Black Books

In search of a more au­then­tic travel ex­pe­ri­ence, we asked four in­sid­ers from the fash­ion cap­i­tals of the world to list their lat­est lo­cal loves (Duomo and Eif­fel Tower not in­cluded).

Fashion (Canada) - - Contents -

As the run­way cal­en­dar kicks into gear, we ask in­sid­ers from the fash­ion cap­i­tals to re­veal the Paris, New York, Mi­lan and Lon­don we rarely see.

PARIS My ear­li­est ex­po­sure to the Parisian mys­tique came by way of three things: Au­drey Hep­burn and Fred As­taire in Funny Face, Sofia Cop­pola’s Miss Dior Chérie ads and, well, Mary-Kate and Ash­ley Olsen’s di­rect-to-video Pass­port to Paris. Ba­si­cally, I’d only ever ex­pe­ri­enced the City of Light vi­car­i­ously through film.

Be­cause I work at a fash­ion mag­a­zine, it’s com­mon for my col­leagues to travel to Paris. So when I set off for France to fi­nally see the land of pres­ti­gious fash­ion ate­liers, Cham­pagne and, of course, house mu­sic, lit­tle did I know this Paris would be com­pletely dif­fer­ent from the one I’d imag­ined. The Eif­fel Tower wasn’t on the itin­er­ary pro­vided by my host, Atout France—nor was any other ma­jor tourist spot.

My home away from home is Mama Shel­ter, a bou­tique ho­tel lo­cated in the 20th ar­rondisse­ment that was de­signed by French in­te­rior/in­dus­trial de­signer Philippe Starck. The Mama chain cur­rently boasts lo­ca­tions in Lyon, L.A. and Rio de Janeiro, to name a few, with a Prague out­post in the works. Rooms have a min­i­mal­ist edge, fea­tur­ing con­crete walls and an iMac in lieu of a TV.

Though my ho­tel is near the Père Lachaise Ceme­tery, where Édith Piaf and Jim Mor­ri­son were laid to rest, what makes the 20th so charm­ing is the glimpse it pro­vides into con­tem­po­rary Parisian life. His­tor­i­cally, this was a work­ing-class neigh­bour­hood where Ar­me­ni­ans, Pol­ish Jews and Greeks set­tled in the 1920s. Its sec­ond wave of im­mi­grants came from Al­ge­ria and Tu­nisia in the 1960s, and by the ’80s, African and Asian ex­pats had made it their home. But a steady in­flux of stu­dents and hip­sters in re­cent years has led to a grad­ual gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.

Just north of my ho­tel is Le Cen­tqua­tre-Paris, an arts cen­tre housed in a 19th-cen­tury build­ing that once served as a morgue. The space pro­vides artists with pri­vate stu­dios and open ar­eas in which to work and prac­tise their re­spec­tive arts. On any given day, you’ll see dancers prac­tis­ing their rou­tines

peo­ple juggling in Cen­tqua­tre’s main atrium. It also serves as a pri­vate venue from time to time—the late Alexan­der McQueen pre­sented his Spring 2009 col­lec­tion there back in 2008.

Af­ter leav­ing Cen­tqua­tre, we meet up with Retro Tour Paris, a com­pany that of­fers side­car tours through­out the city. My driver, a hand­some bearded fel­low who in­tro­duces him­self as “FX” and looks like Pacey from Daw­son’s Creek, takes me along the fa­mous Canal Saint-Martin and then to the Place de la Bastille.

Giv­ing the Left Bank a con­tem­po­rary edge, street art is em­bla­zoned on many build­ings in the 13th ar­rondisse­ment. You’ll no­tice both small- and large-scale pieces by OG French graf­fiti artists Miss.Tic and Jef Aérosol and the renowned Amer­i­can artist Shep­ard Fairey, founder of OBEY Cloth­ing and the artist be­hind the Obama “Hope” poster.

But if there’s a less-dis­cussed as­pect to the City of Light, it’s the nightlife. There are about 12,000 bars in Paris, one of which is Le Rex Club, which dates back to the cre­ation of house mu­sic. Con­crete, a venue lo­cated on a boat docked on the Seine, is known for its all-night par­ties (held ev­ery three weeks, start­ing Satur­day at 10 p.m. and con­tin­u­ing un­til Mon­day at 2 a.m.), à la Ber­lin’s in­fa­mous Berghain.

Sure, my stay in Paris didn’t con­sist of snap­ping self­ies at the Lou­vre or strolling through the Jardin des Tui­leries as if wait­ing to be papped out­side a fash­ion show. (I did catch a sliver of the Eif­fel Tower, al­though it looked more like a hy­dro tower than the twin­kling ver­sion seen in The Devil

Wears Prada.) But con­sid­er­ing that many lo­cals protested against the wrought-iron tower be­ing erected and the fact that even to­day many Parisians see it as a tourist trap, per­haps I ex­pe­ri­enced the city in the most au­then­tic way pos­si­ble. And I’m cool with that. —D’Lo­raine Mi­randa

LE CEN­TQUA­TRE-PARIS’S AIRY ATRIUM

THE HIS­TORIC MARAIS

CONOR HAR­RING­TON’S EM­BRACE AND FIGHT IN THE 13TH

CITY VIEWS FROM A SIDE­CAR

MAMA SHEL­TER’S MIN­I­MAL­IST VIBE

GARçONNE ET CHéRUBIN’S JAZETTE STREET SNEAK­ERS

CHRIS­TIAN DIOR, COU­TURIER DU RêVE AT THE MUSéE DES ARTS Dé­CO­RAT­IFS

BIGLOVE CAFFé

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