It’s no secret that Americans have long been enchanted by Paris. More than just a romantic vacation destination, it has a well-documented history as a place where creative Americans come seeking inspiration for work. From Mark Twain in the 1880s to Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway in the 1920s, Julia Child in the ‘50s, and more recently fashion designers like Marc Jacobs and Rick Owens—so many visionaries have crossed the Atlantic with epic results. For many of those in the fashion industry, visiting Paris is part of the job thanks to a busy fashion week and trade show schedule throughout the year. During the Fall ’16 shows earlier this month, we caught up with some of our industry friends to hear about how the city has inspired them through the years and why it remains so special.

Yves Spinelli, Jewelry Designer

americans in paris

“My favorite thing about Paris is how old all the buildings are. I’m walking down the streets in the rain and almost slipping because they were laid like 400 years ago and are all worn out! There’s something amazing about that. For me, coming from Hawaii where the architecture is so new by comparison, it’s just amazing to have so much history underfoot.”

Sarah Flint, Shoe Designer

americans in paris

“My grandmother lived in Paris on the Île Saint-Louis when I was growing up. She’s a painter and a sculptor and just amazing. My early fascination with fashion began with her, as she’s a very chic lady. She used to take me walking down the Champs-Élysées to look in all the windows. There is a tiny little restaurant on Île Saint-Louis right around the corner from my grandmother’s apartment—I don’t even know the name. They don’t speak English, and the food is incredible. I always make a point of going there. Then nearby, there’s also this ice cream place called Berthillon [29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île], which is always a must.”

Orlando Pita, Hairstylist

americans in paris

“I’ve been coming here since 1984 and lived here for three years at the start of my career. What I love about Paris, and that I don’t see in other European capitals, is that they haven’t allowed these glass towers to mix in with the old buildings. The Paris that I knew in 1984 is still the Paris of today, whereas London or other cities have changed so much. I always stay here at the Le Bristol [112 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré], and I love it because they start to treat you like family. They’ve been embracing me since I first came—nothing snotty at all, despite how fancy it is. I keep bags here in-between visits—I’m here that much!”

Rachael Wang, Fashion Director of Allure

americans in paris

“I was in college the first time I visited Paris. It was springtime, and all the pink flowering trees were blooming around Notre Dame. I just remember thinking how incredibly romantic it was, even though I was alone. After my first fashion week, I gained a whole new appreciation for the city. Being able to enter the buildings that you usually only get to see from the outside as a tourist is an absolute dream. It truly is one of the most breathtaking cities in the world. To me, the architecture and city planning are everything. Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo—it’s pretty easy to geek out. And the way the light washes over the wide boulevards lined with delicately curving street lamps.”

Nick Fouquet, Hat Maker

americans in paris

“I was born in New York but grew up between Paris and the Southwest of France. In the last two years, I’ve been coming here for the shows. I think my relationship has gotten even deeper, coming back here as an adult and for work. My favorite thing to do here is go to a random little bistro with a book or to do some writing and just hang out, watch the world go by. I also always visit Les Bains du Marais [33 Rue des Blancs Manteaux], a Turkish bathhouse, where I steam out after I arrive to help settle in.”

Christene Barberich, Global Editor-in-Chief & Co-founder of Refinery29

americans in paris

“I still remember the feeling of total awe, stepping into the Louvre for the first time when I visited Paris after college. I double-majored in art history and creative writing, so seeing some of the great works we spent months studying felt epic. Paris has this ability to make me feel energized and like the best version of myself. My favorite thing about this city is the women—of all ages. They are beautiful, interesting, and seemingly so confident. There’s a reason why French-girl style will forever enchant people. I think it’s because the woman and the attitude is the first thing you notice, not just the clothes.”

Dick Page, Makeup Artist and Artistic Director of Shiseido

americans in Paris

“I’ve been coming to Paris since I first started doing makeup, so for almost 30 years. I started coming regularly for the Helmut Lang shows in the ‘90s. For me, it’s comfortable to be here. I love to cook and entertain and do so while I’m here, so I always visit my routine cheese shop, fish shop, and markets. I also make a point to pop into my favorite museums, like the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature in Le Marias [62 Rue des Archives] and the Musée d’histoire de la Médecine [12 Rue de l’École de Médecine], which is full of anatomical specimens and beautiful, old school medical instruments.”

Leah Chernikoff, Editorial Director of Elle.com

americans in Paris

“During college, I studied abroad here and lived with a French family. I babysat for their adorable 1-year-old, commuted to school on the metro, went to museums and plays, explored vintage stores, and ate all the cheese, bread, and pâté I could find. I loved all of it and was in awe of the city’s beauty at every turn. Now, I feel so lucky to be able to come back to Paris once or twice a year for work. It’s taken on a more glamorous feel, especially when the fashion shows are so often in incredibly grand and baroque settings. That being said, I still like to feel like I live in Paris when I’m here, so I always rent the same Airbnb on Rue Dupetit Thouars in Le Marais, buy some groceries at Monoprix, and inevitably soak the whole bathroom trying to bathe in the curtain-less shower. I still haven’t figured out how French people shower without curtains!”

Greg Lauren, Fashion Designer

americans in Paris

“Like for most people, Paris has lived up to everything I had learned through movies and photographs. I will always appreciate and love all things classically Parisienne, but I enjoy the more solitary, artistic side of Paris. I love it in the winter and think it’s beautiful when it is grey and cold. The magic of wandering, feeling the soul of the streets, and finding the beauty in the most anonymous, unglamorous spots never ceases to inspire me. I have a habit of photographing the amazing doors found around the city—I love the chipped paint.”

Tomoko Ogura, Barneys New York Fashion Director

americans in paris

“I’ll never forget my first Lanvin and Dries Van Noten shows the first time I was here for work—I had goosebumps for the entire duration of both. I couldn’t believe that being in Paris for an extensive period could be a part of my job, and to this day I feel lucky when I am here for work. Regardless of how the season is fashion-wise, there is always something to be inspired by. I always enjoy catching up with friends over a good meal. More so than New York, I have the energy and curiosity to discover new places to eat. Dinner at Le Sot L’y Laisse [70 Rue Alexandre Dumas] is always a must. It’s a charming and delicious restaurant run by a Japanese couple making thoughtful French-inspired dishes. It really feels like you’re eating a meal made with TLC.”

JC Obando, Fashion Designer

JC-Obando

“You always have an idea in your head of what this city looks like and what it is to spend the day walking all around it, but once you actually do it, you realize that it’s so much better than could ever be imagined. That’s how I felt when I first came here in the fall of 2002. My favorite area is the 11th arrondissement. I love exploring and finding new places to eat. Paris gets more and more familiar to me, and I now have favorite places that I visit each time I’m here and friends who offer a more local experience. Some of my spots include La Mano [10 Rue Papillon], Le Mary Celeste [1 Rue Commines] in Le Marais, and Waly Fay [6 Rue Godefroy Cavaignac]. And, of course, walking around here never gets old, no matter what the season.”

Samantha Orley, Fashion Designer 

americans in paris

“The first time I came to Paris was when I was studying abroad. I had never been to Europe, and I had been planning it in my mind forever. It totally lived up to the expectation. It’s one of those cities that I can keep coming back to and never get bored. Whenever I come, I have to go straight to work, but I always take a few minutes to sit in a café and have a coffee and croissant to settle in. My Paris ends up being the dinners at the end of the long workday and enjoying my daily walk to and from the showroom.”

Greg Chait, Fashion Designer

americans in paris

“I had been to Paris quite a few times growing up, but I came to Paris with my collection for the first time 2008.  It was my very first collection, and my impression was that there was no other place to be. Honestly, it just keeps getting better and better. It’s now more familiar with more friends. I find Paris to be an extremely friendly place. I love how it constantly surprises me with that vibe it can bring—one can really feel this place. I’m not one for rituals, but one thing I always do is have a great meal at Sardegna a Tavola [1 Rue de Cotte].”

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