How La Samaritaine celebrated a joyous but very belated birthday

The magnificent façade of La Samaraitaine ushers Parisians and tourists back into a store reborn {Photo: We are Contents}

The pandemic may have delayed the celebrations but it didn’t ruin the party. That was the message from La Samaritaine and DFS as they kicked off the festivities to mark the grand Parisian store’s postponed 150th birthday this September.

The historic Samaritaine building, which re-opened in the French capital in June anchored by the 20,000sq m department store Samaritaine Paris Pont-Neuf by DFS, celebrated its landmark anniversary in style after a year-long postponement.

Functionality and aestheticsim combine to wondrous effect in the Grand Staircase, the central component of the Pont-Neuf building {Photo: Matthieu Salvaing}

To make up for lost time and ensure that this milestone birthday is one to remember, DFS (LVMH/Robert Miller) hosted a calendar of events, gourmet exclusives, collaborations, pop-ups and performances lasting for two months, from 2 September to 31 October.

A dramatic unveiling of the department store’s windows kicked off the festivities on 2 September. On the Rue de Rivoli side, the windows featured multicolored neon displays. On the Pont Neuf side, new light installations formed part of an exclusive (and still ongoing) collaboration with Prada.

Inside the store, the Prada Glow installation (see video below) offers an exclusive and interactive experience brought to life through light and colour.

The four showcases feature a three-dimensional trompe-l’oeil displaying views of the set from the Prada Fall/Winter 2021 show, enriched with neon lights.

A video floor connected to a lantern inspired by the geometry of the Prada triangle rises up through the floors, its changing colours visible from all directions.

A selection of exclusive items from the brand’s ready-to-wear, leather goods and women’s accessories ranges also featured throughout the installation.

Each weekend, troupes of artists brought to life the spirit of Samaritaine’s famous advertisements of the past with a combination of burlesque acts from performers dressed as peacocks, town-criers, balloon-girls and majorettes.

(Photos: Stephane Sby Balm}

As with all good birthdays, this one came with a cake. But no ordinary cake – for Samaritaine, the artist Elsa Muse elected to design a towering cake modelled on an early animation device known as a zoetrope.

The cake slowly turned, telling the history of the store through sugar figurines representing its emblematic yellow shopping bags, spirited sales staff and even King Kong himself [in 1974, the famous giant gorilla scaled the store in an advertisement for La Samaritaine -Ed].

Topping the cake were figurines of the store’s founders Ernest Cognacq and Marie-Louise Jaÿ. Edible versions of the cake were offered to customers each Saturday at 4pm.

Art historian extraordinaire Margaux Brugvin {Photo courtesy of DFS Group}

Renowned art historian Margaux Brugvin is highlighting moments in the store’s history

The celebrations also featured a digital engagement as art historian Margaux Brugvin took over the store’s YouTube channel to highlight moments in the store’s history and discuss its artistic elements with contemporary artist Antonin Hako.

Michelin-starred chefs, pâtissiers, mixologists, baristas and bakers, all came together to celebrate Samaritaine’s 150+1 birthday with an abundance of flavours. Matthias Giroud from the Voyage restaurant-bar and Jérémy Del Val from Maison Dalloyau together curated an original box set of cocktails and ‘haute couture pastry’ to delight the senses.

The quirky Loulou Boutique featured a range of products from jewellery to fashion to bicycles and skateboards. And a wheel of fortune was spun each day to reward shoppers with gifts and treasures to share in the bounty of Samaritaine’s birthday.

“La Samaritaine has brought joy, excitement and discovery to Parisians for over 150 years, so it is fitting that we celebrate this wonderful store’s birthday with the same abundance that she has shared with us,” said DFS Group Chairman and CEO Benjamin Vuchot.

(Above and below) The quirky Loulou Boutique features a range of products from jewellery to fashion to bicycles and skateboards as part of the birthday celebrations

Matthias Giroud from Voyage and Jérémy Del Val (right) from Maison Dalloyau offered several tasty temptations to celebrate the occasion {Photo courtesy of DFS Group}

{Photos above and below: Stephane Sby Balmy}