Some towns are known for their night-life: London famously swings, New York never sleeps, and Berlin has been a bastion of after-dark subversion since the Twenties. Paris, with its slow economy and rigid social mores, has not often figured in this glittery company. There have been bubbles of creative hedonism (the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood after the war; the Palace nightclub made chic by Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and Kenzo in the late Seventies), but no one really comes to the City of Light planning to lose sleep.
However, if you know the right Parisians—i.e., members of the fashion tribe—you may yet see the sun rise over the Eiffel Tower, and not only during Fashion Week. Get in with this crew, and you’ll make it past doormen into tiny boîtes like Mathis Bar, beloved by Kate Moss, and Le Baron, where Marc Jacobs and Stefano Pilati come out to play; you’ll know where and when to find Club Sandwich, the monthly gay fete that’s a second home to Matthias Vriens and Kris Van Assche; you’ll settle in among the Henry Holland T-shirts at dance club Le Paris Paris and the Nina Ricci jeans at the summer parties at Jardins de Bagatelle. And you might not immediately understand why everyone stylish seems to go to scruffy rock ’n’ roll bar the Pop In and divey Marais cafés Le Progrès and La Perle, but you’ll be there all the same. It’s an insular world, one run largely by moonlighting fashion publicists who are loyal to established venues, but it’s anything but boring.
“The fun people in France are the ones who work in fashion,” says Marcel Marongiu, designer for Guy Laroche, who was raised in Stockholm and lived in London before moving to Paris in the beginning of the Nineties. “It’s a fickle, delicate industry, which is why people who work in it can have a bit of a bitchy edge. But it means they know how to enjoy themselves best too.”
Rasmus Michau, half of the team that throws the Bagatelle party and cofounder of Hmm!, a branding agency that works with Cartier, Cacharel and Chanel, explains that fashion’s high profile among Parisian clubgoers—hosts and guests alike—is largely a result of economics. “Since Paris is the capital of fashion, that’s who you see out,” he says. Of course, there is a fashion-nightlife link in other cities too, but at New York’s Bungalow 8 or London’s Boujis you’re as likely to frolic with film, media or finance types as with fashion folks. Not so in Paris, where, according to Pascal Monfort, a trend analyst at Nike Studio, the sporting-goods giant’s style-forecasting hub, and in his spare time the frontman for satirical punk band the Shoppings, “If you don’t have fashion people at your party, no one else cool will come.”