SPECIAL Saint-Tropez, Iconic Destination

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Saint-Tropez ? Paul Signac made a canvas of it. The New Wave made it a muse. Brigitte Bardot made it a myth.

SPECIAL Saint-Trop’, freedom in the heart of France

It is one of the iconic destinations for summer holidays. And as recent as Saint-Tropez’s tourism boom is, the appeal of this small village goes back a long way…

“Once upon a time there was a sleeping village lying on the sand, at the end of a peninsula between the blue of a lazy sea and a big warm sun. Time had forgotten this village, living by the water, by love and by joy. These words, in the mouth of Brigitte Bardot for the film ‘Saint-Tropez Vole’ by Ghislain Dussart, in the 1970s, capture much of the charm of the corsair town.

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A charm that has lulled aesthetes all over the world – free to exist differently, as if at the end of the world. A charm that is still revealed in this beautiful book selected by Icon-Icon.

aesthetes under the spell of Saint-Tropez

If the relationship between painters and the village of Saint-Tropez deserves a whole article, it is an illustrious writer who seems to have discovered it first. It only seems so, because to read the stories, notes and accounts about Saint-Tropez, the fishing village has long been a place of passage for travellers.

One of them, in fact, was to put into words all the emotion aroused by the indescribable beauty of the place. This aesthete was none other than Guy de Maupassant. In the 19th century, he described his peregrinations in the Mediterranean in his book Sur l’eau.

Saint Tropez, Paul Signac, 1906

On board his boat Le Bel Ami, Maupassant, like many sailors at the time, stopped off at the port of Saint-Tropez – on 12 April 1888, Guy de Maupassant had just discovered a village that looked like the end of the world. He notes:

“Saint-Tropez, at the entrance to the admirable gulf formerly called the Gulf of Grimaud, is the capital of this small Saracen kingdom whose villages, built on the top of peaks which protected them from attack, are still full of Moorish houses with their arcades, their narrow windows and their interior courtyards where high palm trees have grown which now overhang the roofs.
If one penetrates on foot into the unknown valleys of this strange mountain range, one discovers an improbably wild region, without roads, without paths, even without trails, without hamlets, without houses.”

Saint-Tropez is certainly still wild. A variety of colours, perfumes, flavours and sounds… A natural profusion forming an idyllic landscape – that’s all it takes to convince Paul Signac to go there, after reading Maupassant’s text…

Saint-Tropez iconic
Saint Tropez by Paul Signac

Attracted by its light and its wild, shimmering, pungent landscape, the painter did not hesitate for a second – he invited his friends to spend the summer of 1904 there.

Among them, the painters Matisse and Bonnard. Touched by this timeless setting, the painters of the new century sketched Saint Tropez with colours and dots. Pointillism and Fauvism were literally invented here!

Saint-Tropez iconic
Saint Tropez by Matisse, 1904

Decades later, Bernard Buffet and David Hockney also drew on this grain of freedom that leads to a successful creativity. The good-natured spirit of Saint-Tropez… Picasso liked to experience it in his turn.

Saint-Tropez iconic picasso

The roads get lost, the country is isolated… Saint-Tropez gives its visitors a lot of the enthusiasm of the end of the world… Colette, in 1932, settles there. And already she perceived the coming contractions of a Saint-Tropez that was becoming an iconic destination.

She wrote in Prison et Paradis : “ Saint-Tropez a pyjama bare backs, rigged tank tops for rich tourists. 200 branded cars from 5 o’clock across the harbour. Cocktails, champagne on the yachts at the quay, and at night on the sand of the small creeks you know? – No I don’t know, I really don’t know, I know the other Saint-Tropez. It still exists, it will always exist for those who get up with the dawn.”

Saint-Tropez iconic boris vian

Those who rise with the dawn, or rather go to bed at dawn, arrive in the year of the great Colette’s death. 1954. he German-Pratins, led by Boris Vian and Juliette Gréco. Sartre and De Beauvoir. Then François Sagan… A whole part of the myth of Saint-Tropez is in fact linked to that of Saint-Germain-des-Près – the Left Bank was then in full search of radical chic, lulled by jazz and the fantasy of natural life. Saint-Tropez offered them all that.

Saint-Tropez iconic

And at the end of this world where one does not need clothes to prove one’s rank… Here where there was nothing, no tie, no shoes. In Saint-Tropez, one walked around bare-chested and light-hearted. It is hardly surprising then that Saint-Tropez has become a place dressed in fantasies and myths. Myths which, in turn, have contributed to making Saint-Tropez a myth in itself…

Saint-Tropez iconic bardot

After them, Saint-Tropez will never be the same village – the BB bomb attracts the crowds. Existentialist icons, like in Ibiza, attract the jet set and rock stars after them.

Since 1950, the presence of peacocks has also been noticed… A sign, perhaps, that Saint-Tropez is going to become the place to be for social comedy, which can be summed up in three words: seeing and being seen.

Saint-Tropez, the Icon of the Jet Set

The myth of Saint-Tropez owes much to Roger Vadim and Brigitte Bardot. In 1956, they made the village and the beach of Pampelonne the location for the scandalous and iconic film ‘Et Dieu… Créa La Femme’.

These picturesque landscapes were so attractive that Saint-Tropez was used as a setting for films that became legendary…

In the meantime, the impression of BB in Saint-Tropez on the spectators is such that the Saint Tropez vogue is launched! People now come from all over France, and even from all over the world, to follow in the footsteps of the woman who petulantly embodies the Tropezian art of living! It’s because the landscapes of Saint-Tropez lend themselves to simple and disturbed life, like no other.

Here was freedom. The social life was not like that of Cannes. One dresses up, one does not dress down. One is free in Saint-Tropez.

Saint-Tropez iconic

In 1959, Henri Salvador sang about love. Five years later, the fashion for the monokini came to life. People wander barefoot through its narrow streets to show their freedom of spirit without shoes. You can cruise its waters in Riva boats. You can play petanque with the locals on the Place des Lices. But above all, you can enjoy a festive atmosphere, without limits.

Saint-Tropez iconic

Eddie Barclay attracts the crème de la crème at his memorable all-nighters in his Villa du Cap Camarat.

Saint-Tropez has many charming and prestigious villas. One of them, perched in the Oumède district, was the setting for a legendary film. La Piscine’, starring Alain Delon, Romy Schneider and Jane Birkin, made Saint Tropez the eternal icon of the new aristocracy of cool.

Saint-Tropez iconic alain delon

A luxury so detached that Dior made it the image of its famous perfume Dior Eau Sauvage. With Delon as a complex beauty!

In the 1970s, at the Byblos Hotel, Bianca Perez married Mick Jagger in a white suit by Yves Saint Laurent. Iconic. At Club 55, Grace Jones, Elton John and Cher are the legends of the Tropezian nights.

It is this legend that Icon-Icon proposes to discover through a series of very beautiful books that plunge into the epic of Saint-Trop’.

And today ? We dance with the same lightness at the Caves Du Roy. The beach at Pampelonne has regained all the voluptuousness of its wild luxury thanks to Philippe Starck for La Réserve Ramatuelle. Then there is the Sénéquier. The guarantor of Saint Tropez’s brazenness, since 1887. Where you can enjoy a Tropezian tart (patented in 1972 by its inventor, the Pole Alexandre Micka, and named by Brigitte Bardot), nougat or an iced coffee, sitting next to Kate Moss, Rihanna or Jacques Chirac.

This is the essence of the myth of Saint-Tropez – a village that has become an epicentre where art icons, stars, onlookers and the presidents of the Republic rub shoulders. .

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