Located in the heart of the French capital, the newly renovated La Samaritaine department store was reopened recently by the President of France, Emmanuel Macron – a testament to the significance of this iconic landmark building on the banks of the Seine.
Now owned by luxury goods conglomerate LVMH – the company behind of a vast portfolio of brands from Chanel and Dior to Louis Vuitton and Moët – La Samaritaine has been extended to create 70,000sq m of floor space with the building of a vast glass-walled addition by edgy Japanese architectural firm Sanaa.
The original building has also been sympathetically restored to highlight its Art Nouveau features, which include a magnificent staircase and atrium, peacock frescoes and enamelled lava panels on the façade.
Sanaa were also responsible for the installation of a statement glass roof with Eiffel-style iron frame which oversails 20,000sq m of luxury retail space, 12 gastronomic ‘concepts’, 15,000sq m of offices and what is reportedly Europe’s largest beauty retail floor, which covers the entirety of the building’s 3,400sq m footprint.
The pièce de resistance, however, is a 72-room hotel – Cheval Blanc Paris – which comes complete with luxury Dior Spa, fusing multiple LVMH brands in a single development.
This is Cheval Blanc’s first urban location and follows on from openings in Courchevel, St Barts and The Maldives. Further properties are planned for Beverly Hills and London as LVMH takes Cheval Blanc into more urban locations.
LVMH poured nearly €500m (US$587.5m, £425.6m) into the project during the building’s controversial 15-year overhaul, with the entire site now being managed by LVMH subsidiary, DFS Group.
La Samaritaine had been a staple of the Parisien retail scene since its opening in 1869, serving the mid-market until its closure in 2005. Its reinvention as an icon of luxury, designed mainly for the super rich has angered some local people, with black paint being sprayed onto the building’s facade during its opening weeks during protests about wealth inequality.
Reports from Paris indicate that the store is quieter than expected – partly due to the absence of wealthy travellers to the French capital and partly due to pandemic pressures. However, LVMH is taking a long-term view of the investment, so this is not thought to be of immediate concern – especially as the luxury market appears to be riding out the pandemic better than many other sectors.
Spa Cinq Mondes à la Samaritaine
LVMH also reached outside its own brand portfolio in creating the spa and wellness offering at La Samaritaine, issuing a tender for the creation of a second spa on the beauty retail floor which was won by French brand Cinq Mondes.
Founded in 2001 by Jean-Louis Poiroux and Nathalie Bouchon-Poiroux, Cinq Mondes now trades in 35 countries, with the new Spa Cinq Mondes à la Samaritaine being the brand’s second location in Paris.
The design is by Suprem Architectures, with each of the seven treatment rooms – including one for couples – having a backlit feature wall reminiscent of Art Deco stained glass.
Poiroux told Spa Business all facilities – including the hammam, double exfoliation room and private relaxation areas – have been conceived to create an immersive healing journey in the heart of Paris.
Spa rituals including massages, scrubs, wraps, facials and hammam treatments draw on global healing practices from Japan, India and China, while an exclusive treatment called The Great Ritual from Okinawa lasts 50 minutes and includes a traditional Japanese kobido facial and amma back massage, costing €124 (US$147, £106).
The new spa also has a 100sq m boutique showcasing Cinq Mondes beauty rituals and skincare range.
The Dior spa
This is Dior’s first standalone spa opening for nearly 10 years and is thought to signal a renewed interest in the spa and wellness sector by the brand.
The entire spa pays tribute to the life and work of celebrated couturier Christian Dior, with the layout – from the curved marble staircase to an evocative Parisian ‘salon’ – celebrating landmark moments in the history of the brand. An interactive mirror above a cosy fireplace screens the latest fashion shows, while the spa boutique offers exclusive Dior/Cheval Blanc product collections.
The six treatment suites have private white onyx bathrooms and opulent finishes. Among these the rose and gold-decorated Bonheur suite features two massage beds that rise from the floor during treatment for a weightless experience for two; the avant-garde New Look suite has been designed specially for the six-hand Couture Dream massage; and the Sauvage suite – with its alpha quartz massage bed – evokes a natural environment.
The standout feature is its 30m swimming pool – reportedly the longest hotel pool in Paris – which is finished with waves of hand-made mosaics by artist Michael Mayer and is overlooked by secluded rest areas with oversized loungers.
The opulent ambience is down to design by architect Peter Marino, who previously worked for LVMH on Louis Vuitton stores in Los Angeles and London, Chanel stores in New York, Seoul, Namiki Ginza and Istanbul and a Dior flagship in Seoul – as well as being on the team for the upcoming Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills.
The spa’s gym, with kit by Technogym, Peloton and Rogue, has a private personal training studio where training sessions can be viewed on a big screen. The gym is available to hotel guests and a limited number of members, who pay a rumoured €9,000 a year for use of the select facility.
The mix is completed by a Rossano Ferretti hair salon located close to the Dior Spa reception where the stylists are personally mentored by the Italian hair icon.
Dior’s beauty ambassadors combine techniques such as Dior Tissue Massage and Sensorial Awakening with technology to provide bespoke experiences for guests.
Three classic treatments are inspired by Dior’s Prestige and L’Or de Vie skincare lines which harness the power of the Rose de Granville – a flower which is hand-picked twice a year for its regenerative properties – and extracts of the Yquem grapevine from Bordeaux vineyard, Château d’Yquem, which is also owned by LVMH.
A Sapphire Crystal Micro-Abrasion treatment uses Dior technology for a programme of customised and booster treatments.
Expert Protocol facials for men and women at the Dior Spa include active hydration, deep purification, radiance detox and cell rejuvenation, with 30-, 60- and 90-minute options, while ‘Happiness Shots’ can be added to chosen treatments and include Head in the Stars, Relax Back, Irresistible Lips and Velvet Hands – all lasting 30- to 45-minutes.
Happy Occasions is an extended programme of treatments, including Baby Showers, Sports Transformation, Happy Bouquet, ‘Cheval Blanc Sunday’ and the lavish ‘Grand Ball’ option, which includes a body massage, facial, hair styling and make-up treatment and costs €795.