Bonfire of Vanités
Above Various designs from Lucien Pellat-Finet on the rue St-Honoré. Below left Even Maggie Simpson gets the treatment.
Below right The author models the cashmere scarf.
No, you’re definitely not chronically depressed, but yes, the death’s head (also known here in France as the tête de mort or more classically un vanité) seems to have appeared everywhere imaginable this season, especially on ubiquitous fashion brands. Once upon a time, the motif was the exclusive province of pirates, bikers, or the biceps of Marines back from foreign shores. Today, your Grandma has it on her tote bag, and the babysitter wears an oversize black plexi skull ring while she changes your kid’s diaper.
What this means, besides soaring sales for the drug Prozac, is a wide variation in quality, since the skull can be found on brands as diverse as Baby Gap, Target and John Galliano. They can’t all be as elegant and timeless as the grandfather of all vanité-creators, the incomparable Attilio Codognato of Venezia, whose one-of-a-kind rings and jewellery fetch a king’s ransom and rightly so.
Thus, it was a sweet hallucination to wander into the Lucien Pellat-Finet flagship shop at 231, rue Saint-Honoré, and discover a complete line of high-end clothing with an exhaustive development of the death’s head motif rendered on everything from knit sweaters to leather jackets to kids’ clothes, footwear, fitness gear, cushions, gloves, cashmere scarves and blue jeans.
You won’t encounter the ordinary creepy gaping eye sockets and bared teeth. Instead, you might see anything from an Andy Warhol fright wig to a football helmet set on the image, in off-colours or screaming fluorescents or subtly treated in jacquards or textures almost invisible to the casual glance. Pellat-Finet occasionally groups the vanité with the cannabis leaf pattern.
These provocative and blatantly exhibitionistic garments aren’t for everyday wear, unless your last name is Jolie or Depp. More like party wear, or something you’d use to shock your in-laws. But the designer, known for exceptional quality weaves and partnerships with iconic brands and art newbies, always surprises. The only caveat : bring along a fully-loaded credit card, as this is the top tier of luxury. You can special order any of the woven goods in your own preferred colour scheme, though it means a wait of two months for delivery. Boutiques in Paris, Japan, Russia and high-end multi-brand stores can ease the pain of longing and the deep meditations on mortality that the vanité inevitably evokes.
231, rue Saint-Honoré
33 1 42-22-22-77
Peyroux & Thisy
In the previously reviewed Paris four-star 7Eiffel, mention was made of the sensitivity to the unique needs of women guests by architects Anne Brugiere Peyroux and Emmanuèle Tuchband Thisy. For six years, the team has specialized in boutique hotels, following early work in retail stores for designer Christian Lacroix. The 7Eiffel demonstrated their particular skills with lighting and surfaces, and the functional reimagining of heritage spaces into smart hotel plans.
In conversation at the light-filled lobby lounge of 7Eiffel, the architects recently spoke about fusing function and delight in their work, and the process of integrating the owners’ mood with an adventurous story.
‘It’s like creating un voyage dans un voyage [for the guest],’ they agreed. These adventurous solutions require a combination of serious work and good humor, a quality Anne calls ‘un rigolo’.
Visitors to Paris will have the opportunity in the autumn to see the duo’s latest work, Georgette, a 19-room three-star nearing completion in the Marais district. This will be a service-driven property with suites made up of smaller rooms. Each floor will be designed around a different art movement (dada, op, ab-ex) with detailed sourcing of furniture, colour and style. This total renovation of a sixteenth-century building entails some radical rethinking of interior spaces, and promises to be an exciting option in the neighbourhood next to the Centre Pompidou, at a preferable price, seasoned with the practice’s particular sensibilities, built like a fine garment. Watch this space for news of the official opening.
A new lease at Hôtel Le A
Six years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Hôtel Le A, a boutique four-star of only 26 rooms, situated just off the Champs-Élysées, near métro Franklin Roosevelt. At the time I was especially impressed with the warm, hands-on style of GM Emma Charles which set the gracious tone of the place. The art-themed hotel featured a fantastic library of large-format coffee-table books in the light-filled lobby, and every floor and room was garlanded with work by artist Fabrice Hyber, set in cool black-and-white-and-chrome décor.
But a reviewer is obliged to check back in from time to time, as properties transform and change inevitably happens. A recent visit revealed many developments, all worthy of note. GM Emma is still there delivering her personalized brand of welcome, a reassuring sign of the kind of continuity that a four-star needs. As the property approaches its 10-year anniversary in 2013, there are all kinds of progress to report: Hotel Le A has a new owner, who has initiated a tasteful renovation. I discovered an improved and spacious reception area for a faster, more immediate welcome; there are new carpets and a warmer contemporary colour scheme; even the amenities package has been upgraded with new packaging and Italian-made cosmetics. Unlike those mercenary properties which regard internet as a not-so-cleverly concealed profit centre, at Hotel Le A the wifi is free.
And best of all, there will be no increase in prices. Room rates range from €211 to €600, averaging about €255 depending on room type and season. Big hint : You can always request a better rate via internet or by investing in a phone call—and the staff all speak excellent English.
Several rooms deserve special mention: 606 is a rooftop suite, with skylit bath, Eiffel Tower view and posh hooded terry robes; 601, the smallest room in the property, is ideal for the single traveller, skylit, with a courtyard view; 402 has a gorgeous black marble bath, and a huge walk-in shower.
Hôtel Le A is one of those unique places where amazing special events are possible. Luxury brands have been known to transform a floor for customized product launches and discreet meetings. You only find this kind of possibility in a property where the interior lights in the elevator change colour every floor, an apt metaphor for the individualized style and attitude the best boutique luxury hotels can offer. And let me not forget the most alluring aspect of proximity : it’s only a two-minute walk around the corner to La Durée Champs-Élysées. •
Hotel Le A
4, rue d’Artois
33 1 42-56-99-99
These provocative and blatantly exhibitionistic garments aren’t for everyday wear, unless your last name is Jolie or Depp
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Stanley Moss is travel editor of Lucire.