A Style Legend’s Guide to Paris
The extraordinarily fashionable Joan Juliet Buck shares her très chic insider’s guide to the City of Lights.
When asked what Paris means to her, Joan Juliet Buck, the writer, editor, and style icon describes it in a uniquely impressionistic manner: “Gray facades, little parks, bookstores, food with real taste, the late afternoon light called ‘the blue hour,’ not enough taxis, artisans who know how to repair broken statues or put new leather surfaces on old desks…”
The only American woman to serve as Editor in Chief of French Vogue, Buck formed her first memories of Paris at age four, when her father, Jules Buck, relocated her family there from Los Angeles. A well-known film producer of his day, he worked alongside the likes of Peter O’Toole and John Huston, and it was among such rarified company that Joan grew up. Her career as a fashion editor is as storied as her friends—Karl Lagerfeld and Manolo Blahnik among them—and culminated in a seven-year tenure at French Vogue beginning in 1994. Buck now resides in Rhinecliff, New York, and recently published a memoir, The Price of Illusion, a witty, candid look back at her colorful life and career. With Rosewood Conversations, she shares what she loves to do most when in Paris, and reveals her favorite places in the City of Light.
What is one thing about Paris that only those who live there understand about it?
It’s a fundamentally quiet place, where you have real conversations.
If an arrondissement personified who you are, which one would it be?
I last lived in the 8th—I had a ghost in my apartment on Rue Jacob. But I’d choose to be in the 6th because of the small scale—I prefer streets to avenues—and its bookstores and endless fascinating shops. My second novel, Daughter of the Swan, was set in the 6th, where the father had a store of Greek and Roman antiquities. I made it all up, but the imaginary shop is still there in that tangle of streets—Rue de Seine, Rue Dauphine, Rue Guénégaud.
Let’s say you’ve just landed—where do you go first?
No public displays of exhaustion, so the only place I go when I’ve just landed is my hotel room. I order something delicious and some tea, because I am going straight into a long nap before I face Paris. But if it’s a Saturday morning, I’d go straight to the street market on the Avenue du President Wilson to buy organic fruit that tastes better than anywhere else in the world.
Conversely, it’s evening and you feel like a luxe, truly Parisian dinner. Where to go?
Le Duc, for perfect fish that will cost my companion far more than he thinks is right. Brasserie Lipp, because the Art Nouveau tiles, filet of sole, herring, and the parfait au café are the meaning of Paris life. Le Voltaire, on the Quai Voltaire. These were my haunts; I don’t like temples of gastronomy.
Everyone has their own opinions about Parisian flea markets. Where do you go?
I love the Marché Paul Bert at the Puces—it’s the one with the chunky thirties stuff. Marché Biron is too 19th century for me. I love the fabric shops along the Rue Jacob.
Where do you go for a truly chic, decidedly Parisian shopping experience?
My friend Inès de La Fressange’s shop. Sonia Rykiel at 4 Rue de Grenelle, where it’s been all my life. Sabbia Rosa for lingerie. Repetto for ballerina shoes.
It’s beautiful spring day in Paris—where should you be?
Riding a bicycle through the park of Versailles. Go to 1 Boulevard de la Reine, through the gates, and on the right is a stand that rents bikes. You can ride for six hours at time through the regular 17th-century landscapes designed by Le Nôtre without a car in sight.
Is there a museum in Paris that has always inspired you?
The Musée de l’Homme—the museum of anthropology—was always my favorite. Now it has become the Musée du Quai Branly and it is just as good. The Palais de la Porte Dorée, once the Colonial Museum and now the Museum of Immigration, is a remarkable building dating from 1931. I love the Musée de Cluny, now named Musée national du Moyen Âge, for the thick stones and La Dame à la Licorne, one of the most beautiful tapestries in the world.
Where can book lovers go to find a great volume to read while in Paris?
If I only want French books, La Hune. If I want books in English as well, and the newest art books, Galignani. If I want to feel the heartbeat of Paris, home to expat writers, it’s Shakespeare & Company.
Are there any hidden gems of Parisian shopping that you adore? A milliner?
There’s Charvet, makers of men’s shirts, purveyors of the most beautiful bathrobes and thin silk scarves. Didier Ludot sells old clothes in the gardens of the Palais Royal, which is also where Serge Lutens has a mirrored store for his mysterious perfumes. Speaking of which, Perfumes Nicolaï carries essences, oils, perfumes and candles. But honestly, never mind the clothes and accessories—I like the parfumiers and pharmacies. Nothing compares to French herbal remedies, tonics, teas, sprays—I spray and inhale Climarome while flying to keep the germs away.
Lastly, would you say you’re more Rive Droite or Rive Gauche?
Oh, please! Both. Paris is a thousand different worlds, and I want all of them!
As told to Joseph Akel.
Le Duc: 243 Boulevard Raspail; +33 1-43-20-96-30
Brasserie Lipp: 151 Boulevard Saint-Germain; +33-1-45-48-53-91
Le Voltaire: 27 Quai Voltaire; +33 1-42-61-17-49
Marché aux Puces: 93400 Saint-Ouen
Inès de la Fressange: 24 Rue de Grenelle; +33 1-45-48-19-06
Sonia Rykiel: 4 Rue de Grenelle; +33 1-49-54-61-00
Sabbia Rosa: 73 Rue des Saints-Pères; +33 1-45-48-88-37
Repetto: 51 Rue des Francs Bourgeois; +33 1-70-79-89-37
Musée du Quai Branly: 37 Quai Branly; +33 1-56-61-70-00
Palais de la Porte Dorée: 293 Avenue Daumesnil; +33 1-53-59-58-60
Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge: 6 Place Paul Painlevé; +33 1-53-73-78-00
La Hune: 16 Rue de l’Abbaye; +33 1-42-01-43-55
La Librairie Galignani: 224 Rue de Rivoli; +33 1-42-60-76-07
Shakespeare & Company: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie; +33 1-43-25-40-93
Charvet Place Vendôme: 28 Place Vendôme; +33 1-42-60-30-70
Didier Ludot: Jardin du Palais Royal, 24 Galerie de Montpensier; +33 1-42-96-06-56
Perfumes Nicolaï: 45 rue des Archives; +33 1-44-55-02-00
Photos by @callmewer, Le Duc, Repetto, Inès de la Fressange by Alessandra d’Urso, @svrood, Musée de Cluny/Agence Vu’/Pierre Olivier Deschamps, Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac by Luc Boegly, and Shakespeare & Company by Kiren.