ngie and Patrick Chalhoub

IT TAKES TWO: “It’s a first for me, decorating a couple,” exclaimed Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, who awarded Patrick and Ingie Chalhoub with the Legion of Honor, France’s highest civilian distinction, on Tuesday night at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris.

In the crowd were a number of high-profile executives who have done business with the Dubai-based retail entrepreneurs, including Sidney Toledano, chairman and ceo of LVMH Fashion Group, and Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of fashion.

Sidney Toledano and Bruno Pavlovsky.

Sidney Toledano and Bruno Pavlovsky  Courtesy

The rising, rain-choked Seine river that could be seen from the windows nearly put a stop to the proceedings, said Le Drian, who saluted the couple’s contributions to promoting French art de vivre and the country’s luxury sector in the Middle East.

“You are each an ambassador of France, you have built a bridge between two worlds, two civilizations, around a dialogue built on a union of culture and commerce, a diplomatic feat in itself,” he said, describing the couple as “two artisans passionate about the promotion of know-how in a domain of excellence, embodying, in equal measure, determination and modesty.”

Le Drian in his speech also saluted the “remarkable business sense” of Ingie Chalhoub’s achievements in a world where men “often take center stage,” and where the women “tend to be silent on the podium or working in the shadows.”

Addressing the audience, Chalhoub mentioned how proud she is of the role she played in the opening of the first Chanel store in Kuwait in 1983, “in the presence of Inès de La Fressange, with the house’s first collection by Karl Lagerfeld.”

Speaking to WWD at the event, Chalhoub, who is readying for the imminent opening of a “milestone” flagship for her upscale ready-to-wear label, Ingie Paris, in Chalhoub Group’s Dubai Mall, said the decoration represented both a personal and professional achievement. “Being able to share it with my husband makes it even stronger,” she added.

“It’s quite exceptional [that two people be awarded the honor together], it’s romantic, but at the same time they built this together,” said Pavlovsky, whose relationship with the pair goes back years.

“We have a longstanding partnership, it was the Chalhoubs who helped bring [Chanel] to Dubai and the Middle East. They helped us set up there and accompanied us as we structured our business in the region,” he said.

Also in the crowd, Lanvin’s Olivier Lapidus said their contribution to France’s luxury brands has been invaluable. “My family worked with them for years,” he said, admiring the historic site’s decor, including a vast crystal chandelier and 19th-century tapestries depicting parrots.

“Being here, in one of the palaces of the republic, with this special light, there’s the sense that time has stopped,” Lapidus said.