Paris has its new sun king

Paris is back, polished, renovated and coated in thick gold; it is once again the city that matters. Obviously, money abounds. Unfortunately, not everything is for sale.Text: Ivo Weyel | Online Editor: Fleur de Jong
Image: Herman van Heusden'Modèle d'exposition' says the sign next to the bag in the Paris Hermès store. So that bag is not for sale, it's just there for show. Even when I want to grab a bottle of Rocabar, my favorite fragrance that is running out at home, I encounter such a sign. "No, Rocabar is currently out of stock," I am told, "but of course we can put you on the waiting list." Look, look, don't buy is the prevailing slogan of the new shopping. I was in Paris and saw these signs in just about every branded store. The huge Rolex store on the Champs Elysées didn't even have anything at all on sale. I asked about the entry-level model (six grand) that was only recently introduced, but that too was no longer for sale. Totally sold out. Yes, said the store assistant, on the resale circuit. Less than a month after its introduction it is now offered everywhere for nine grand. Supply and demand. Creating scarcity, as the diamond industry has done for decades, just withholding stuff and building waiting lists. And it works: there wasn't a brand store in Paris where there weren't queues, from morning until closing time. Even though there was hardly anything for sale inside.

Gold spray painted gorilla 

Welcome to the new Paris, richer than ever. In recent months, the city has used corona restrictions and lockdowns to completely polish, renovate, renew everything. With astonishing results: there are brand-new museums and dozens of museums that have been totally renovated, there are new restaurants and old ones that have been restored to their former glory (Napoleon III makes way for Louis XVI again), the gold leaf shines everywhere, in new department stores, on facades, in hotels and galleries. Paris is becoming the new capital. Even in art, now that London has become inconvenient because of the Brexit and New York (America) closed its borders. I inquire about a gold spray-painted gorilla at a gallery on the Faubourg Saint-Honoré, cast from a mold by a promising artist who makes gorillas by the conveyor belt in all sizes and colors (as long as there is gold), shit art in other words, but fun on the sideboard. Costs from ten thousand euros. Take it with you? Alas. A waiting list.

Pyramids pastel colored macarons 

Arriving at the Gare du Nord, we don't have to wait. We were met by a driver who took us everywhere and whisked us off to Le Grand Contrôle, a new hotel in Versailles, located in a side wing of Louis' castle. For years, this part of the chateau looked lost and abandoned, a ruin that no one knew what to do with, until the luxury hotel group Airelles was allowed to operate it as an exclusive hotel and began renovating it with verve. Five years and fifty million euros later, superlatives do not do justice to the result, not least because some nine hundred original pieces of furniture from Louis's time were bought at auctions around the world, preferably pieces of furniture that once actually stood here. The hotel has only fourteen suites (ours was once home to the French-Swiss novelist Madame de Staël, who did not - as I do - look out from her bath over the Orangerie and Les Cent Marches, the staircase with the hundred steps, simply because she did not have a bath), so a maximum of twenty-eight guests can stay there. Out of a staff of one hundred men and women. No wonder, then, that the place is teeming with helpful hands, most of the time clad in white gloves that match the attire indebted to a Louis, though it is not entirely clear to me which one exactly, for it has been embroidered on and on with imagination. There are pyramids of pastel-colored macarons all over the hotel should you get a little hungry along the way, compliments of Alain Ducasse, perhaps France's most famous chef who is in charge of the kitchen here.


Read more of this article? The spring issue of MASTERS celebrates regained freedom after two years of corona. Its value is underscored by developments in Eastern Europe, where the freedom of an entire people is at stake. We live in a new reality, but we can plan again, eat out, meet people. The world is turning again! Only: which way? Time for new bridges, new initiatives. To which this edition of MASTERS offers inspiration.