The Madeleine-Palais Royal district and more specifically the Saint Honore street is probably the most traditional Paris fashion neighborhood… After having spoken of the prestigious fashion neighborhood located avenue Montaigne, let us now talk about the place where Kings and Queens and later the Parisian bourgeoisie came to dress up. It is the place where fashion was forged, launched, made and unmade in Paris: the rue Saint Honoré and its extension, rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré.

The term Faubourg , etymologicaly “faux-bourg” or “out of the city” designed extensions of streets which reached out of town. Most of the time those extensions led to the creation of suburbs and sometimes cities or villages of their own. So was the case for the Faubourg St Honoré located between the Madeleine-Palais and the Champs Élysées district, at a time when the Champs Élysées was not more than a marshy area, with little or no habitations except for a few of the nobility’s leasure mansions and parcs.

Rue du Faubourg St Honoré nowdays

The development of the Saint Honore street and its neighborhood is very closely tied to the end of monarchy, and specifically to a woman of huge influence who would contribute to the development of fashion, dress codes and habits in the French society. She was called Rose Bertin, born in 1747 and died in 1813. The shops associated with her name were the “Trait Galand” founded in the early 1760s, located 234 rue St Honoré, and later the legendary “Great Moghul” in 1773, also located rue St Honoré, in front of the St Roch church which is still visible.

Dress designed for Marie Antoinette by Rose Bertin

Rose Bertin was the confident and the dressing assistant of many of the French big families, starting with the last French Queen, wife of Louis the XVIth, Marie Antoinette. She was an ambitious entrepreneur and her daring personality is also what made new fashions appear despite traditions. Many influential Parisian personalities would come and beg Rose Bertin to take them in and groom them.
In the first times of modern democracy, and up to the early 20th century, it was there, just along the Louvre in this heart of the city, that the elites came to try dresses that were in fashion with Imperatrice Eugenie in the aftermath of the French Revolution. It is in this district that the nobility would come to see and be seen. The rue Saint Honoré’s merchant activity is tied to the activity of the rulers of France since the time of Louis the XIVth, a role which developped even more after the French Revolution, and during the 19th century, with the notable role of the Palais Royal as a gambling and debauchery place in the early 1800s.

Rose Bertin engraved by Jean François Janinet after a portrait of Louis Roland Trinquesse in 1779

Nowdays, the St Honore street is still, if not even more busy with shops and fashion places: Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Stella McCartney, Rick Owens, Pierre Hardy… As well as the rue de la Paix And Castiglione just off St Honoré, which are full of luxury shops, Van Cleef and Arpels, Cartier, Mont Blanc etc… It is also full of historical houses and sites, and the wonderful Louvre des Antiquaires gallery, off the place de Palais royal. A great place to walk and shop.

 

D.A.