Home to fashion shows and European film stars, the luxe hotel reopened last month after four years of renovations.
After four years, fashion has its home back.
The Ritz Paris finally reopened its gilded doors to guests last month, just in time for the European Championships, the soccer tournament being held in France, and the arrival of hundreds of editors, buyers and clients for Paris couture season.
According to the hotel’s general manager, Christian Boyens, couture show week — with room rates starting at 1,000 euros a night (about $1,112) — was fully booked. No one is surprised.
Long a byword for luxury and a bivouac for deposed monarchs, politicians, writers and film stars, the hotel became a particular haven for the fashion cognoscenti after Coco Chanel chose to make the Ritz her address for 35 years, until her death in 1971. Anna Dello Russo and John Galliano, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino and Naomi Campbell are just a few of the regulars who followed; dozens of shows have taken place in the hotel ballroom, though Gianni Versace preferred to pave over the swimming pool for his.
By 2012, however, the years (and parties) started to catch up with the Ritz — the proudest possession of the Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed — and it closed for renovations that August. The fashion world was bereft.
“There was a sense of devastation and loss — not unlike Brexit — a sort of grief,” said Lady Amanda Harlech, the writer, creative consultant and muse of the Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, recalling early stays in rooms that she likened to the inside of Marie Antoinette’s jewel box. “Friendship in the fashion industry is profound and enduring, but most of us live continents and time zones apart. Paris Fashion Week at the Ritz had become a real celebration.”
Stefano Tonchi, the editor of W and a Ritz regular since the 1980s, agreed. “Everyone wanted to watch and be watched there, as it was the beating heart of the industry’s social life,” he said.
To the relief of its acolytes, Thierry Despont, the architect who masterminded the revamps of other aging hotels like Claridge’s in London and the Carlyle in New York, has ensured the “new look” Ritz appears to be very much like the old.
Sure, it now contains the world’s first Chanel spa, a Versailles-style garden, a new underground ballroom and a tunnel that links the hotel to its parking garage, all the better to give guests the chance to enter away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi. But the red carpet entrance has remained intact, as have upholstery palettes, which are now lighter and brighter. Much of the original furniture has been restored and placed alongside new acquisitions. And the renowned Bar Hemingway, a tiny watering hole named after its most famous regular, has barely changed a jot.
“So often, when a hotel is renovated, its spirit is destroyed and it becomes bland and corporate. At the Ritz they have taken what was historic and charming about the interior and improved on it,” Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue and a longtime Ritz patron, wrote in an email after her first visit since the face-lift.
“The rooms are bigger, and it feels more expansive,” she wrote. “Everything works better. I do miss the creaky, old circular wooden elevator, but over all it has been very sensitively restored, with many of its familiar touches, like the swan faucets, left as they have been for decades. It was great to be back.”
The British model Kate Moss, who was introduced to the Ritz by her onetime boyfriend Johnny Depp, posed for many a magazine shoot in its suites and had Bar Hemingway’s head bartender Colin Field serve cocktails at her wedding, took it one step further: “Before, I wanted to stay there,” she said. “Now I want to live there.”