PARIS SCENE
THERE ARE PLENTY OF NEW SHOW VENUES, HOTELS, ART EXHIBITS AND EATERIES AROUND TOWN TO MAKE FOR A COLORFUL COUTURE WEEK.

Byline: Miles Socha / Robert Murphy

Glitterati Galore
Film stars, transvestites and an Olympic-size swimming pool — the fall couture shows will have it all when they get under way in Paris on Saturday.
Christian Dior, which has used Gwyneth Paltrow in its ad campaigns, plans to have several actresses strutting on the runway but declined to name names, hoping to maximize the drama.
Versace, meanwhile, promises the usual celebrity blowout. Expected attendees include Sean “Puffy” Combs, Jennifer Lopez, Paltrow and Milla Jovovich.
Givenchy, for its part, is planning a bit of gender-bending at its show. The house confirmed that it has cast a few transvestites to spice up its spectacle.
Then there’s Karl Lagerfeld, who has rented out a public swimming pool for his Chanel show. But don’t worry about getting soaked. The pool will be drained, with spectators seated in the deep end.

Tourist Class
Fashion editors and retailers checking into the Hotel Meurice, which reopened last week after an extensive two-year renovation and restoration, should remember two important room numbers: 524 and 528. These two junior suites have the kind of sprawling, walk-in closets the jet set dreams about, with scads of space to stash all those Prada and Fendi fashion purchases gathered en route to Paris.
Owned and operated by the London-based Dorchester Group, a Sultan of Brunei-backed company, the 200-year-old hotel has been meticulously restored to recall its heyday at the turn of the 19th century, but with modern conveniences like air-conditioning discreetly tucked in. Single rooms start at $435, and prices run up to $1,600 for a large suite with a garden view. Topping the bill is “La Belle Etoile,” a spectacular new rooftop suite with a wraparound, 9,000-square-foot terrace and panoramic views of the entire city. It goes for $8,400 a night.
The hotel also boasts a new spa with beauty treatments from the famous Caudalie spa in Bordeaux, which uses grapes and grape seeds for its massages, wraps and soaks. At press time, however, the spa was not slated to open until mid-July.
The hotel’s reservation number is 331-4458-1006; it is located at 228 Rue de Rivoli.

Photo Trouble
French designer Agnes Trouble — better known as Agnes b. — is mad about photography. For years, she has run the Galerie du Jour in the groovy Les Halles district, where she has featured both up-and-coming and established names. Now, for the first time, she is offering a glimpse of the private collection she’s accumulated over the last 20 years.
“I love that photography can make concrete a passing moment in life,” declared Trouble. “It’s for that reason that I collect.”
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Nan Goldin and Tom Wood are among the more than 100 photographers featured in the exhibit at the Centre National de la Photographie, running through Aug. 21.
“I didn’t want it to be a typical museum exhibit,” said Trouble. “I wanted it to be alive and expressive. It’s really a very personal view of my taste and how I collect.”

The Dark Shop
“It’s not minimalist,” Eric Bergere said proudly on the threshold of his first Paris boutique, which opens officially today with a cocktail party on the eve of the couture collections.
Tucked away on Rue de la Sourdiere, the 600-square-foot shop is only steps away from Colette, but a world apart in terms of decoration. Bergere, enamored of all things Transylvanian, painted the floors and ceiling black, brought in a spooky, Dracula-worthy chandelier and had a large mural of a forest scene applied to the walls.
The idea: stumbling across a castle in the woods — one that happens to sell Bergere’s high-collar shirts and swingy, tailored skirts.
Bergere, who has had his own collection for five years, recently took on a minority financial partner, Sarah Guillet-Tenot, which allowed him to open the shop and contemplate further expansion for the business.
The Paris boutique is actually the second Bergere shop in the world. The designer’s Japanese distribution partner, Mitsubishi, opened a Tokyo unit last September. The Paris shop will sell women’s wear on the main floor and Bergere’s main collection in the basement, or the cave, as it is known in France. It’s accessible by a fittingly narrow, dark and treacherous staircase — very Transylvania.

Washing Up
What could a trendy store and a manufacturer of bathroom fixtures have in common? Leave it to the stylish boutique Colette to form a link.
The German firm Dornbracht is sponsoring a show at Colette that runs through Aug. 5 and features contributions by four designers — Veronique Branquinho, Jeremy Scott, Bernhard Willhelm and Raf Simons — each of whom created a piece inspired by the bathroom.
Scott created a soap-on-a-rope emblazoned with his name and had Karl Lagerfeld snap a photo of a model in mid-scrub. Willhelm crocheted a shower nozzle with accompanying bath utensils, while Branquinho styled a series of photos.
“I wanted to represent a woman washing herself as a symbol of purification,” Branquinho said.
Simons had a different muse: people who are obsessed with the heavy metal bands Motorhead and Sisters of Mercy. His contribution is exhibited at the neighboring Galerie Frank.
“When most people think of bathrooms, they think of cleanliness,” said Simons. “This was another way of looking at it.”

A Helping Hand
Luxury conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton has opened its checkbook this season to help finance seven young designers — Ji Haye, Morteza Pashai, Pascal Humbert, Eymeric Francois, Carlo Ponti, Franck Sorbier and Seredin and Vassiliev — who are presenting during the couture, which opens Saturday here.
“We had two criteria when choosing designers who we would sponsor,” said Jean-Jacques Picart, an industry consultant who does work for LVMH and came up with the sponsorship idea. “We selected designers who have courage as well as talent. The young designers of today can bloom into the big name of tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, one of Paris’ most famous couture clients, Mouna Ayoub, is contributing her moral support to Sorbier. She has consented to be the symbolic “godmother” of the collection and has promised to organize an appointment for Sorbier with her couture-buying friends.
“He [Sorbier] is very talented and takes pride in what he does,” said Ayoub.
Meanwhile, Humbert, the 33-year-old designer known for his edgy, Paris-inspired collections, is launching an eponymous ready-to-wear line. He will preview the spring-summer 2001 line in a presentation on July 10.
“It’s a continuation of my couture style applied to ready-to-wear,” said Humbert of the line, which will be composed of about 50 pieces and retail for $150 to $750. “The clothes will have an artisanal touch.”

Rising Costes
Will the Costes brothers ever take a break? Jean-Louis and Gilbert Costes, the restaurateurs behind fashion hangouts Cafe Marly, the Hotel Costes, Georges and L’Avenue, have just opened L’Esplanade at 52 Rue Fabert, near Les Invalides.
But don’t look for a wild departure from the Costes signature style. Interior decorator Jacques Garcia added a Napoleon III touch, and the menu is a page out of any Costes eatery. Still, it has the easy charm the Costeses are so good at delivering and has already become a trendy destination for the fashion crowd.
Meanwhile, the Costeses have several projects on their plate. In September, they will open the Prince Murat restaurant near the Porte d’Auteuil, again decorated by Garcia, and soon thereafter will open a bakery featuring goodies from their restaurants’ head pastry chef, Stephan Seko.
They have also sealed a deal for a new hotel in the funky Marais district that will open in two years. Located at the corner of Rue Pastourelle and Rue Charlot, it will have 50 suites and, although it is housed in an 18th-century hotel particulier, Garcia will try his hand at a “modernist” decor. Finally, the K Palace, the Costes-owned hotel near the Eiffel Tower, will be renovated and ready to reopen by early 2001.

Place Swatch
Swatch wants to shake up the Place Vendome, home to some of the world’s most prestigious luxury jewelers.
Known for its whimsical watches at democratic prices, Swatch opened a cozy shop in the central Paris square late last month. Trying to give the store extra allure, the firm has designed a line of watches that will be available exclusively at the address.
“We think modern luxury is more about creativity and exclusivity than just a heavy price tag,” said Swatch president Nicolas Hayek Jr., who presided over the opening fete.

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