Destinations | Perfect Weekend

Giambattista Valli’s Paris

Italian designer Giambattista Valli worked for Fendi, Krizia and Emanuel Ungaro before launching his eponymous brand in 2005.

March 21 2010
Avril Groom

“I come from Rome but I have lived in Paris for 14 years, so I regard myself as a Parisian. But it takes a long time: for such a public place, Paris is very private and introspective, though I think now I have discovered some of its secrets. It is a wonderful place to be alone – walking around the city is a great source of inspiration and emotion, just seeing how people of all kinds style themselves. I don’t understand designers who isolate themselves in ivory towers.

Friday evening is about relaxing with friends, usually for dinner at La Société, which Christian Liaigre designed for the Costes family. We go not so much for the food but the informal, convivial ambience – it has comfortable sofas and hidden corners, and you can be completely yourself. Then I like to drop in at Le Montana, which is currently the most interesting, unpredictable club. You never know who will be there; whether the evening will be long and entertaining or just a quick visit. At its best, it has the spirit of Club Sept in the 1970s when Yves St Laurent and Betty Catroux used to hold court. It’s tiny, but packed with people dancing in a decadent environment by Vincent Darré, who’s a friend. For a quieter time I’d go to Café de Flore – it’s much too touristy by day but low-key late evening, and still attracts well-known actors and artists.

I live on the northern edge of the Marais and if it’s been a late night I start Saturday with fried eggs and bacon at Le Comptoir des Saints Pères. Then I’ll set off to browse some of my favourite galleries. I am very attracted by art and design from the 20th century and collect a little. My favourite places to look are Galerie Downtown – very good for mid-20th century, and Galerie Kréo, which is more avant-garde. Galerie Karsten Grève in the Marais is the best for contemporary masters such as Louise Bourgeois and photographers such as Nan Goldin, but it’s serious art, so I more often browse than buy. Then, more frivolously, I go to the Aesop shop in St Germain – I love its fresh fragrance and it has the best products for my skin.

I try to go to my gym, L’Usine, and then compensate with some real enjoyment at Le XXè Siècle et Ses Sources, my favourite bookshop [pictured]. I spend hours in this store, which is full of rare and original art, architecture and photography books. The owner, who is a collector, only invites you to a certain part of it once he knows you’re serious. The last book I bought there was a catalogue raisonné of the artist Piero Manzoni.

I also like to visit my favourite vintage shop, La Belle Epoque, where you can find treasures such as Balenciaga or Saint Laurent pieces for Dior, still in the cleaner’s plastic bag. I buy early Patou, Lanvin and Chanel to understand the construction, stitching and fabrics of couture. I think designers like myself, Nicolas Ghesquière and Olivier Theyskens are interested in reviving those fine techniques but in a new way – it’s necessary to keep modern luxury ahead of mass production.

My favourite thing to do later is to have an early supper at Caviar Kaspia, and then drive to Versailles to stay at the Trianon Palace Hotel. The rooms have a fantastic view of the gardens, and it’s lovely to wake up and walk round the Bassin de Neptune before the tourists get there. I love it even more in the winter when it’s misty and mysterious. Lunch in the Gallery Bar at the hotel before heading back is part of the treat.

Sunday is flea market day – however overexposed Clignancourt is, I still love searching for bargains there, especially in the Serpette allées behind the well-known Paul Bert market. I found a 1950s cupboard for my office, with small sliding doors and beautifully made without any nails. I don’t think it’s by anyone special, but I appreciate being able to find artisan pieces like that.”

See also