9 special skills that make Paris shine

Paris - city of lights and capital of luxury and elegance - radiates French creativity around the world, that is both traditional and in constant search for innovation. Fashion, fragrance, gastronomy, artistic professions, opera costumes, the music scene - let’s take a look at these incredible French skills.

Sustainable fashion

Dior, Chanel, YSL, Louboutin, and so on. For decades, some of the biggest designer names have made Paris their favourite muse, for both her elegance and innovation. The city is brimming with French designer boutiques, who were the first to use human models before going on to host the first “presentation” – aka fashion show – in 1900.

And the fashion capital of the world intends to remain an international benchmark by embracing the shift towards sustainability. The opening of the largest ethical and sustainable fashion incubator in Europe, La Caserne, on the site of a former fire station in Paris is a promising sign of this.

© Florence Loubier

A historic showcase for haute couture, Galeries Lafayette is supporting this ecological transition with a selection of Go For Good labelled items from ethical brands promoting organic cotton, short supply chains and limited waste.

This summer, the department store is showcasing French creativity as part of theartistic schedule for its French Touch event. Every Friday, the public can attend a fashion show. A brightly coloured, 30-minute show – the perfect inspiration for your next wardrobe revamp.

And to get those rails updated with the latest garments, take advantage of a bespoke shopping trip. Enjoy a day that dreams are made of in the temple of fashion, with access to the “Concierge” lounge, where you can relax, soak up the tips and special treatment, take advantage of the cloakroom and take a tasty break at the Maison Dalloyau food corner. 

Inaugurated in 1912, the flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann is an architectural masterpiece that’s worth a detour. Two Sundays a month, after customers have gone home, peace descends upon the Department Store and it unveils its secrets on a private tour. Special guests can go behind the scenes and explore the famous, recently renovated, Art Nouveau style dome.  

Fragrance

Paris and Perfumes go hand in hand! The capital of fashion and elegance is also the city of romance and fragrance. Billet Doux, Moment Volé or Belle de Nuit, Fragonard has all bases covered. The famous perfume house, considered one of the founders of modern perfumery, opened its first Parisian boutique in 1936, following Guerlain and Lubin, created in Paris in 1798.

A stone’s throw from the Opéra Garnier and the department stores, the Fragonard museum offers a spellbinding stopgap. Dive into the history of perfumery with a large collection of old bottles, copper stills and Eiffel-style metal beams, then have a go at being an apprentice perfume “nose” by creating your own eau de cologne during a sensory workshop.

French cuisine

Recognised by UNESCO on its Intangible Cultural Heritage list, “The Gastronomic Meal of the French” should really be experienced at a Michelin-starred restaurant, if all of its subtleties are to be fully appreciated. And Paris has over a hundred of them. Lest we forget, it was in Paris that the first modern restaurant was opened in 1765, open to all, next to the Louvre. It was a culinary revolution that we owe to an economist.

For a revisit of a Parisian specialty, try the truffle croque-monsieur by Jean Imbert from the Monsieur Dior restaurant, located in the recently renovated historic boutique of the great French couturier. And to flex your own masterchef skills, why not take part in a cookery class at Galeries Lafayette itself, hosted by prestigious culinary school Ferrandi. After concocting a meal worthy of the greatest chefs, it’s time to dig in.

Bakeries and Pâtisserie

Boulangeries can be found on (almost) every street corner in Paris. Attracted by the delicious smell of fresh bread, people come in their droves to pick up a viennoiserie, an aptly-named “Parisen” ham and butter sandwich, a loaf from Poilâne and of course the famous baguette – invented, it is said, in the 1900s on the construction site of the Paris metro. Some bakeries are classified as historic monuments, such as Le Moulin de la Vierge or Maison Stohrer, the oldest of all, founded by the pastry chef of Louis XV, King of France.

Pierre Hermé, Cédric Grolet, Eric Kayser, Rodolphe Landemaine, Cyril Lignac, represent today’s wave of pastry chefs, offering creations that are as gourmet as they are gorgeous, inspired by French pastry classics such as the Paris-Brest, Saint-Honoré or Opera Cake, all invented in Paris. Their inspiration? La Maison Ladurée, inventor in the 1950s of the macaron, with its two shells sandwiched together with a range of subtly flavoured ganaches. A modern, sophisticated sweet treat, much like Paris, that you can learn how to make yourself at a French macaron-making workshop, held by Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann.

Ceramics

© Lorenz Cugini

Just a stone’s throw from Paris, the Manufacture de Sèvres is a living illustration of the excellence of French savoir-faire. Home to 120 ceramicists, it produces porcelain works using perfectly honed, ancient techniques. A centre of artistic creation, design and decorative arts since 1740, the Manufacture houses the National Museum of Ceramics and its 50,000 works, where classic masterpieces and contemporary creations commingle.

The art restoration workshops at Parisian museums

From the Louvre Museum to the Orsay via the Quai Branly, these big cultural hitters in Paris welcome several million visitors every year who come to admire the masterpieces of art history. They are home to unique collections that require dedicated safeguarding and preservation, this includes the meticulous restoration of paintings and tapestries, frames and pieces of furniture. It is exquisitely detailed work, entrusted to the workshops at the museums. At the Louvre, each year as part of the European Days of Crafts programme, you can go behind the scenes and witness these high calibre skills in action.

Coin and medal minting

Craftsmen with a passion for history, the engravers at the Monnaie de Paris – the Paris Mint – have a thousand-year-old knowledge handed down since the year 864: minting coins firstly with a hammer and then a pendulum. The first and last factory to be established in Paris, the engraving workshop is recognised as a Living Heritage Company and also manufactures collectible coins, official decorations such as the Legion of Honor and the National Order of Merit as well as souvenir medals stamped with iconic Parisian tourist sites such as Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower or the Grévin museum. Visitors rave about it.

Set and costume making

A feat of architectural prowess listed as a historic monument, the Opéra Garnier is, let’s face it, one of the most beautiful in the world. Each ballet transports the viewer into an imaginary and magical world. The world of the grand spectacle – the great show – that relies on the meticulous know-how of the designers and milliners. Some of the building’s best-kept secrets can be found on the sixth floor in the couture workshop that is also open to visitors. Fabrics, beads and flowers abound. This is where the tutus are made. The Opéra-Comique, the oldest in Paris, also has its own costume workshop. Deft, dexterous hands busily cut the fabrics, make hats and use dyes that, more often than not, are natural, plant pigment-based. Even more astonishing is the wig-making process, which requires the taking of scans, the implantation of hair and styling.

Whilst the trim specialists possess incredible knowledge of creating embellishments from cotton, such as upholstery braids, decorative fringes or tiebacks for curtains. The only trimmings workshop in Paris, Maison Verrier, creates textile embellishments using Jacquard looms or by hand for the decoration of prestigious interiors such as castles, embassies and luxury hotels.

The French music scene

From Edith Piaf to Charles Aznavour, the great French singers have beamed France and the Parisian suburbs they sang about so well around the world. Their verses have transported the French language and culture to all four corners of the earth. And still today, Paris produces and attracts talent. This summer, a new generation of French artists bursts onto the scene, taking over the rooftops of Paris as part of the “French Touch” schedule of events celebrating French creativity at Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann.

Transformed into a dancefloor from 5th – 10th July, the terrace at the Parisian department store will host a wide array of emerging French gems: Sofiane Pamart, Etienne de Crécy, Bon Entendeur, Kiddy Smile, Pedro Winter, Julien Granel, Dabeull and Rad Cartier. Also, don’t miss the screenings of iconic French films as well as a crypto art exhibition by the Obvious collective, questioning the role of art and artificial intelligence. An innovative and eclectic programme!

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