Visiting Paris, France is as pleasurable as it is educational for a fashion designer. The shopping is plentiful and never disappoints, while the outdoor cafes between the stores provide a welcome, delicious break. The energy in the city is more sophisticated and romantic than the loud bustle of New York City. Walking along the street, you'll likely notice more women in dresses and heels than in sportswear and sneakers. The detailed architecture on the buildings and the balconies with flowers trailing down the rails complete the picture.
Shopping in the designer clothing stores always takes up a couple full days of my visit. I walk down Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, where one can find most of the top French design stores. On my second day, I'll seek out emerging brands to see new ideas and concepts. The clothing always feels more elegant and sophisticated than the more street-style friendly stores in New York City, which I love. I browse slowly, looking at every detail and design element until the attendants start to eye me suspiciously.
Touching and feeling the clothing is an important part of learning the elements of what makes designer clothing feel and look different than bridge or mass market clothing. While I was attending the Fashion Institute of Technology as a design student, my design professors stressed the importance of looking at the actual clothing instead of images online. Their advice was on point- I always pick up fascinating design and finishing details that I would miss by just looking at a photograph. In addition, feeling the hand of the textiles is an experience in itself.
By now, I can immediately tell the difference in a high quality garment, and if shortcuts have been taken to speed up the process. Seeing 1/8 French Seams on a silk chiffon blouse reminds me of the careful process of sewing, trimming and pressing that is taken for granted by individuals just looking at price tags. I gravitate towards hand beaded appliqués and hand finished garments, knowing how long it took to complete them. I rarely purchase something, since I personally am an emerging designer, and I'd rather funnel my finances into new collections. I don't shop to buy at this point in my career, I shop to learn.
Like any other industry, the fashion industry is always evolving. I will always be a student of the arts and of design. Finding other brands that are bringing ideas to the market that feel fresh but continue to carry the elegance that I feel during a trip to Paris always makes me feel happy and inspired.
XOXO, Kate Stoltz
Pictured: Kate Stoltz getting ready for a day in Paris at La Réserve in France.
To shop the pieces featured in the photos, click on the links below: