Not only has France made a name for itself in cultural sites and culinary arts but also on the runway. Over the years, the French have decorated the global haute couture industry. From Yves Saint Laurent to Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton to Coco Chanel, French designers sprinkle runways and closets across the globe. The legacy of these haute couture designers can be found across France, but much of their influence and presence remains in Paris. We’re rounding up some of the top French designers as well as the perfect haute-couture inspired itinerary in Paris.
Haute Couture-Inspired Itinerary in Paris
Louis Vuitton (1821-1892)
Today the Vuitton name is synonymous with luxury, but Louis himself did not start out as such. At the age of 13, he left home on foot from eastern France to Paris to escape a life with a complicated stepmother, per Britannica. The turning point came in 1852 when Napoleon III’s wife hired Louis Vuitton as her personal box-maker and packer, according to Biography. Trunks of his day were typically dome-shaped, but Vuitton opted for a rectangular shape for its practicality. The brand’s bread and butter remain luggage, but LV also sells clothing and accessories today. We recommend a stroll down the Champs-Élysées to visit one of LV’s storefronts.
Coco Chanel (1883-1971)
Hailing from a town in the Loire Valley, Chanel spent a notable part of her childhood in an orphanage in Aubazine. And here she’d learn a skill that would change the course of her life: sewing. In 1910, she opened her first shop in Paris and later on stores in Biarritz and Deauville, per Vogue. Chanel nixed corsets and instead opted for different fabrics, such as jersey, per the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1926, Vogue labeled her LBD as “The Chanel ‘Ford’ — the frock that all the world will wear.” Chanel’s legacy can be found across Paris; we recommend a stay in the Chanel suite at the Ritz.
Christian Dior (1905-1957)
Before he rose to fame in the haute couture world, Christian Dior ran an art gallery, worked as an illustrator and also served in the military. It wasn’t until after World War II that he launched his couture house at 30 Avenue Montaigne, per Galerie Dior. He named his first perfume, Miss Dior, after his sister Catherine, who participated in the French Resistance and survived the Ravenbrück concentration camp, according to Vogue. Before his death, he named his assistant Yves Saint Laurent as his successor.
Hubert de Givenchy (1927-2018)
Audrey Hepburn, Princess Grace of Monaco, Jackie O. These are just a few names that Givenchy dressed during his decorated career, per Biography. Givenchy befriended Spanish designer Balenciaga, and together they created “a new silhouette called the ‘sack,’ a loose form without any waistline,” according to Biography.
Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008)
“Chanel gave women freedom. Yves Saint Laurent gave them power,” Pierre Bergé said. At the ripe age of 21, Saint Laurent took over the Dior house as creative director. During his career, Saint Laurent went against the grain. He dressed women in pants and chose models of color to showcase his designs, both uncommon at the time, according to Vogue
Fashion remains an integral part of French heritage, especially in its capital. If you’re interested in learning more firsthand, here’s your perfect haute-couture inspired itinerary in Paris.
Private Guided Tour of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum
You’ve seen his luxurious clothes in storefronts, but you’re interested in learning more about the genius behind it all. Opening its doors in 2017, the Yves Saint Laurent Museum allows guests to explore original sketches, photos and collection boards. It was in this very building where Saint Laurent spent decades crafting his designs. French Side Travel will organize a private guided tour of the museum so that you can explore his designs and legacy as well as get the inside scoop from an expert.
Exclusive Guerlain Visits in Paris
What’s a great outfit without a spray of luxurious perfume? Enter Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain, who launched his eponymous storefront in 1828. But in 1853, Guerlain made a name for himself when he created Eau de Cologne Impériale for Napoleon III’s bride Empress Eugénie. French Side Travel is delighted to offer two unique experiences for those interested in learning more about the Guerlain perfumery. You can enjoy an exclusive welcome in the Guerlain storefront to explore the many iconic perfumes or perhaps make your own. We also offer a visit to its Parisian perfume designer store where you can chat with the designer and create your own personalized perfume.
Private Visit of Galerie Dior
Peruse the splendor of French haute couture with a private visit to the Galerie Dior, where his workmanship has been created for more than 70 years. Our guide will share the ins and outs of Dior original sketches, accessories and clothing pieces on display.
During your trip, you may have your eye on something special from one of these iconic French designers. Or maybe you’re looking to browse with someone who is well-versed in haute couture. Our personal shopper will help you find the perfect piece for your closet as you stroll through salons such as Chanel, Dior and YSL.
Where to Stay in France
Located in the cush neighborhood of Saint Germain des Prés, this five-star palace is the perfect place to rest your head. Opened in 1910, this hotel offers 184 posh rooms and a convenient location on the Left Bank. You can enjoy a meal at one of the hotel’s restaurants or a drink at Bar Josephine, named after one of their famed guests, Josephine Baker. Hôtel Lutetia is a short walk from where Yves Saint Laurent used to live at 55 rue de Babylone.
This five-star hotel is the essence of Parisian chic. Château Voltaire is the brainchild of Thierry Gillier, one of the founders of fashion brand Zadig & Voltaire. These 32 rooms are housed in buildings dating back to the 1600s. Nosh on some beef carpaccio followed by crême brûlée at the hotel’s Brasserie Emil.
Hotel Le Bellechasse
Indulge in a stay at this four-star hotel just a stone’s throw away from the Musée d’Orsay. Hotel Le Bellechasse is decorated by renowned couturier Christian Lacroix. Enjoy breakfast in bed in one of its 33 thoughtfully designed rooms.
Looking to shop till you drop while traveling France? Look no further: Luxurious Escape to Monaco and An unforgettable Fashion and Art Trip to the City of Light. Need some help planning your trip?