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Urban Style: Tokyo/Paris/Berlin

You might expect that club fatigue would have set in since I first wedged myself into this hectic dive, first crammed myself onto a bench at one of the communal tables, first joined in the mayhem that seems to occur when, after a certain number of caipirinhas have been consumed, everyone jumps up on the chairs and tables and starts to dance. But Paris is, after all, a city where one of the most celebrated nightclubs, Les Bains, is going strong after 20 years. Success has added more tourists to the mix at Favela Chic; that doesn't necessarily mean models have kept away.

The speed of fashion is less frenetic in Paris than elsewhere, an idea that runs counter to intuition. In New York, a concept store like Colette might be expected to maintain its credibility for, at most, a few seasons. Colette is now entering its fifth year. And it gets better with each. It is at Colette that Ms. Lerfel previews the design world's latest efforts, displayed in combinations that the head buyer, Alain Snege, says deliberately seek to flout the tyranny of label dressing.

"What's amusing is to make the connections," said Snege of a window display that combined a jacket from Marc Jacob's hippie collection with a patched leather skirt by an obscure designer and a pair of Stallion boots.

Plenty of boutiques in Paris sell this stuff, of course. But at Maria Luisa, to name one, the latest fashions are jammed on racks with as much regard for display as you'd see at Filene's Basement. It's only at Colette, after all, that one can find items from the Vitra design museum sold alongside suede Pumas and Raf Simons's biker skull-belts and Yves Saint Laurent's Mombassa bag and publications like the delightful gay Dutch 'zines Butt and Kutt. That the aural backdrop mixes Vive la Fête, Tiga, Tommie Sunshine, and Mirwais adds to the feeling that the whole experience hasn't been programmed from some corporate template for retailing hip.

It was the Irish writer Patrick Kinmouth who asserted that "chic is nothing, but it's the right nothing." In Paris, the pursuit of the right nothing, a practice dating at least to the ancien régime, has lost none of its compulsory allure. In Paris it is important to know that the best stationery comes from the graveur Benneton, that the best place to buy cheese is Barthélemy, that the best Thai transvestite drag show is at L'Insolite, that the baker Pierre Hermé is the ne plus ultra in macaroons.

"You've tried them?" the jeweler Joel Rosenthal asked one night over dinner on the indoor terrace of the Café Costes. That I still bought my macaroons at Ladurée caused Mr. Rosenthal to fix on me one of his characteristic mock-withering looks. At least I think that was the reason. It may have been the woman smoking a cigar at a table nearby.

It happens that I find Mr. Rosenthal's frequent theatrical expressions of distaste lovable, although I'm aware that there are those who do not.


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