As the Marais is considered the center of all things gay parisien, we thought we’d keep you abreast of what’s happening with a monthly post entitled MARAIS WATCH.
The Marais has had many different identities over time. From marshland, to the preferred residence for French nobility, to the center of the Jewish community, it is now also the main gay district of Paris. Once a lively neighborhood with a real community feel, the arrival of 4 new luxury brands might mark another change, and not everyone is happy about it.
In place of a Starbucks and a Daily Monop grocery store, and for a short while Marc Jacobs, now stands a line of high end shops. BHV Homme, managed by Galeries Lafayette Group, has expanded and opened its first of 4 new, men’s only stores on rue des Archives: Moncler, Fendi, Givenchy, and Gucci.
In a press release, Nicolas Houze, CEO of Departments Stores Branch Galeries Lafayette Group, said: "the extension of BHV HOMME allows us to further contribute a little more to the attractiveness of the Marais, for its residents as well as for its international visitors.”
The Marais is well known as a commercial and touristic area. On Sundays, much of the neighborhood is converted into a pedestrian zone and many shops are open, a practice uncommon in the rest of Paris.
This is not the first luxury brand to open in the neighborhood. Karl Lagerfeld opened a concept store on Rue Vieille du Temple in the summer of 2013. Other brands like Uniqlo and Ted Baker already have taken over the rue des Francs Bourgeois near the Place des Vosges.
But locals are starting to be concerned for the “Champs-Élysation” of the Marais or that it will become the new Avenue Montaigne, known for its exclusive luxury retailers, and a remarkable lack of character.
A Facebook group Contre le dessèchement programmé du Marais (Against the drying out of the Marais), created September 2014 with over 280 members, has started to express its concern and call for action. In its manifesto, the group is not against change but asks “that the area above all retains its attractiveness to tourists but also remains a living area with shops, community life, a festive atmosphere. In short, to remain a place where it’s still nice to live.”
Time will tell whether these luxury brands will transform the Marais into a Disneyfied tourist attraction where locals were begin to avoid. Even worse, we worry that the new shops may drive property prices up, forcing out the many gay bars that makes the district so popular for the LGBT community. We’ll keep our eye on it for you.