Friday, September 28, 2012

The Champs-Élysées has largely lost its distinctive character and is "no longer a place for lovers"

Today, American business and its brands are prominently aboveground on a Champs-Élysées that has largely lost its distinctive character and has become far less French
writes Steven Erlanger in the International Herald Tribune.
In a movement that has only accelerated in recent years, a large part of the broad street has become overrun with outlets for clothing brands that most Americans would hardly consider haute couture or even exclusive. Banana Republic has just opened a store, and Levi’s has a massive new space, not far from the new H&M. They are joining, and competing with, the Gap, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger and Abercrombie & Fitch. At least Tiffany & Company is coming, replacing a burger joint. 

 … The cool has faded amid the most recent mass-market invasion. Few Parisians who do not work in the neighborhood go to the Champs-Élysées anymore, regarding it as a place for suburbanites and tourists, many of them rich Arabs who seek out the nightclubs.

… The Champs-Élysées — the name means the Elysian Fields, a reference to its origins as fields and market gardens — has long played a central role in France. It began in the early 17th century, when the royal gardens of the Tuileries were extended by an avenue of trees. By the late 18th century, as Paris grew, it became a fashionable street, and the city took control of it in 1828. 
Connecting the Place de la Concorde, where Marie Antoinette and many others died at the guillotine set up during the French Revolution, to the Arc de Triomphe, which was inaugurated in 1836 to honor the dead of the Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, the avenue became the site of military parades by both French troops and their conquerors. That included the Germans in both 1871 and 1940, and the Free French and the Allies after World War II. In some sense, it remains the symbol of a liberated France, for foreigners and the French themselves. 

“In the 1950s and ’60s, the Champs-Élysées was the place to be,” said Jacques Hubert-Rodier, 58, an editorial writer at Les Echos, which used to have its headquarters on the avenue. 
But “it’s no longer a Parisian place,” he said, adding, a touch sadly, “It’s no longer a place for lovers.” 

… Nearly 200,000 Parisians work largely white-collar jobs in the area. They need to shop and eat, and many now seek fast food rather than leisurely lunches, which helps explain the four big burger restaurants (two McDonald’s and two Quicks), the sandwich shops and the chain outlets like Pizza Pino, Léon de Bruxelles and Chez Clément. 

… The avenue remains important for marketing — Banana Republic and Abercrombie & Fitch have their only French stores there. 

“We’re delighted to have them here,” [said Jean-Noël Reinhardt, the chairman of the Comité Champs-Élysées, a merchants’ association], while noting that for real luxury, there is the nearby Avenue Montaigne.