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Paris Chrismas markets

Haute Couture pairing:

Ten minutes between and a galaxy apart.

On our way back to Canada several years ago, we visited the Paris Christmas markets, our main target being the extensive Champs Elysée Marché de Nöel. It was (Wiccans forgive me) colder than a witch’s tit that December, and we deferred the outdoor visits until the afternoon, heading first to the magnificent and totally over-the-top Galeries Lafayette. Even a partial list of the stores tells the story: Armani. Balenciaga, Bourjois, Burberry, Bulgari, Céline.

This shopping icon consists of five floors organized around an immense Belle Époque dome.  70,000 square meters of indulgence:

fashion and accessories, wine and cuisine… and a lot more.

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The floors might not be paved with gold, but the railings of each galerie are decorated with gold leaf... and, during Marché de Noël season, a fifteen-meter-tall faux Christmas tree dominates the visual landscape 

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Truth to tell, some of the up-market clothing looks a tad too sci-fi for me.

And yes… Lego has an outlet, guarded by a life-sized ‘stormtrooper’.

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But...The strict French understanding of the term, ‘haute couture’ has little to do with the fashion-house world per se; rather, it’s “Fashion that is constructed by hand from start to finish, made from high quality materials, expensive, sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable sewers, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques.”

So... that afternoon, a ten-minute walk from Galeries Lafayette, on the Champs Elysée, in a situation that resonated more of Dickens than Donna Karan, we stood and admired haute couture being created.

The photograph is misleading. The two walls are fabric. There is no ceiling. The store/atelier, tucked away in the almost-hidden artisan area of the market, is open to the elements. The couturière hovers, Cratchit-cold, over an electric heater, creating lovelies.


We mention this woman from time to time, hoping she’s hugely successful. Sadly, the similarity between the two worlds is that we could afford to buy in neither place, so could play no part in her hoped-for success.

Joyeux Noël à tous.

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