University of South Carolina

What I Did This Summer - Paris

Music composer Cole Porter wrote of Paris, “I love Paris in the spring time, I love Paris in the fall, I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles, I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles. I love Paris, why oh why do I love Paris?”

For one lucky student, that’s an easy answer.

My impression of Paris was beyond what I expected because it was so beautiful and glamorous,” said Carolina student Lauren Abele. “The people, the architecture, the fashion, the food, and the lights were all amazing!”

In May and at the height of spring, Lauren jetted off to one of the world’s most famous cities and the center of the fashion world. Her trip was part of the the University's Department of Retailing annual May Session adventure. Lucky for Lauren, Paris was this year's destination.

I wanted to participate in the Paris May Session trip because it has been always been a dream of mine to travel there,” she said.

“I heard about the trip in one of my classes and immediately talked to my professors and parents about going. I knew I could study fashion and travel, which are two of my favorite things. I knew this was an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Department chair Marianne Bickle has been shepherding budding fashionistas on these May Session excursions since 2005. This year, she took 18 students. The trips are on a three-year cycle: Paris, London, and Italy. Bickle said the goal of each trip is to broaden the student’s exposure to international retailing experiences and venues.

Aspiring fashion designer Tara Lance says it was all that, and more.

The best part of the trip was this store called Colette,” she said. “It was everything that meant fashion to me. I loved the downstairs: very chic with a wet bar in the next level under the first floor. And, to top it off, the next two levels were luxury clothing.

Tara, Lauren, and the rest of the group got an up close and personal look at creating luxury when they visited the house and factory of iconic designer Louis Vuitton.

“I had always loved Louis Vuitton,” Lauren said, “but I did not know the history of the company or that Louis Vuitton is family owned and prides itself on that. And once you work for Louis Vuitton, you are always a part of the family.”

They were in awe of the painstaking process of creating those one-of-a-kind Vuitton bags and trunks.

“I also never knew that everything was made by hand,” Lauren said. “All the pieces are made perfectly, and the price really doesn’t seem that bad when you see the work that goes into a Louis Vuitton that will forever be in style.”

Bickle said they felt privileged to visit the Louis Vuitton house and factory right in the center of Paris, an opportunity usually only granted to celebrities, such as actress Sharon Stone. She also says the most satisfying part of the trip was watching the students mature.

They begin the trip somewhat naïve as international travelers,” she said “They end the trip far more mature about international retailing and international traveling.”

And, yes, said Lauren, there was shopping.

We shopped and saw a fashion show at Galleries Lafayette, which can be compared to a department store in the USA,” she said. “However, this store was not like any store I had ever seen. It was so amazing! It had a stained glass dome, champagne bar at the Tiffany&Co counter, the largest shoe department in Paris. Every major designer had a section, and there was a huge market on the basement level.”

Tara, who was fascinated with the store displays, says she learned a lot about visual merchandising by what she saw in department store windows. Topping off an already perfect trip, she met the fashion designer, Alain Lalou, who shared his challenges and accomplishments, inspiring her, and offering himself as a mentor as she embarks on her design career.


Posted: 08/18/09 @ 2:00 PM | Updated: 08/09/11 @ 9:01 AM | Permalink