Comeback Complex: After 16 Long Years, Legendary Parisian Department Store La Samaritaine is Back - Lifestyle Asia

It took LVMH seven years and $835 million to refurbish this shopping hub.

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After 16 years of closure, the doors to Paris’s storied retail destination, La Samaritaine, has finally welcomed back shoppers.

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Considered the unmissable event of summer in the French capital, the renovated landmark along the banks of the Seine River was inaugurated by French President Emmanuel Macron and Bernard Arnault, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman and.

Opened in 1870 by Ernest Cognacq with his wife Marie-Louise, the store’s success as an apparel shop led to the expansion of not just product offerings, but also the existing space. Architect Frantz Jourdain designed the Art Nouveau building inaugurated in 1910, before Henri Sauvage took charge of the Art Deco extension in 1928.

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The retail store saw a decline in sales during the 1970s and had to be closed by 2005 as it could not meet building safety codes anymore. Following lengthy negotiations between new owners from LVMH and representatives of the store’s founders, plans for renovation pushed through, taking seven years to finish.

Today, La Samaritaine is as good as new, sporting its original Art Nouveau and Art Deco facade with a new contemporary wing that took five years to complete. The 70,000-square-meter store is back to being one of Paris’s biggest homes to luxury fashion, perfumes and cosmetics, watches and jewelry, wines and spirits, and more.

Updated look

In refreshing the look of La Samaritaine, local agency Malherbe Paris, Canadian design team Yabu Pushelberg, and Japanese architecture firm SANAA have all been hard at work for years leading up to the opening.

As shoppers enter the Samaritaine, they will be greeted with a grand wrought iron staircase that will take them to each floor. These iron details were previously dark green but are now a luminous light gray following the refurbishment. This goes with the overall vintage color scheme that includes golden yellow, muted blue-grays, and golds, along with a classic floral motif of the Art Nouveau style. 

With the natural lighting from glass ceilings, the abstract floor pattern of cobblestones, and even street lamps, a stroll at the Samaritaine also feels a lot like shopping outdoors in the streets of Paris.

The new building, just beside the original structure, is as sleek as it can get with its rippling glass front, a far cry from the dilapidated building it once was. Torn down and built back up from scratch, the new wing is now a hub of creatives, filled with streetwear brands, pop-ups of young designers, a cafe, a bistro, and photo-ready corners.

What’s inside

“One finds everything at the Samaritaine!” or so the shop’s longtime slogan goes. True enough, the refurbished La Samaritaine has everything luxury seekers could possibly want. It’s part luxury department store, part hotel, and part foodie haven with over a dozen eateries.

The first four floors feature luxury fashion, jewelry, and watches under LVMH’s brands:  Christian Dior, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, Kenzo, Celine, Fenty, Bulgari, among others.

The fifth floor, meanwhile, houses the Voyager restaurant, which a rotation of resident top chefs run. It also provides a view of the 4,575 square feet restored peacock frescoes, which is a classic Art Nouveau motif.

The basement could well be Europe’s largest beauty store, too, with a selection of Parisian staples, niche ranges, and natural beauty products. It’s also where the Cinq Mondes spa, as well as a salon are located.

Overall, La Samaritaine is home to 600 brands, 50 of which are exclusively sold in the store.

In a separate entrance, shoppers can access the new Cheval Blanc hotel. The five-star hotel has 72 rooms and suites that offer a stunning view of the Seine for $1,790 and up. It also has four restaurants and a Dior spa that’s set to open later on September 7.

Banner Photo from @SamaritaineParis on IG

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