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Accepting the American aesthetic

February 2012

By Stephanie Wells, Paris

It’s no secret that Parisians have a long love-hate relationship with America. Raised on Yankee movies and the latest rap and rock music, Parisians still regard American culture as a tad vulgar.

Yet under the noses of recent enjeux politiques - the Dominique Strauss Kahn affair, the seesawing EU economy and Sarkozy’s dramatic presidential bid - American proprietors are discreetly winning over Parisians.

Quality trumps novelty here. When coffee shop Coutume first opened, patrons were surprised by its sleek New York-style decor and the highest quality coffee beans sourced by the owner himself. US expats and hip Parisians alike now flock to Coutume for brunch and a taste of their siphon-brewed coffee. The success of Coutume and similar establishments indicates acknowledgement that even rude crude Americans can make a fine cup of coffee.

Cocktail bars are also leaping across the pond. The French typically drink wine, beer, and champagne since these are cultural fixtures and inexpensive. Good cocktails were few and far between until recently.

The Prohibition-era-inspired Experimental Cocktail Club was the first of its kind to open in 2008, followed by offshoots Curio Parlor and Prescription Cocktail Club. L’Entrée des Artistes and Candelaria offer personalized cocktails reminiscent of the 1920s and have recently cut their ribbons. Candelaria’s simple margarita made with top shelf tequila instantly sends me back to California.

Like it or not, American Apparel storefronts now dot Parisian streets from the Marais to St Germain. The brand’s tousled, just out of bed look is quickly gaining ground with trendsetters. American Apparel’s success could be due to the brand’s correlation with youthful Gallic insouciance and unapologetic nose thumbing at the woefully un-hip.

Thus whether Frenchies realize it or not, the American aesthetic is gaining credibility – one expertly pulled cappuccino, by stiff cocktail, by gold spandex onesie.

Food & Drink
Fashion & Style

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