A conversation with the King of Paris Vintage Luxury: Didier Ludot
Didier Ludot is a creative genius and a talented entrepreneur. Owner and founder of the two most beautiful luxury vintage shops in Paris, within the Palais Royal area (near the Hotel de Ville, he arrived years ago into a Paris that was unknown to him and opened these two unique boutiques that are now visited by women from all over the globe, looking for a luxurious unique vintage item or outfit. And they always seem to find exactly what they came for!
Monsieur Ludot also created the label “Ma Petite Robe Noire” (My Little Black Dress) which I am myself quite FANATICAL about. As well as being sold in corner stores worldwide, they are also available in his third boutiques, aptly named Ma Petite Robe Noire.
Here, I had the honour and delight of interviewing Didier Ludot, who was kind and generous enough to lend me some of his busy time to talk about his career, life and what inspires him about Paris. It was a real treat!
Fiona: When did you arrive in Paris and how did you first set up your boutique?
Didier Ludot: In the 70s, I came to Paris for my studies in Interior Design. I came to the Palais Royal and fell in love with it immediately. There were still many craftsmen based here but no clothes shops. In the mid seventies, I decided to but a very small boutique, next to the Haute Couture one that I have now. It was 6m2 and I sold mostly Art Deco jewellery (which was all the rage at the time) and after haute couture bags, furs and clothes as women brought me outfits, which they wanted to sell off and not just give away. I sell Haute Couture from the 20s up to modern fashion.
In 1980 I then decided to open the Accessories Vintage boutique as the Haute Couture one was taking up too much space. In it I have bags (of which Kelly bags by Hermes) Channel outfits and basic classic vintage items but also some Pret à Porter (by Lagerfeld for example).
My third shop, which is across the road from these two, is not vintage but a place to buy my line of dresses: La Petite Robe Noire (The Little Black Dress). This is a line of dresses created by myself and a stylist, that I have working with me. We have it sold in Hong Kong, China and even at Lehman Marcus in the United States. There are two collections (winter/summer) every year that revolve around the one basic classic element that women will love and feel comfortable wearing: the black dress!
A lot of clothes that we have in these boutiques are also used in exhibitions on fashion but also on specific designers. There is a total of 10000 items that are never sold but that I keep, such as Lacroix that I adore. A lot of Haute Couture houses come to me to actually buy back their original models to inspire themselves again from what they have done and to add to their own collection.
Fiona: Why did you go into vintage and why around the Palais Royal?
My mother was a very elegant woman. She could not however dress in Haute Couture every day but would have a seamstress copy outfits that she adored. This included going to fittings. I always accompanied my mother throughout these visits and creations. I was inspired by her very modern taste, especially at the time where fashion was still very traditional in France.
I chose to set up my boutiques around the Palais Royal without even thinking about it. I just bought the shop. It seemed natural and intuitive for me.
Fiona: What kind of people come to the shop?
I have famous actresses, such as Catherine Deneuve who occasionally exchanges an outfit for a handbag. Demi Moore and Nicole Kidman (amongst others) often visit the boutiques. Reese Witherspoon won the Best Dressed award only a few years back and that day, she was wearing a vintage dress she had bought from me!
There are many Parisian clients but now, an international clientele is forming. These are also women that are now passing on their vintage wardrobe to their daughters, thus perpetuating the love for vintage. As a consequence, I have a younger generation that visits my boutique. All the items here are investments and a part of the French cultural heritage.
Fiona: what do you reflect in your boutiques, a sense of “Paris”?
I reflect in my boutiques what I want to reflect. I show off styles according to new lots or items that I have found, my own taste, the collection of clothes I have found from a specific woman or even concentrating purely on a Couturier that I want to put forward. I have many Fashion Schools that come to visit the shop to be able to experience an authentic original outfit that they could not otherwise see elsewhere.
What is a typical day outside your boutique like?
DL: In the morning, I often see a lady that comes to the Gardens. She arrives at 9h to read and leaves at 11h.
People come here to escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital, to be left alone for a while.
At lunchtime, I can see the girls from the offices come and sit on the benches or on the new grassy areas amongst the flower beds, to eat their salads and take a moment for themselves.
There are now many people who also come to play Boules (bowls) here. At night, they find light under the lanterns and continue to enjoy the game and the area for as late as they can.
Fiona: How would you like to end this conversation, Monsieur Ludot?
DL: I am very proud. In 2005 I was able to completely privatise the Palais Royal. For the first time in it’s history, the Palais was entirely closed to the public. I invited 8000 people to attend an event, celebrating my 30 years in the area and 100 years of Monsieur Dior and his work. It was a beautiful night and to be the first to organise a closed-door event was a great source of pride for me.
I feel Parisian and will always feel Parisian. I was born in Brittany but realised quickly that Paris and the Palais Royal have always been my home. To be at the centre of Saint Germain, Place Vendome and the Louvre is a place where I love to be.
And see Didier Ludot’s website here