultier’s fabulous leather jewelry collection and the first line of ready-to-wear perfume by acclaimed French custom perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. There are wonderful accessories for men in the store’s Espace Balthazar, including Lanvin’s black velvet bow tie inspired by designer Alber Elbaz’s own signature look, and Limoges porcelain cufflinks and the leather-and-python shoes created exclusively for the store by Jean-Baptiste Rautureau (22 rue de Sèvres, 7th). And if you’re in ultra-chic shopping mode, head over to Franck et Fils, where the Christmas selection includes Astier de Villatte’s scented candles, John Derian’s surreal glass paperweights and Marianne Batlle’s beaded-brooch effigies of Karl Lagerfeld and Coco Chanel (80 rue de Passy, 16th).

Good Deeds

Instead of opting for a classic Hermès silk scarf, why not treat your fashionista friends to a foulard that makes a difference? Trendy Parisian womenswear brand Maje invited French celebrities including Inès de la Fressange, Vanessa Paradis and indie pop star Philippe Katerine to design fund-raising scarves for the benefit of children with heart problems. Produced in limited editions of 3,000 each, the luxury silk version is priced at €150, the affordable cotton foulard at €50. (24 rue Saint Sulpice, 6th). For shoppers committed to a conscientious Christmas, former fashion model Clélia Moretton is also championing “ethical luxury” for Noel at her bijou concept store Dalia and Rose, where she showcases glamorous Aquaverde jeans, silver talisman jewelry from Niger and luxurious alpaca accessories for both sexes by the Bolivian fair-trade brand Andes Made (9 rue du Marché Saint-Honoré, 1st).

Bling & Things

Loafers were already set to be one of the hottest footwear trends this fall, and now, just in time for Christmas, Repettothe cult French shoe brand that made its name in dancewear — is commemorating King of Pop Michael Jackson with a series of “MJ” loafers in snazzy black goatskin studded with rhinestones (22 rue de la Paix, 2nd). Meanwhile 180g, the happening art-and-fashion gallery in the Marais where Nicolas Chevallier and his team hand paint clothes on demand, is customizing a limited-edition series of Nike sneakers (15 rue des Tournelles, 4th).

Parents caught up in a desperate last-minute search for stocking-stuffers should check out the innovative toy selection at Nature & Découvertes. Interactive calendars, magnetic puzzles, inflatable globes and build-your-own catamaran sets should keep tiny hands busy on Christmas morning (Carrousel du Louvre, 99 rue de Rivoli, 1st).

Finally, don’t forget that the city’s museum boutiques are a wonderful source of gift inspiration. Looking for a tattooed teddy bear? Try the Musée du Quai Branly. A set of Calder crayons or a Kandinsky wristwatch? The design boutique at the Pompidou Center. And besides selling scarves, ties and replica jewelry from its collections, the Louvre offers wonderful children’s coloring books giving little Leonardos a once-in-a-lifetime chance to scribble on the Mona Lisa.

See our complete Paris shopping guide

Originally published in the December 2009 issue of France Today.


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