I first visited the famous Galeries Lafayettes in Paris when I was a teenager and was awed by the sheer beauty and effortless class of the displays. I was with a friend and having won a prize of a trip to the City of Lights we didn’t have much money to spare but I defy anyone to go into this store and not buy something — or rather not want to buy something!
The magic of that first visit has never left me and each time I go to Paris I always head for the shop on Boulevard Haussmann which has spawned a thousand copies but never been bettered – in my opinion. To me this store embodies the style of Paris, the chic and quirky displays and pervading air of luxury, panache, elegance and good taste.
This year fans of the “Galeries des Galeries” are in for a particularly special treat as Galeries Lafayette in Paris reaches the 100th anniversary of the creation of the famous glass dome. The management are pushing all the boats out for this milestone event and have lined up a programme of events that will have other stores green with envy.
Inaugurated on 8 October 1912 the great glass dome of Galeries Lafayette was designed by architect Ferdinand Chanut who introduced a new circular concept of space. The stained glass windows in the dome were designed by Jacques Gruber. The central hall with its balconies, monumental staircase and the Dome with its soft light formed a tiered theatre-like ensemble at the centre of the store and perfectly suits the requirement of the founding owner Théophile Bader to create a “luxury bazaar”.
Inside the store there will be an exhibition which celebrates the iconic art nouveau glass dome (until January 26 2013) and the history of Galeries Lafayette from its beginnings in 1893,the expansion of the current Boulevard Haussmann store in 1912 to current day events. Put together by leading architect Rem Koolhaas — with OMA, his design studio, this is no ordinary storyboard display. Using props and models, originals, replicas and interactive areas, the exhibition highlights the history of the store and collections over the last century.
Within and outside the shop artist Yann Kersalé, in collaboration with Djuric Tardio-Architectes, has produced an original display – Chrysalide, a luminous creation to decorate the facade of the store, which will change according to the seasons. The artist has complemented his work by creating a permanent installation in the Dome. This will be lit up and the original lustre of the balconies built by Louis Majorelle will be renovated using 21st century technology.
When you’re done viewing these fabulous free artworks it’s the shopper who is then feted as three big names will be setting the scene in store. Louis Vuitton will host a “Ball of the Century” (Noel de Siècle) window display — creating bespoke and beautiful tableaux for twelve windows. Swarovski Crystal will create a huge and magnificent sparkling Christmas tree to dazzle and wow. The “Swarovski Galeries Lafayette Strasbourg Christmas tree” will stand 8 metres high, have more than 600 crystals embedded and will boast a huge 1.3m crystal star. Disney Paris will create window displays and a magical roof terrace featuring Disney princesses.
Happy 100th birthday to Galeries Lafayette Paris.
This article was originally published on The Good Life France, an Untapped Cities partner site.