The strike­clsock mid­night

Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

and the Eif­fel Tower’s light show be­gins, il­lu­mi­nat­ing the in­te­rior of the Palais de Chail­lot. A waltz starts to play and Prince Charles-em­manuel de Bour­bon-parme, a di­rect de­scen­dant of Louis XIV, steps for­ward to take the hand of his daugh­ter, Princess Elis­a­beth, to open the danc­ing for the night. Wel­come to Le Bal des Débu­tantes, the most pres­ti­gious and Parisian of events, an evening where ac­tual roy­alty flirts with Hol­ly­wood roy­alty, where new money and old money rub shoul­ders and where ev­ery­one is the proud owner of a fa­mous sur­name, a listed com­pany or an an­cient palace—or all three.

In­spired by Bri­tish debu­tante balls of the past, where young women from aris­to­cratic fam­i­lies were pre­sented to the queen at Buck­ing­ham Palace, the Bal, as it’s com­monly known, is in fact a mod­ern con­cept and the brain­child of Ophélie Re­nouard, an ex­tremely determined French PR with a deft touch for net­work­ing and a not-so-lit­tle black book.

Re­nouard has mas­ter­minded the Bal since 1992 when she was given a one-year con­tract to or­gan­ise events for the Hô­tel de Cril­lon and hit on an idea that would cap­ture the world’s imag­i­na­tion. “Well, it has all the right in­gre­di­ents for suc­cess,” says Re­nouard. “The girls are beau­ti­ful and look and feel like princesses for a night. And Paris is, well, Paris. Mod­ern life is not so filled with glam­our but at the Bal, glam­our and ro­mance are ev­ery­thing. I think that is why every­body loves it so much—it gives them an ex­pe­ri­ence they can­not find else­where.”

Like the heroines of the Dis­ney fan­tasies they grew up watch­ing, th­ese 24 well-born young women are trans­formed from typ­i­cal teenagers into glossy, cou­ture-clad god­desses for one night. The elab­o­rate process be­gins the day be­fore the Bal, on a cold Fri­day at the end of Novem­ber. “Even though most of them come from priv­i­leged back­grounds, the Bal is usu­ally their cou­ture and me­dia de­but,” says Re­nouard. “They wear gowns and haute jew­ellery [by Bucherer] for the first time and it is a spe­cial mo­ment for them.”

The Hô­tel de Cril­lon has al­ways been the venue for the event (in English it is usu­ally

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