Stark naked in Paris
Everyone has his or her price point. Too much ? or too little ? and discomfort displaces the comfort of the acquisition. Incessantly walking the streets of Paris, my sore feet took me past a custom shoemaker. The shoes were works of art, each handcrafted to a customer’s foot and specifications. With US$2,846 (2,000 euros) as the floor, and stepping up from there, I was soon back on the sidewalk, no more comfortable but considerably more philosophical.
As designers, what would we do for the ones who tread the streets in mass-issue footwear (actually, Bruno Magli, if truth be told), and what more would we do for those to whom price is a stimulant rather than hard stop?
As an experiment, a Parisian one, my long walk took me from a night at the hippest crash pad in Paris to the hippest of the haute, from the 20th arrondissement to the 8th, from Mama Shelter to Le Royal Monceau.
For those unacquainted with either or both, these are two of the hottest hotels in Paris, cited in numerous trendy journals as THE place to stay, but never both in the same news flash, because it is the rare reader who would consider both. The 20th was once as rarely visited as the moon, and only in the last couple of years have those tendrils of trendiness brought galleries, late-night restaurants and clubs and the average age not much more than the drinking age, even though every man sports exactly three days of stubble. The 8th is perhaps the most aristocratic place on earth, even more than Milano’s “golden quadrilateral” or anywhere in Ginza or along Fifth Avenue.
Last year at Mama Shelter, a room was US$142 (100 euros), and I was not only the oldest person in the place ? I was twice the age of most. This year, the room was US$285 (200 euros), and there was a couple with a kid and two couples with gray hair flanking the DJ. Clearly, declasse and class were in the midst of mixing. You say that 100 euros is not that cheap, there are still dives in Paris (I have stayed in several, for less than US$10). But Mama Shelter is not a dive, it is a bastion of cool, a brief walk from the final resting place of Jim Morrison, demigod of coming of age angst, fueled by testosterone and heroin. And it is designed by Philippe Starck, who might be seen as the design equivalent to Morrison’s place in rock ‘n’ roll (and what tombstone will he eventually inhabit for all eternity?).
Last year, Le Royal Monceau was exceedingly blue collar, construction workers by the hordes transforming a palace that had hosted mere celebrities into the haunt of the paparazzi’s prey, also to the tune ? perhaps of a different tune ? of Philippe Starck. Here the room quote was 750 euros, but the bill said over 1,000 euros (that’s about US$1,500 for those of you not accustomed to spending this for part of a night’s rest, since who wouldn’t hang out in the bars until the wee hours after paying the price to be an insider).
So back to the artisanal shoes, which no doubt are wonderful, but not on everyone’s shopping list, and some ground rules for hotels.