Before Stella McCartney there was Martine Sitbon, supplying urban ladies with hyperfeminine clothing that involved, always, a little bit of tough. In addition to having her own label, the native of Morocco was head designer at Chloé from 1987 to 1996. But Sitbon's punk-girly look was difficult to find Stateside (there's a little at Kirna Zabête and Barneys), so fashion types who wanted a little Blondie in their lives (Sofia Coppola, Zoe Cassavetes) made trips to her Left Bank boutique. Next season, Sitbon becomes creative director of the women's collection for Byblos. No word yet on which New York stores will carry it, but you can be sure the customers will be begging.
Much like getting the right table at Da Silvano, staying at the right hotel during the Paris collections is very important. For top editors and the couture set, there's always the Ritz (Anna Wintour, Kate Moss, et al.) and the Plaza Athénée (couture customers) on Avenue Montaigne, which is convenient for fittings; most ateliers are nearby. Alain Ducasse opened a restaurant in the Plaza Athénée -- but what's more thrilling to those very tan ladies is that he's also taken over the room service. The hotel bar (reopened in mid-May after a fire caused by a Gauloise) is a postshow destination. The Hotel Meurice has reopened after a two-year renovation and gets points for its location (across the street from the Carousel du Louvre, Paris's Bryant Park). Dolce and Gabbana have stayed in the brand-new suite on the top floor. Others vie for chic rooms at the Hotel Montalembert, and eccentrics fight over the St. Simone (everyone wants the very-Cacharel toile room). "You have to kill someone to get a room!" complained Ellen Carey, who has a showroom in New York and is a St. Simone devotee. "Everything goes with Isabella Blow's outfits perfectly."
"Sephora is like the Kmart of fragrance," sniffs Frederic Malle, a French perfumer who yearns for the days when every Parisian pharmacy concocted its own cologne. Last year, after a career spent developing many top-selling perfumes (which he, out of tradition, declines to name), Malle opened his own shop at 37 Rue de Grenelle in Paris's 7th Arrondissement. It is quite unlike any other perfume shop: Inside there are six tall, empty glass pods that look tremendously sci-fi, like something for Michael Jackson to sleep in. They are, rather, vaporisateurs: Open the door, spritz, stick in your head, and the smell engulfs you. Flip a silent switch and the pod is ready for something new. "There is simply no better way to smell things," Malle explains. "It is a way of smelling the essence." As for the scents themselves, Malle has hired France's best noses to collaborate with him and given them carte blanche: "I have told them, 'No ingredient is too expensive,' " he says, " 'and take as long as you need.' " There are powdery irises, figs, musks. For New Yorkers sick of department-store fragrance gauntlets: Malle is building pods for export. Expect them, along with a full range of Malle's perfumes, in Barneys' new beauty floor sometime next winter.