The Parisian guide of designer Alexandra Golovanoff


I was born in Paris, but my family lived between there and Moscow in my early childhood. I remember that the buildings and avenues of Moscow seemed very big, so I always preferred the size of Paris. We finally settled in the 16th arrondissement on the right bank. It’s very chic, very green. We used to play in the Ranelagh Gardens, where there is a carousel with wooden horses and lots of trees to climb. There are small gardens all over Paris but my favorite is the Jardin Catherine-Labouré, behind the Bon Marché in the 7th arrondissement.

Golovanoff au Voltaire on the Quai Voltaire © Arnau Bach

I have spent my adult life so far on the left bank, in the 6th and 7th arrondissements. I have toured Place Saint-Sulpice in St-Germain-des-Prés – rue Bonaparte, rue du Four, rue Madame – so I have in-depth knowledge of a micro-district. Because it is full of shops, restaurants, bookstores and galleries, there are a lot of tourists but, contrary to what people think, it is a village full of locals where people know each other and say to each other hello. If friends are passing through, I recommend that they stay at the Hotel Duc de Saint-Simon, a small charming hotel in this area with a pretty courtyard and garden.

Golovanoff at Le Voltaire

Golovanoff at Voltaire © Arnau Bach

Hotel Duc de Saint-Simon

Hotel Duc de Saint-Simon

Today, I live on the banks of the Seine, in the antiques district – there are blocks of galleries along the rue de la Seine and the rue des Saints-Pères. My parents were antique dealers and I came here often when I was younger. I’ve loved shopping for antiques all my life and I’m always on the hunt for something. There is also the famous Paul Bert Serpette market in Saint-Ouen to the north of the town – recently I found a Willy Rizzo love lamp there, matching one I found 10 years ago, and I was just waiting to find a second one. But there are flea markets all over Paris on weekends, and I like to take advantage of them to go for a walk in different neighborhoods.

Most of the time I work from home and go out for my appointments or to shoot for my fashion brand. I usually take my bike. If I have a date, I like to go to Café Noir on rue de Luynes in the 7th arrondissement, where they roast their own coffee.

Doursoux military surplus store in the 15th arrondissement
Doursoux military surplus store in the 15th arrondissement

There are so many new places to eat, but I’m sticking to my old habits. I regularly eat soba noodles – hot in winter and cold in summer – at Yen, a Japanese restaurant on rue Saint-Benoît. I’m a regular at Café de Flore, and even though it’s touristy, it’s still very Parisian – even though we locals like to sit inside, not on the terrace. They’ve had the same staff for 25 years and they all greet me by name. I also like Le Voltaire for this reason. Thierry, one of the waiters, always shouts “Bonsoir, darling! The cuisine is simple and French. I never eat fries, except at Voltaire! And I love the ambiance of Café Basile on rue St-Guillaume, which has an original mid-century decor. It’s next to Sciences Po University so there are a lot of young people there. On weekends, we go to dinner and lunch with friends, very often at my place or theirs – I go shopping at the Alma-Marceau markets on Saturday mornings.

Café au Noir, in the 7th

Café au Noir, in the 7th

Julie de Libran's shop

Julie de Libran’s shop

For clothing shopping, the boutique of designer Julie de Libran, by appointment, is feminine without fuss. I love her jackets, coats and double cashmere knits. For shoes, Pierre Hardy’s shop is worth a visit. I choose at least two pairs every season because they give my outfits such personality, and even though I don’t wear a lot of sneakers, I love her white leather sneakers. Then for anything else, there is Doursoux in the 15th, a military surplus store where I have been going since I was a teenager. I love it for its khakis, pants and overalls – I love collecting styles from different eras and countries.

In my own cashmere designs, I draw inspiration from the colors of the city – the stone, the zinc roofs, the skies, all those muted shades. And then there’s the sunset when the Louvre turns pink, it’s magical. You can see it from the terrace of the Loulou restaurant at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, which is the best view in Paris, I think. Every time I leave and come back, I am struck by the beauty of this city; it changes and evolves but does not age.


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