A sleepy corner of Paris' 16th arrondissement is the latest address of contemporary parisian style-guru Isabel Marant, and saw fashionable types heading to this often overlooked district for an evening of celebration. A first presentation had taken place during Paris Fashion Week, days away from her show, but had been all about business as editors squeezed in a croissant and a coffee before rushing to shows. The second helping was more about enjoyment, and with the stress of the show now behind her, Marant was all smiles, greeting guests and toasting friends.
Having conquered the boho-chic market with her impeccable cuts and sense of detail, Marant's success is measured equally in the number of shops and department store corners to her name, as it is in the number of "inspired" versions that can be found in a dozen other brands.
Her latest store, installed in a building that once hosted a BCBG (the French equivalent of preppy) brand focusing on Breton stripes, is a symbol of the new Parisian cool; but more than a new location, her installation at 151 avenue Victor Hugo feels like a return to her roots, for an icon of boho chic who grew up in nearby Neuilly-sur-Seine.
While the outside may telegraph sleepy mansion surrounded with trees, the inside has been reworked to something much more spirited: concrete floors, upcycled aluminium discs on the walls, bare wood and a minimal amount of fuss are the building blocks of this spiral of a store built around a central pillar. On the racks, fall/winter 2012 offers an enticing mix of embroidered, studded blazers and slim cut trousers, ankle boots and chunky knits, occasionally peppered with lady-like tweed jackets and dresses. Niches along the walls highlight must-haves and lure the customer closer.
So what does this corner of the 16th have that other locations don't? Apart from the obvious availability of the space when Marant sought to extend her budding empire, it is also home to a new, younger segment of her clientele who will be glad to no longer trek to the Marais or Saint-Germain for their fix.
Her success and reach are undeniable, and her higher price tags do not deter her fans old and new, who come seeking cool picks that are the uniform of the fashion-influenced set season after season.
Marant is a strange denizen of the fashion pack. Despite being one of the most bankable designers of the moment, along with husband Jérôme Dreyfuss, she continues to seem to be in turn amazed and repulsed by her own achievements, her off-the-cuff comments becoming fodder for controversy when reprinted. In this, she is remarkably similar to the kids on her new block, yearning for an escape from the ill-perceived affluence of their parents. Whether her installation here signals the complete renewal of an area trying to shake off its headbands-and-pearls image with a rash of cool brands, or is simply a mirage, remains to be seen. Either way, with its stock of pretty desirable clothing, it has become a new shopping destination worth jotting down.
- Lily Templeton