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PARIS — “Oh my goodness, this store is enormous,” Charles Rivkin, U.S. ambassador to France, remarked Wednesday night as Ralph Lauren hosted a black-tie dinner to show off his largest store in Europe on the Boulevard Saint-Germain.

Lauren’s fashion neighbors Sonia Rykiel and Karl Lagerfeld, a die-hard Left Bank resident, ogled the painstakingly restored details of the 17th-century building, as did a slew of French cinema stars including Jean Reno, Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu, who barreled through the sumptuous store in the bombastic manner of his on-screen characters.

This story first appeared in the April 16, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“The election of Barack Obama,” was his grave reply when asked to name his favorite things American. Then he rushed back to the set of Bruno Chiche’s “Small World.”

Musician Thomas Dutronc, son of singers Jacques Dutronc and Françoise Hardy, said he’s smitten with Hollywood and HBO. “I only watch American series,” he said, rattling off favorites that ranged from “Scrubs” to “South Park.”

“I love the American lifestyle: summer camp for my kids, the movies, yes, the burgers,” enthused Vincent Perez, who next will star in a family drama opposite Cécile de France and directed by his wife, Karine Silla.

Mélanie Laurent, her voice hoarse from nightly appearances in the play “Promenade de Santé,” said she appreciates the positive attitude and enthusiasm of Americans most. “They always say, ‘It’s amazing,’ even if it isn’t,” she mimicked in her best American accent. Laurent is also filming a French movie, “Un Requiem pour Mister Child,” in which she plays a contract killer with a secret talent. “She’s a singer also, an opera singer. She’s special,” she said before descending to Lauren’s restaurant, where guests had a choice of a hamburger or a whopping steak flown in from the designer’s ranch in Colorado.

“I was in Telluride [Colo.] not so long ago. I enjoyed it very much,” noted Anouk Aimée from behind her dégradé sunglasses. She said she’s mulling another appearance in a forthcoming production of A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters,” in which she has starred several times since the Nineties.

Model-turned-actress Elisa Sednaoui, stunning in a flapper-flavored Ralph Lauren frock, said she’s headed down to Saint-Tropez for a part in Lagerfeld’s fashion film for the Chanel cruise collection, and coming out soon is a 20-page fashion spread in Italian Vogue shot by her uncle, photographer Stephane Sednaoui. “He prefers to call me his cousin,” she whispered.

On Thursday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy lauded Lauren’s rise from the gritty, have-not Bronx to helm a $5 billion company. “What a success,” Sarkozy enthused before decorating the designer as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. “You’re someone who gives a soul to everything you touch.”

“I think if I came here in cowboy boots and jeans, I wouldn’t be as nervous,” was how Lauren started his acceptance speech, the medal dangling from the peaked lapel of his pin-striped, double-breasted suit. He praised Sarkozy as an “honest, energetic man,” and thanked Lagerfeld for witnessing the honors.

“Karl, I’ve done many of your things in different ways,” he joked.

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