My first trip to Paris was initially a thought to be reckoned with. Months before my friend and I were due to fly to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the upcoming trip seemed like a distant dream. As the time approached for me to go, the anticipation was nearly overwhelming. During my time there I experienced many hardships, learned about a beautiful culture, and made new friends.
To me Paris was every bit as inspiring as I had hoped and more.
image sources: Medha Bhagat
A new way of thinking and designing
As a Fashion Design major studying in the USA, I knew Paris would be the ideal place to further my studies since it is widely considered the center of the Fashion world. I chose to take the leap and study there the Fall semester of my Junior year because I wanted to learn about Haute Couture and expand my design skills. I attended the Paris American Academy, which is located in the 5th Arrondissement - also known as the Latin Quarter. During my time there I learned about Fashion from professors who were couturiers at famous fashion houses as well as an amazing costume designer, Anne, and a self-made fashion designer Xavier Brisoux. At the Academy I learned the foundation of knowledge that a couturier at a haute couture fashion house would know; we were taught how to sew everything by hand which included embellishments as well as full garments. I also learned to expand my mind and think outside the box in regards to my own methods for designing garments, which was an excruciating but enlightening process.
image sources: Paris American Academy
As much as it pains me to tell you this, my studies kept me working long hours and although I would have liked more time to just act like a tourist and see the sights, I spent the majority of my time at the Academy including some weekends. However, this never stopped my friend and me from going crazy over food - we were in PARIS after all! The street where we lived had many restaurants and bakeries which we passed by on our way to school. Every Monday for lunch I would go to this small pizza place where they made the best paninis I have ever had. The owner was so sweet, he would give us lollipops every time we stopped by.
If you are wondering: "what about dessert?!", this bad boy you see right here was a ginormous raspberry macaroon I had instead of a cake for my birthday. I'm going to spare you the anguish of seeing me eat this macaroon. There were two great bakeries on our street. The bakery where I got my first macaroon in France also happened to sell the best baguettes ever as well as these dark chocolate chip cookies called Les Douceurs de Port Royal.
The other bakery on our street was called L'epi d'Or and they sold the most amazing Nutella cappuccino - I have to say after drinking this I can't drink Starbucks cappuccinos anymore.
To my surprise there was a McDonalds near us and I was actually able to eat a proper meal there. Being a vegetarian in a general is difficult when many restaurants offer mostly meat. In America I can't order a burger in McDonalds, but in France I could and I was very happy. There are vegan/vegetarian friendly restaurants in Paris but I did not happen to not go to any of them; that being said I had no problem eating pasta! Since we spent a majority of each day at the Academy, my friend and I would end up making dinner at our apartment which mostly consisted of pasta. The local markets are extremely different compared to the ones in the States, they are a lot smaller and separated by categories of fruit, veggies, meat, and cheese. There are a few stores such as Franprix and Monoprix which are similar to large markets in the States. There was also an open air market where people sold fresh produce; this is where we got all of our cheese. Outside of our busy little street we wanted to try traditional French food, but with my diet restrictions there wasn't a lot I could eat. Luckily a friend introduced us to this amazing fondue restaurant, and after having fondue I'm officially obsessed.
I hope I didn't make you too hungry because you will want to keep reading about what else I discovered in Paris...
Paris has been the heart and soul of Fashion since they started shipping cute dolls with the latest fashion across Europe and to America. The fashion that was trending during my time there was a very chic 90's fashion. I noticed a lot of women pairing mom jeans with a crisp button down shirt and chic shoes. My art history professor told us that a lot of Parisian girls walked around with dirty tennis shoes as a fashion statement. Somehow French girls can pull off just about anything.
Since everything is easily accessible by walking or taking the metro or bus, we were able to see many areas of the city and enjoy the atmosphere of Paris. Some things I will remember most: the beautiful copper statues with their gorgeous blueish green patina, the white stone buildings with wrought iron balconies, the manicured gardens, and of course the people-watching. Simply walking down the street can be inspiring in such a beautiful place!
Oddly, we didn't do much shopping for ourselves except for supplies we needed for class, but we did end up going to a lot of stores just to look around. I would say the stores we ended visiting the most were H&M and Zara. I know that these stores are everywhere in America, but since we love shopping there they were our go-to stores. Compared to these stores' locations in the States, the clothes they sell at their Paris stores seem more elevated. When going through the women's section I didn't see any type of clothing that could be considered lounge wear such as sweatpants, which is common in the U.S stores. The clothes were more put together; in fact, H&M had a whole floor dedicated to professional attire. My initial thought was Parisians like to look sophisticated when out in the streets, which is exactly what I observed when walking around the city - no one was wearing clothes that could be considered lounge wear. Another store we often went to was BVH; this is a Parisian store similar to a Target but more high-end. When you first walk into the store there is a display of mannequins with the latest fashions mainly targeting those who want affordable versions of high-end fashion labels. I noticed that the colors predominantly displayed were white and black. Like most department stores, the floors were divided by category: they had a kitchen, hardware, crafts, women's and kids' clothes, and toys. BHV has an entire separate store for men's clothing which is only two floors but is huge. The clothes they carry for men are made with high quality fabrics. They have suits and ties along with cufflinks for both work and everyday wear - their customers like to look fashionable even when simply walking around Paris.
For a designer like me, Paris was fabric heaven. There are numerous areas known for buying fabric. I cannot tell you exactly how many fabric stores we went to, but it was A LOT, and the best part was it was all very affordable. Sewing supplies and notions were available everywhere, too, and there were specific stores which you could go to just for buying beads. There's a whole street of mostly bead stores near BHV. It's a designer's dream!
When I returned to school in the States after Fall semester, I began a design internship with Polychrome. You can imagine how excited I was to see that they were projecting a fashion trend for S/S 2019 based on iconic French style! I was glad to be able to put my experiences in Paris to work as we developed our "French Connection" trend.
A highlight has been seeing how this chic and classic aesthetic has inspired the prints that the Polychrome artists have been developing for this group. I am really looking forward to seeing this trend in shops next year!
Checkout some of our French Connection prints below...
from top left: Illustrated Poppies | Handdrawn Plaid | Painted Dots | Broken Check | Beau | Picnic Plaid
Sources: Discover Walks | Medha Baghat | BHV | Paris American Academy
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