Ballroom section (c) ADRIEN DIRAND

La Vie Parisienne

Christian Dior’s dreamy dresses, buttery croissants and must-have berets; this week we’re in love with all things Parisian. Here we share the best ways to embrace la vie parisienne without leaving London:

Expositions

Princess Margaret, © Cecil Beaton, V&A

After years of wartime rationing arrived ‘The New Look’. The year was 1947 and Christian Dior wowed all of Paris with his image of ultra-femininity, dresses nipped in at the waist, busts and hips accentuated for the new silhouette. He went on to make clothes for everyone from filmstars to Princess Margaret, whose 21st birthday ballgown is a central feature of the V&A’s new show, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, which opens this Saturday. The exhibition more than rivals Alexander McQueen’s in the same setting four years ago. The exquisite and varied (yet still all identifiably Dior) outfits cover the whole Dior era from 1947 to the present day. The pieces are juxtaposed and in many cases it is hard to guess when they were created, so timeless do they all feel (perhaps with an exception of the 80s’ creations). Be transported and inspired in this truly spellbinding exhibition. 2 February – 14 July 2019 at the V&A.

Cinéma

For French film, the Art Deco screening room at Ciné Lumière in South Ken is the place to go. Housed within the Institut Français, there’s also an excellent program of talks – we like the sound of a Q&A on Midnight in Paris with Anne Seibel, the film’s Oscar-nominated Art Director on 14 February, 6.30pm. Also, the Dior double-bill; a talk with the V&A Fashion and textiles curator Oriole Cullen and French set designer Nathalie Crinière on the making of the new exhibition, followed by a screening of Drawings of Christian Dior – a creative biography by Loïc Prigent, showing 14 March, talk 6.30pm, film 7.35pm.

And at cinemas across town this month you can whisk off to fin de siècle Paris where the young Colette (Keira Knightley) is seduced and married by man of letters, Willy (Dominic West). Struggling with his output, Colette begins to ghostwrite his book, turning out a bestseller about her childhood in rural France, but who’ll get the glory? Watch the trailer for Colette here and book tickets now, showing in cinemas from 25 January.

Les Enfants 

Immerse them in French culture from a young age with Club Petit Pierrot where fun French lessons, parties, playtime and storytelling sessions for children and babies aged 0-8 are conducted entirely in French. Holiday Clubs run at half term 18- 22 February 2019 and Easter 8 – 12 April 2019 for ages 3-5 and 6-8 in Chelsea.

Librairie française

A caravansérail is a roadside inn where merchants and nomads used to stop and spend the night. The sort of place perhaps, where different cultures might share books and ideas. A good name then for this charming bookshop in Shoreditch where you’ll find a whole range of titles in French and English from classics to contemporary fiction to graphic novels and children’s books. They also host a selection of exhibitions and literary talks.

And for second hand books, La librairie in the little French enclave of Brook Green is particularly good. Find children’s books, recipe books, fiction, collectibles and a selection of French snacks and sweets too.

Manger 

Petit Déj: It’s an unlikely spot for a boulangerie parisienne but King Street in Hammersmith is where you’ll find the best croissant in town. After running a bakery in the 13th arrondissement for over 20 years, the owners of Patisserie Sainte-Anne moved to London in 2014 trailing the irresistible scent of fresh baguette in their wake. Everything here is made on the premises using tip top ingredients including French Charentes Poitou butter for the croissants, naturally.

Déj: Dine properly at Frenchie in Covent Garden. At lunchtime the set menu (2 courses for £27, 3 for £30) might include a starter of duck fois gras with blood orange followed by smoked pork belly with a lentil ragu.

Diner: Sacrilege it may be for a Parisian to opt for a dish from Gascony, but it’s worth crossing the line for Monsieur Le Duck, the new Spitalfields restaurant that specialises in canard et frites. Afterwards there are French desserts like creme brûlée and tarte aux pommes or a cheeseboard trio of savarin, comte and chèvre. It’s hard to beat Brasserie Zedel for steak frites, L’Escargot for garlicky snails and Blanchette for crispy frogs legs.

Le Shopping 

The quest to achieve French girl style is age old. Make a beeline for South Molton Street where our favourite French brands Maje, The Kooples, Sandro, Ba&Sh, Zadig & Voltaire and Claudie Pierlot are neighbours. The same names are also clustered around Westbourne Grove, where you’ll also find Parisian brand-of-the-moment Sézane. With a cult following for their online-only capsule collections the label has since introduced ateliers in Paris, London and New York – particularly good for silk blouses and pretty knitwear. And of course the queen of nonchalant cool, Isabel Marant has a shop in Bruton Street, and we’re still fans of A.P.C for classics like striped tees and jeans.

A la mode

Edie Campbell’s iconic Itchy Scratchy Patchy berets are handmade in France and regularly sell out – get this Anarchy beret online or find the range at Dover Street Market. Other stitched motifs include Solidarity and Justice.

The chicest Parisians go to Maison Bonnet for their lunettes. Lucky for us that their first UK shop landed in Mayfair late last year; have your eyes tested at their laboratory-atelier and then the fun begins fitting your perfect frames.

Maison

The very first Caravane boutique opened in the Marais over 20 years ago, subsequently spreading its wings to Lyon, Bordeaux, Nice, Copenhagen and a tiny slip of a shop in Marylebone, before settling on the new Coal Drops Yard for its largest space of all. A visit there will fill you with inspiration for creating French style at home. Known for their beautiful throws, counterpanes and bed linen, we also love their recycled balloon glasses.

— Daisy Allsup
30th January 2019