PARIS — Mohamed Al-Fayed threw open the doors of the recently reopened Ritz Paris hotel on Monday for a party celebrating the restoration of the Colonne Vendôme, which he financed to the tune of 1.45 million euros, or $1.6 million.
Karl Lagerfeld, Bernadette Chirac, Giambattista Valli, Christian Louboutin, Farida Khelfa, Lorenz Bäumer and executives from neighboring luxury houses turned out for the event, co-hosted by Béatrice de Plinval, president of the Comité Vendôme, which groups 109 members located in and around the square.
Over cocktails in the hotel’s redesigned 17,000-square-foot jardin à la française, producer Jerry Bruckheimer said he’s been staying there for 40 years. “It’s a masterpiece,” he opined. “When you’re traveling — and a lot of us travel a lot — it’s nice to come to a place that’s very homey and elegant to spend your time.”
Bruckheimer, who likes to hang out at the Hemingway Bar, was sipping a blue cocktail concocted by head bartender Colin Peter Field for the celebration. A mix of vodka, blue curaçao and grapefruit, it was designed to reproduce the verdigris patina of the column opposite the hotel.
Al-Fayed, who has spent 400 million euros, or $442 million, on renovating the Ritz, listened in silence as guests including Matthias Fekl, France’s minister for foreign trade, the promotion of tourism and French nationals abroad, gave speeches praising his generosity. At sunset, guests headed to the first-floor Suite Impériale, where his son Dodi and Princess Diana ate their final meal, to watch the illumination of the monument.
First erected in 1810 as a military tribute to Napoleon I, the column had not been restored since it was put back in place in 1872, following a period of political turbulence during which it was briefly torn down. A video mapping projection highlighted its history as well as famous guests of the hotel, like Marcel Proust and Ernest Hemingway.
Khelfa, spokeswoman for neighboring Schiaparelli, was feeling elated. “Schiaparelli reopened in 2012 and the Ritz closed a month later, so we were only able to enjoy it for a month before it went into four years of construction. It’s great to have it back – it brings life to the square,” she said.
Bäumer was particularly pleased, since he has been collecting photographs of the Colonne Vendôme — by everyone from Brassaï, Robert Doisneau, Vik Muniz and Stephen Shore — for 20 years.
“It’s amazing for Paris to have a fully restored column and on top of this, the Ritz is going to attract a lot of events, tourism and traffic. It’s very stimulating to have such a dynamic place right next door,” he said. “I’m pleased for Paris, because there is a real problem of discrepancy between the perception of France overseas and what it’s really like.”
The jeweler said he is already back in the habit of visiting the hotel. “What’s really nice about the Ritz is seeing a lot of the same faces from when I used to come four years ago. That’s also part of the idea of continuity and finding things as you left them,” he said.