CORSICAN ZEST: There won’t be milk and cookies set out for Santa Claus at Laetitia Casta’s house. “It’s a Corsican tradition — I put out a mandarin and a glass of red wine,” said the French cinema star, breaking into a smile. “A bit of comfort after the difficult voyage.”
The Boucheron brand ambassador was on hand for a ribbon-snipping ceremony to inaugurate the Christmas windows for Printemps, along with Printemps chief Paolo De Cesare and Boucheron chief executive officer Hélène Poulit-Duquesne.
Before adding her touch to the annual ritual on the Boulevard Haussmann, Casta reflected on the season from a velvet sofa several flights above the street. “For me, it’s an important holiday, even as an adult, I still want to believe in it,” she said. “I want the people around me who I love to be comfortable and happy. I make sure they have a wonderful evening.” The food, table setting and dressing up are central to her approach.
“The best moment for children is when they count down the days — in fact, school teachers say it’s the worst time for schools because the kids are no longer present. They’re thinking of one thing, and that’s Christmas, Christmas, Christmas,” she laughed.
Executives at Printemps have been doing the same, but for nearly a year now, said De Cesare, likening the window-dressing period to a theater production.
“The core is really the story,” he said. “Ten windows and each of them gives a different topic of the story and it’s almost a year of work.”
This year, Printemps sent its characters Jules and Violette on a hunt for Father Christmas that takes them to fantasy worlds including those of mushrooms, deserts and the Antarctic.
“Every one of these places is absolutely magic and crazy — they don’t find him but they find some signs that he passed there,” added De Cesare. “Guess what? At the end, after going through this universe, and so on, they find him — in Printemps because he was in Printemps giving the most beautiful presents.” He grinned.
Brand partnerships help boost the operation, geared toward the 10 million people passing in front of the windows, according to the executive.
“The brand contributes to the story and it becomes a, let’s say, a mega event that we would not be able to do,” he said. This year, the store teamed up with Marni, Häagen Dazs, Canada Goose, Ugg and Dyson, in addition to Boucheron.
With the high jeweler, Printemps found a partner of similar age — both were founded in the mid-19th century; Boucheron is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year.
“We grew up together in Paris. They have beautiful animal themes, so we shared this vision of bringing nature and animals together,” the executive said. “The house is doing very well in our store.”
To reinforce its digital reach, the department store brought in more influencers and bloggers this year — a space was cordoned off for them next to the photographers’ box in front of the window-unveiling ceremony out on the street.
“We now work on a regular basis with influencers, with bloggers because we believe they bring a new way of communicating and they talk to a different audience…so you may have seen bloggers going through the store, much more than before,” he said. For the first time, the store is launching a donation program with Rose-Up, an association focused on improving the quality of life for women with cancer, asking customers to contribute 50 euro cents toward building an apartment for the cause.
After a quick scan of his phone to check the latest U.S. stock market figures, the executive cited strong momentum in global consumption and robust tourist flows from Asia to Europe as reason for his optimism for the upcoming holiday season. Despite a difficult September — retailers across France suffered from unusually warm weather — he is sticking with a sales-growth target for the year of between 6 and 8 percent. The unseasonal weather drove home the point that retailers need to keep apparel in stores longer into the seasons, in De Cesare’s view.
“We need to maintain more the seasonal apparel based on the weather, not the calendar because, guess what, it’s not the first of January that you finish with winter and begin spring,” he said. “Between professionals, there is a discussion on how do you change your offer now that the seasons are changing.”
Down on the boulevard in front of the store, the weather was appropriately chilly. Casta emerged from a town car for the ceremony dressed in a long coat and a short vegan leather dress from Nanushka with snaps winding down the front.
The actress is featured in a film directed by Nils Tavernier about a rural postmaster in the 19th century, opening in France later this month, as well as a film directed by her husband Louis Garrel, to be released in December. She is also in a thriller television series called “An Island,” playing a mermaid who seeks revenge for the planet by hunting men who failed to respect the environment — themes of feminine power and nature.
“It’s nature that’s rebelling, the feminine instinct that awakens and becomes cruel, actually,” she said with a mischievous smile.