Paris, Marc Jacobs Style

Paris, Marc Jacobs Style

Anders Overgaard
Anders Overgaard
It took three years, but Paris has finally seduced Louis Vuitton's superstar designer

Five years ago, if you'd told Kate Moss that one day she would own a Louis Vuitton handbag, she might have been more than a little doubtful.

For while the name Vuitton has always breathed status, it has not always been status of the cult kind. Yet here Kate is, waiting for a fashion shoot to begin in Georges restaurant at the top of the Pompidou Center, overlooking Paris. Her hair is being professionally fiddled with, stylists are tweaking her outfit, and a darling mini-monogram, denim Vuitton bag (model's own) is by her side.

And by coincidence, here he is, sitting in Georges and waiting for an interview to begin. This is the man who has transformed Louis Vuitton from bourgeois predictability to white-hot desirability, the man responsible for the hordes of breathless shoppers at every Vuitton store, for the international waiting list for that mini-monogram denim bag, for the countless magazine covers and general fashion-world homage—Marc Jacobs.

Cigarette in hand, chasing espressos, he's here to talk about why he loves Paris, which is kind of ironic. In fact, when Marc Jacobs moved here three years ago, hired by the luxury group LVMH as artistic director of Louis Vuitton, he didn't love the city at all.

Sure, he had happy memories of a trip he'd taken with his grandmother, when they'd stayed at the Hôtel Lenox and hung out on the terrace of the Deux Magots. But actually living in Paris didn't feel right. "What I disliked was that I felt unsettled," explains Jacobs. "I had become so comfortable and complacent in New York. I'd lived there for thirty-five years, and I know the city like the back of my hand. Whereas in Paris, in the beginning, I was living in a hotel and didn't have my family—my dog and my cat. I was traveling quite a bit; I spoke very little French; and I felt like a visitor. I felt lost."

The arrival of Tiger the dalmatian and Rover the cat started the turnaround. Jacobs found an apartment, an elegantly proportioned pad on the Rive Gauche, just off the Rue du Bac. Meanwhile, after a low-key start, he pulled off a series of triumphant collections for Louis Vuitton, rolling out one sexy iconic piece after another: the pastel patent-leather monogram bag, the damier (checkerboard) calfskin ankle boot, the jet-set logo trench.

Then it was simply up to Paris—that most practiced of séducteurs—to start working its charm. Nowadays Marc is smitten. "I love the clichés of Paris," he says, waving at the panoramic view from Georges (a positive gridlock of clichés—Sacré Coeur, the Louvre, Notre Dame). "I mean, I like every silly cliché. I love the Eiffel Tower and the whole French brasserie thing. I love Paris just the way everyone else does. You know: walking along the Seine, sitting on the bridges, strolling past the Place de la Concorde."

Of all the foreign designers to blow into French fashion houses recently, it is Jacobs who seems most committed. So much so that he has sold his apartment in New York and, though his dual role designing both his own line and that of Vuitton demands a double life between the two cities, he is trying to spend most of his time in Paris. As if more proof of his commitment were needed, check out his Vuitton collection for fall: a hard-edged, Azzedine Alaïa—inspired, Paris-in-the-eighties look, complete with skinny black pants, bold shoulders, and that most Parisian of clichés—the black beret.

But it's not just the picture postcard Jacobs is in love with, it's the whole way of life. It's the corner tabac where he picks up his cigarettes, it's his local gourmet boulanger, Dalloyau, where every morning he buys warm pain au chocolat and brioche. As Jacobs puts it: "Having all those delicious things for breakfast is one of the luxuries of Paris life."

It's his neighborhood cheese store, Barthélemy, with its lineups round the block on Saturday morning. It's the weekday lunches at Café Marly ("I never had a lunch hour in New York") and it's the warm welcome Tiger gets at every restaurant he trots into.

Compared with his downtown days, this new lifestyle has demanded a radical change of pace. "That's the biggest difference," admits Jacobs. "I was so used to the noise and energy that never stops in New York and I'd always thrived on that." At first, the quiet of Paris took a radical adjustment. "But now I've come to find there is an energy here, it's just very different."

His life in Paris is everything it wasn't in New York. Just the night before the interview, close friends Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of the band Sonic Youth had stayed with Jacobs. "They often bring their six-year-old daughter Coco," says Jacobs. "And that's when I love my apartment most, when it's filled with house guests. That's a life I never had in New York."

He has even turned house-proud (and this from the man who gave us grunge), buying up furniture and developing a passion for pieces by Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand. "In New York, I didn't care about my living space because I was always out. I met my friends in bars, clubs, restaurants," he reflects. "Whereas in Paris I love to have people over. So all of a sudden I'm buying fruit bowls."

However, Jacobs—brought up on a staple diet of Studio 54 and indie rock—looks like he's having trouble digesting the fact that he's purchasing fruit bowls, even a groovy bowl designed by Sottsass and shaped like the Parthenon and therefore "quite a conversation piece in the middle of the coffee table." He found it, along with the Prouvé and Perriand pieces and a beautiful Gae Aulenti lamp, at a favorite shop on the Rue de Seine: Galerie Downtown, which specializes in furniture from the 1950's. "The guy [owner François Laffanour] has a great eye—it's fantastic." Jacobs has always had a retro sensibility in his designs, finding inspiration in the cut of a coat from the 1960's or the hang of a 1970's maxi skirt. So it's not surprising that, come the weekend, he can be found trawling the Paris flea markets—still a sure source of secondhand booty for the fashion crowd.


He tends to head to the Marché aux Puces de Vanves in the south or to the Porte de Clignancourt. "I have this thing about old clothes, old shoes, and handbags," admits Jacobs, who's always on the hunt for vintage Charles Jourdan shoes and anything Halston.

Jacobs and his design team also frequent Didier Ludot, a dealer in couture and luxury accessories from the beginning of last century to now, located in the serene gardens of the Palais Royal. This is vintage shopping of the superior kind, with racks of rustling silk dresses and lunching suits by Balenciaga, Chanel, Vionnet, and Dior, as well as Hermès bags and Vivier and Perugia shoes.

"In a way it's a cop out, in that it's all pre-edited and phenomenally expensive," shrugs Jacobs, "but sometimes we can't resist. I think it's the best selection of vintage anywhere." His most recent purchase was a flat 1970's crocodile handbag that the whole Vuitton studio is currently obsessing over.

Sometimes Jacobs spends the day with Tiger, simply wandering all over town. "I look in every shop window, and I find everything so appealing, so enticing—even foods and things that I really have no interest in," he says. "I find myself mesmerized."

After three years, he has honed his list of restaurant haunts and has adopted a Rive Gauche bias. For dinner his local is Brasserie Lipp, just a five-minute walk from the house. It's that typical Parisian brasserie mix of Saint-Tropez tans and sneaker-shod tourists whipped into shape by waiters with an attitude. Sunday night is the chicest time to go: it's sneaker-lite and humming with Lionel Jospin and Lauren Bacall.

Jacobs has his own Lipp ritual, always ordering the archetypal meal: a dozen snails, steak au poivre with french fries, and the house delight—a mille feuille (Lipp diners have been known to fight over the last mille feuille). "I used to come to the Lipp when I was younger, and it's still the same. I like that you can't use cell phones there. I even like the grouchy waiters."

For a more "fashiony place" Jacobs heads farther south to Natacha, an artlessly cool bistro tucked away on a residential street in the 14th arrondissement. On a Saturday night, you sweep back the velvet curtain at the entrance and step into a pure Paris social club of Mario Testino, Yves Saint Laurent, Jean-Paul Gaultier, plus the odd tourist—of the Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio kind. "It's one of my favorite places to go because it's like a party. I always know people there, and I always have a fun time hanging out and eating," says Jacobs.

Also strong on fashion ambience is Le Stresa, an unassuming-looking Italian restaurant, with Peter Beard photos on the walls and balding scarlet carpets. "I absolutely love the food," says Jacobs, recommending the tender vitello alla milanese (breaded veal sautéed in butter) and a dolce nougatine (part ice-cream, part pistachio meringue). "For me it's like the Da Silvano of Paris." The crowd here is mainly buffed and glossy, although it gets a little sugary daddy on the weekends.

For a more contemporary feel, he heads to Georges, where he dined just the week before with fashion hero Alaïa. Once in a while, he will go to Paul Minchelli for the superb fish and seafood, cooked with plenty of steam, tomato, basil, and olive oil. "For someone who doesn't eat a lot of fish, it's kind of amazing that I love it there," jokes Jacobs. He raves about the lobster pasta dish that "feels like a meal and dessert all in one."

Another new habit he's picked up is caviar. "All my life I thought I hated caviar. Then I tried it on the Concorde—and realized I'd just never eaten it," he says, a little sheepishly. "I was completely hooked." He satisfies his habit at Caviar Kaspia, an elegant restaurant that's been serving caviar since 1927. He could dine upstairs, done in White Russian décor, but Jacobs prefers to swing by the downstairs store. "I pick up the caviar and take it home for a big pig out," says Jacobs.

Some things in Jacobs' life haven't changed. He is still a music fiend with an insatiable appetite for th new, lapping up bands like Luscious Jackson, Veruca Salt, and L7. He shops for CD's at Frédéric Sanchez, who has created the soundtracks for Jacob's fashion shows and who last year opened a music store in the Marais. Sanchez only sells what he deems to be the coolest sounds of the moment, be that techno, opera, dance, kid's music, or this season's big trend—lounge with an experimental electronic edge. There are around 550 CDs on offer, with 10 new titles every week—a defiantly edited selection that is utter relief for anyone who finds the average eight-floor music store overwhelming.

Another Jacobs shopping stop is Colette, a sort of shrink-to-fit, post-modern department store specializing in the zeitgeist. Opened only a couple of years ago, it's already a Paris institution. "They are good for the latest of everything," comments Jacobs. He goes there for bulk buys of underground fashion magazines and books.

He's not really a big clothes shopper ("God knows, I have no reason to buy clothes", he quips). But when necessary, he picks up Martin Margiela designs at Maria Luisa. This small menswear boutique is a favorite (and closely guarded) address of the fashion elite, who arrive at the beginning of the season to pick their wardrobe from designers such as Ann Demeulemeester, Helmut Lang, Gaultier, and, of course, Marc Jacobs.

And if after a day of walking the Paris streets he's in need of a little American home cooking, Jacobs has two solutions: a hamburger and french fries at Joe Allen (with a steak tartare thrown in for Tiger) or a whip round Grande Épicerie, which Jacobs calls his Paris version of Dean & Deluca. This is where he stocks up on Ocean Spray Cranberry juice, peanut butter, and tortilla chips.


But yearning for the States is not something he suffers greatly from. Asked to sum up his feelings for Paris, Marc Jacobs—the born and bred New Yorker, the darling of downtown, the arch cool international designer—turns into a marshmallow. "I feel like I'm on a magnificent chessboard and I'm a player being moved around this amazing game," he gushes. "I just really love it."

His life in Paris is everything it wasn't in New York. Just the night before the interview, close friends Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of the band Sonic Youth had stayed with Jacobs. "They often bring their six-year-old daughter, Coco," says Jacobs. "And that's when I love my apartment most, when it's filled with guests. That's a life I never had in New York."

He has even turned house-proud (and this from the man who gave us grunge), developing a passion for furniture by mid-20th-century French designers Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand. "In New York, I didn't care about my living space because I was always out. I met my friends in bars, clubs, restaurants," he reflects. "Whereas in Paris I love to have people over. So all of a sudden I'm buying fruit bowls."

Still, Jacobs—brought up on a steady diet of Studio 54 and indie rock—looks as if he's having trouble digesting the fact that he's purchasing fruit bowls, even a groovy bowl designed by Ettore Sottsass, shaped like the Parthenon, and "quite a conversation piece in the middle of the coffee table." He found it, along with the Prouvé and Perriand pieces and a beautiful Gae Aulenti lamp, at a favorite shop on the Rue de Seine: Galerie Downtown, which specializes in furniture from the 1950's. "The guy [owner François Laffanour] has a great eye—it's fantastic."

Jacobs has always had a retro sensibility in his designs, finding inspiration in the cut of a coat from the sixties or the hang of a seventies maxi skirt. So it's not surprising that, come the weekend, he can be found trawling the Paris flea markets—still a sure source of secondhand booty for the fashion crowd.

He tends to head to the Marché aux Puces de Vanves in the south or to the Porte de Clignancourt. "I have this thing about old clothes, old shoes, and handbags," admits Jacobs, who's always on the hunt for vintage Charles Jourdan footwear and anything Halston.

Jacobs and his design team also frequent Didier Ludot, a dealer in couture and luxury accessories from the early 1900's to now, located in the serene gardens of the Palais Royal. This is vintage shopping of the superior kind, with racks of rustling silk dresses and suits for ladies who lunch by Balenciaga, Chanel, Vionnet, and Dior, as well as Hermès bags and Vivier and Perugia shoes.

"It's kind of a cop-out, in that it's all pre-edited and phenomenally expensive," shrugs Jacobs, "but sometimes we can't resist. I think it's the best selection of vintage anywhere." His most recent purchase was a flat 1970's crocodile handbag that the whole Vuitton studio is currently obsessing over. Sometimes Jacobs spends the day with Tiger, simply wandering all over town. "I look in every shopwindow, and I find everything so appealing, so enticing—even things I really have no interest in buying," he says. "I find myself mesmerized."

After three years, he has honed his list of restaurant haunts and has adopted a Rive Gauche bias. For dinner his local is Brasserie Lipp, just a five-minute walk from his apartment. It's that typical Parisian brasserie mix of St.-Tropez tans and sneaker-shod tourists, all whipped into shape by waiters with an attitude. Sunday night is the chicest time to go: it's sneaker-lite and humming with the likes of Lionel Jospin and Lauren Bacall.

Jacobs has his own Lipp ritual: he always orders the archetypal meal of a dozen snails and then steak au poivre with french fries, finishing with the house delight, a mille-feuille (Lipp diners have been known to fight over the last remaining pastry). "I used to come to Lipp when I was younger, and it's still the same. I like that you can't use cell phones there. I even like the grouchy waiters."

For a more "fashiony" place, Jacobs heads farther south to Natacha, an artlessly cool bistro tucked away on a residential street in the 14th Arrondissement. On a Saturday night, you sweep back the velvet curtain at the entrance and step into a pure Paris social club filled with bold-faced names such as Mario Testino, Yves Saint Laurent, Jean-Paul Gaultier, plus the odd tourist—of the Madonna—Leonardo DiCaprio kind. "It's one of my favorite places to go because it's like a party. I always know people there, and I always have a fun time hanging out and eating," says Jacobs.

Also strong on fashion ambience is Le Stresa, an unassuming-looking Italian restaurant with Peter Beard photos on the walls and balding scarlet carpets. "I absolutely love the food," says Jacobs, recommending the tender vitello alla milanese (breaded veal sautéed in butter) and a dolce nougatine (part ice cream, part pistachio meringue). "For me it's like the Da Silvano of Paris." The crowd here is mainly buffed and glossy, although the sugar daddies tend to make an appearance on the weekends.

For a more contemporary feel, he heads to Georges, where he dined just the week before with fashion hero Azzedine Alaïa. Once in a while he'll go to Paul Minchelli for the superb fish and seafood, cooked with plenty of tomato, basil, olive oil, and steam. "For someone who doesn't eat a lot of fish, it's kind of amazing that I love it there," jokes Jacobs. He raves about the pasta dish with lobster that "feels like a meal and dessert all in one."


Another new habit he's picked up is caviar. "All my life I thought I hated caviar. Then I tried it on the Concorde—and realized I'd just never eaten it," he says, a little sheepishly. "I was completely hooked." He satisfies his habit at Caviar Kaspia, an elegant restaurant that's been serving the delicacy since 1927. He could dine upstairs, done in White Russian décor, but Jacobs prefers to swing by the downstairs store. "I pick up the caviar and take it home for a big pig-out," he says. "It's just so delicious."

Some things in Jacobs's life haven't changed. Still a music fiend with an insatiable appetite, he laps up bands like Luscious Jackson, Veruca Salt, and L7. He shops for CD's at Frédéric Sanchez, a store in the Marais opened last year by the man who creates the sound tracks for Jacobs's fashion shows. Sanchez sells only what he deems to be the coolest sounds of the moment, be it techno, opera, dance, kids' music, or this season's big trend—lounge with an experimental electronic edge. There are about 550 CD's on offer, with 10 new titles every week—a defiantly edited selection that's an utter relief for anyone who finds the average eight-floor music store overwhelming. Another Jacobs shopping stop is Colette, a sort of shrink-to-fit, postmodern department store specializing in the zeitgeist. Only three years old, it's already a Paris institution. "Colette is good for the latest of everything," comments Jacobs. He goes there for bulk buys of underground fashion magazines and books.

He's not really a big clothes shopper ("God knows, I have no reason to buy clothes," he quips). But when necessary, he picks up Martin Margiela designs at Maria Luisa Homme. This small men's-wear boutique is a closely guarded address of the fashion elite, who arrive early in the season to pick their wardrobe from designers such as Ann Demeulemeester, Helmut Lang, Gaultier, Margiela, and—but of course—Marc Jacobs.

And if after a day of walking the Paris streets he's in need of a little American home cooking, Jacobs has two solutions: a hamburger and french fries at Joe Allen (with a steak tartare thrown in for Tiger) or a visit to Grande Épicerie, which Jacobs calls his Paris version of Dean & Deluca. This is where he stocks up on Ocean Spray cranberry juice, peanut butter, and tortilla chips.

But yearning for the States is not something he suffers from. Asked to sum up his feelings about Paris, Marc Jacobs—the born-and-bred New Yorker, the darling of downtown, the arch— cool international designer—turns into a marshmallow. "I feel I'm on a magnificent chessboard and I'm a player being moved around this amazing game," he gushes. "Paris makes me so happy. I just really love it."

MARC JACOBS'S CARNET D'ADDRESSES

HOTELS
Four Seasons Hotel George V 31 Ave. George V; 800/819-5053 or 33-1/49-52-70-00, fax 33-1/49-52-70-10; doubles from $517.
L'Hôtel 13 Rue des Beaux Arts; 33-1/43-25-27-22, fax 33-1/43-25-64-81; doubles from $249.
Hôtel Le Bristol 112 Rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré; 800/223-6800 or 33-1/53-43-43-00, fax 33-1/53-43-43-26; doubles from $526.
Hôtel Lenox 9 Rue de l'Université; 33-1/42-96-10-95, fax 33-1/42-61-52-83; doubles from $97.
Montalembert 3 Rue de Montalembert; 33-1/45-49-68-68, fax 33-1/45-49-69-49; doubles from $249. Le Ritz 15 Place Vendôme; 800/223-6800 or 33-1/43-16-30-30, fax 33-1/43-16-36-68; doubles from $498.

RESTAURANTS
Joe Allen 30 Rue Pierre-Lescot; 33-1/42-36-70-13; dinner for two $66.
Brasserie Lipp 151 Blvd. St.-Germain; 33-1/45-48-53-91; dinner for two $83.
Café Marly Palais du Louvre; 33-1/49-26-06-60; dinner for two $55.
Caviar Kaspia 17 Place de la Madeleine; 33-1/42-65-33-52; dinner for two $134.
Georges Centre Georges Pompidou; 33-1/44-78-47-99; dinner for two $97.
Paul Minchelli 54 Blvd. de La-Tour-Maubourg; 33-1/47-05-89-86; dinner for two $162.
Natacha 17 bis Rue Campagne-Première; 33-1/43-20-79-27; dinner for two $69.
Le Stresa 7 Rue Chambiges; 33-1/47-23-51-62; dinner for two $122.

SHOPS
Barthélemy 51 Rue de Grenelle; 33-1/42-22-82-24.
Colette 213 Rue St.-Honoré; 33-1/55-35-33-90.
Dalloyou 63 Rue de Grenelle; 33-1/45-49-95-30.
Didier Ludot 20—24 Galerie Montpensier; 33-1/42-96-06-56.
Galerie Downtown 33 Rue de Seine; 33-1/46-33-82-41.
Frédéric Sanchez 5 Rue St.-Anastase; 33-1/44-54-89-54.
Grande Épicerie de Paris 38 Rue de Sèvres; 33-1/44-39-81-00.
Maria Luisa Homme 38 Rue du Mont-Thabor; 33-1/42-60-89-83.

MARC ON WHERE TO STAY

When it comes to Paris hotels, Marc Jacobs has test-driven quite a few. He recommends the Ritz as a "great classic," along with the newly refurbished Four Seasons George V. For Rive Gauche charm, the Hôtel Lenox has been a favorite ever since he stayed there with his grandmother. He also likes the Montalembert and Oscar Wilde's old haunt, L'Hôtel ("for all those crazy rooms," says Jacobs). But it's the staunchly stylish Hôtel Le Bristol that is, Jacobs says, "my favorite hotel—anywhere." He loves the funky retro glass elevator, the impeccable room service, and, surprisingly, "their french fries—the best ever!"

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