Image above: Maison Martin Margiela, Rue Grenelle, Paris.
Since 1999, we have annually hopped the ocean from New York to Paris. We lived in the city of light for a year while I was a student of art history at La Sorbonne. We will never grow tired of Paris and it’s so easy to be inspired while wandering back and forth across the Seine, through its museums, down small medieval streets and grand promenades. New York and Paris are sister-cities in so many ways – with so many people, things, and ideas in common; and yet at once completely opposite and individual. Paris is the old-world refinement to New York’s wild energy, but it’s also the charming wink to what in New York is so often a nudge.
We’ve always loved the storefronts in Paris. If New York storefronts represent the essence of the city – big, modern, streamlined, daring – then so to do those in Paris, revealing a city that’s at once whimsical yet sophisticated, charming yet elegant, playful yet unbelievably chic.
The Maison Martin Margiela storefront on Rue Grenelle in the chic 6th arrondissement is no exception. A short walk from the famed Boulevard St. Germain and the prestigious Sciences Po, the storefront is located in an epicenter of Parisian elegance and rive gauche charm. One of several Maison Martin Margiela locations in the city, this Belgian house's storefront is undeniably Parisian. The understated monochromatic color scheme is offset by the simple charm of a classic scalloped awning. When we think of Margiela we think of the future and by contrasting that brand aesthetic with sweet and traditional storefront they wink to the history of retail in Paris - an afternoon as a flaneur wandering the streets, the personal interactions, the accidental conversation, the act of discovery.
Another playful nod to history displayed in the Lanvin windows on the Rue du Fauburg-St. Honoré, the center of Parisian flagships and French fashion legends like Hermès, Givenchy, and Louis Vuitton. To celebrate their 125th anniversary they chose a photograph of a Lanvin model from the 1950's that does not feel dictated but exudes fun and energy from within. It isn't the clothing or the woman's beauty that grabs us but it is her method, her unique gesture. It speaks to the idea that true style is something that continually evolves, it is in motion, it is the sum total of actions into a moment... into being present now.
Lanvin, Rue du Fauburg-St.Honoré, Paris
World travel is a short cut to the sponge that allows us to absorb nuance in the world around us – for example when we travel between New York and Paris we experience juxtaposition and cultural differences - differences that are beautiful and unique. As businesses globalize they must continue to speak to the details, to the nuance, so that the magic of discovery is not lost. A NYC friend who frequently travels internationally told me she has stopped shopping when visiting distant cities because everything has become the same and the experience is therefore a disappointment and a waste of time. "Everything the same" is such a depressing affront and one that we must right immediately. As we face the digital revolution we should focus on the beauty of difference in order to find new creative solutions to existing problems. At the same time we must break open the idea that progress is a singular idea. Progress means protecting unique variations and sustaining our ability to wander about and come up with our own personal discoveries.