PARIS — The City of Light will sparkle this Christmas, despite the energy crisis that is gripping Europe.
The famed Avenue des Champs-Élysées will light up under the title “sobrillance” — a portmanteau coined by the Champs-Élysées Committee to encompass the government policy of energy sobriety and the still-brilliant shimmer of the lights — with shorter hours and energy-efficient LED bulbs.
Taking a cue from the Eiffel Tower, the trees will twinkle every five minutes “like a glass of Champagne,” said committee president Marc-Antoine Jamet.
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s Sephora is stepping up as the sponsor, while actor Tahar Rahim will turn on the lights at the Nov. 20 opening ceremony. To highlight the new focus on conservation, this year will also have a “turning off” ceremony at 11:45 p.m.
The early hour reflects the policy that will see the famed shopping avenue go dark before midnight instead of the traditional 2 a.m. throughout the holiday season, with exceptions for Dec. 24 and Dec. 31. The lights will also be removed a week earlier, stopping on Jan. 2.
The new measures represent a cut in consumption of 44 percent since last year, and 97 percent from 15 years ago. The cost of the installation will be about 1 million euros, shared by Sephora and the City of Paris.
“We have to preserve collective joy, yet at the same time we need to have a reasonable approach and a human approach,” said Jamet of keeping the Christmas spirit. “It will still be a time of joy, of celebration, of collective conviviality — it’s a tradition to bring people together on the Champs-Élysées.”
Sephora will be wrapped up like a present, bathed in blue with a large bow, and will turn off its lights at 10 p.m. It’s part of parent company LVMH’s energy savings plan, which also has Dior and Louis Vuitton on the famed shopping street.
“Sephora supports the decision of its partner, the Champs-Élysées Committee to reduce the hours,” the company said. “This measure will allow all to contribute to the energy savings needed during this period, while allowing Parisians and tourists to take advantage of these illuminations.”
The Champs-Élysées Committee had already put in place an energy reduction plan for the avenue, with retail shops turning off their signs, window lights and screens at 10 p.m.
The move was “absolutely positive and completely voluntary,” Jamet told WWD. He admitted that it had been a harder sell for theaters, bars and hotels, but ultimately businesses compromised to turn off excessive lighting or when shows were finished for the night.
“It’s a political moment, a social moment, and everyone understands the significance. It was very easy [to convince them] to get on board. Many groups already had plans to close at 10 p.m. or they had already made other decisions to do the same kinds of measures inside their companies.”
Jamet said LVMH’s energy sobriety plan had inspired the Champs-Élysées Committee, as well as business organizations of the Vendôme and Haussmann shopping areas. Security questions had been the biggest concern, he added, but they were working on solutions.
The large department stores are set to light their windows in successive ceremonies the week of Nov. 7, which will also fall under the energy sobriety plan.
Department store Printemps will be among those that reduce the time of their holiday windows. “[Energy reduction] is in our interest because it is consistent with our image, because it’s consistent with our beliefs as humans, and because it’s good for the cost. The public will understand,” said chief executive officer Jean-Marc Bellaiche.
Olivia Polski, assistant mayor for business, art and fashion, framed the efforts as part of the citywide transformation, despite hiccups such as traffic snarls during fashion week. “Perhaps it is difficult when you see the transformation taking place, but we are going to prepare for the years to come, change mobility, energy efficiency, the fight against pollution and transform urban spaces to be more green.”
Part of that plan, unveiled in May, is to transform the Champs-Élysées by widening walkways, reducing car traffic, and adding trees and benches to further pedestrianize the avenue. That will be done in two stages, some before the Olympics are set to hit the city in 2024.
“I don’t know what comes first, the chicken or the egg,” joked Jamet of the building boom taking place on the avenue. “But I see it as relatively independent that businesses are taking the decision to come back on the Champs-Élysées after years of disarray. It’s not the consequence of the Olympic Games, but the decision of companies themselves.”
Jamet noted new flagships from French brands Lacoste and The Kooples, as well as others revamping their stores.
The loss of Russian and Chinese tourists has been largely filled by older, well-off northern Europeans and Americans with “lots of money” to spend. While numbers dwindled to 10,000 people a day during periods of restriction, foot traffic is back up to 100,000 a day.
“It’s clear that everyone is optimistic and people will invest. We are really at the beginning of a new stage for the Champs-Élysées,” Jamet added.