In mid-October 2023, a crowd of elegant people from all over the world crowds under the gilding of a Parisian mansion in the 7th arrondist. These gallery owners or buyers seeming to have escaped from a Ruben Östlund film wander among furniture and art objects by designers Jean Prouvé, Claude Lalanne and Philippe Starck. For its first French edition, the Design Miami fair, which is held each year in Florida and Basel, has taken over, at 51, rue de l’Université, the Hôtel de Maisons, better known as the Hôtel Pozzo di Borgo, named after a famous Corsican aristocratic family.
A monumental carriage entrance opening onto a paved courtyard, exuberant ceilings, a park surrounded by a grove where you can hear the birds whistling… With its neoclical style which suits the French theater of power so well, it resembles these numerous ministries in the district. A “mini-Versailles”, swoons one of the exhibitors in the Wall Street Journal, partner of the event.
The organizers of the fair readily point out: this is where one of the most famous figures of contemporary fashion, Karl Lagerfeld, lived for almost thirty years. But there is never any question about the current owner. The affair is singularly lacking in glamour: the property was purchased in 2010 by a company linked to the Bongo clan, this family that held power in Gabon from 1967 to 2023. It has since become one of the symbols of ill-gotten gains, these gleaming addresses raided with funds of dubious origin.
Worldly affairs like in the time of “Karl”
For several weeks, the Pozzo di Borgo hotel had emerged from a decade of slumber. You had to see, during the last Parisian fashion week, in September, the excitement of a few happy few crossing the blue door clified as a historic monument, to access these 1,000 square meters which were the setting for so many extravagant anecdotes and crazy evenings. In the front row of the Victoria Beckham fashion show, a few centimeters from her ex-footballer husband, Anna Wintour, Vogue, crossed paths with influencer Kim Kardashian. The singers Usher and Aya Nakamura, for their part, applauded the first Parisian show of the Italian label Marni, before continuing the party in the gardens.
A festival of worldliness, like in the heyday of “Karl”, which made people forget for a time Gabon and dirty oil money, of which the majority of guests have not the slightest idea. But the fall of the Bongo dynasty, after the coup d’état in August 2023, and the acceleration of legal proceedings could well change everything. And the light goes out again under the paneling of the Hotel Pozzo di Borgo.
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