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Even the French Are Impressed by Lauren's New Paris Flagship

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Ralph and Ricky Lauren with Karl Lagerfeld   
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You don't just want to shop in Ralph Lauren's new Left Bank flagship. You want to move in, immediately, and never leave. "We wanted to do something authentic," Lauren told Style.com, and on that score, he may have out-Frenched the French. For three years, the designer has been painstakingly restoring what was most recently a grim government building on the Boulevard Saint-Germain to its original stature as a seventeenth-century hôtel particulier. "C'est extraordinaire," decided Gérard Depardieu, arriving from on set, as he surveyed the first of the five floors that make up the brand's largest store in Europe. The actor's admiration wasn't just reserved for the architectural details, though. Upon meeting Lauren Bush, he shared his impression with a group behind him: "Très belle."

Other guests—Jean Reno, Vincent Perez, Elisa Sednaoui, Carine Roitfeld, Gilles Dufour, Isabelle Huppert, and Karl Lagerfeld, among them—were flocking through the chandeliered, gilt-trimmed salons to pay their respects. "The courtyard is very French, but the flowers are very American," noted late arrival Mélanie Laurent, adding, "More than anything, c'est très fun." Also American and fun: the menu at what looks set to be this summer's most coveted terrace restaurant. Ralph's, which will open in two weeks, plans to offer such fare as clam chowder, Maine lobster salad, and, the designer promises, the best burger in town. (Price: €24.)

Of the culmination of this project, Lauren said, "I usually show up at the beginning, when everything is a mess and it's going to be beautiful, and at the end. I've been walking around smiling for four days." That's not likely to stop anytime soon, as the designer is set to receive the Légion d'Honneur today, from the hands of President Sarkozy himself.

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