You can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty, and irresistible for the rest of your life.
– COCO CHANEL
The old guard of fashion. From Haute Couture to Prêt-à-porter; the language of fashion is undoubtedly French. It was Louis XIV that started it; he required all who attended his new court at Versailles, to be dressed in appropriate fashions. Fast-forward to the 20th Century and it was Parisian designers such as Coco Chanel (in the 1920s) and Dior (after the second world war), who created new looks that literally changed the way the world dressed.
Today it is still one of the best cities in the world to indulge in some retail therapy. But you do need to know where to go. If you’re thinking the Champs-Elysées; think again. It lost it’s magic in the 90s and went the way of Oxford Street. It does seem to be turning a corner with the return of some flagship stores with quirks; Abercrombie & Fitch have daytime-clubbing, Levis’s have art installations and Banana Republic offer free personal shoppers.
We think you can do better; a lot better…
Particularly if you employ help. We recommend a tour with Chic Shopping Paris. Their bilingual shopping guides will provide you with secret addresses and shopping tips; the ins-&-outs that only a good Parisian friend could share with you. There are 8 different tours to choose from; whether you want to find high end designer labels that have been “gently” used or visit charming boutiques in Marais, these are the people to show you how it’s done.
If you prefer to explore alone here are some good tips for you.
1. The Canal Saint-Martin district has been creating a real buzz over the last few years, and with good reason. Once a down-at-heel, seedy neighborhood, it now plays host to emerging artists, designers, and lesser-known brands for fashionistas looking for hip alternatives to the Champs-Elysées.
The clothing and decoration brand Antoine & Lili has one of its largest stores, you won’t be able to miss it with its green, yellow, and pink façade! Just round the corner on Rue Beaurepaire, shoppers will find more approachable boutiques to those on the Ave Montaigne. There are cool French brands such as IKKS and The Kooples. There is also the workshop and shop of Liza Korn where you can choose from her own original creations or selected brands she has chosen. Or she can create something just for you.
2. It’s hard to talk shopping adventures in Paris without mentioning the mighty Marché Aux Puces, the flea market, at Saint-Ouen. Reputedly, this is the largest market in Europe. Fifteen separate markets carry some of the highest-end vintage designs, home decor and antiques. Be warned, this is a true test of patience. As you struggle through stalls filled with knockoff sunglasses and bedazzled jeans you may be tempted to flee the flea market. But once you’re in the heart of it, under the covered portions further inward, you will feel as if you have left the city completely and the diamonds emerge from the rough. Don’t be afraid to haggle! Don’t appear too interested and always walk away before you buy. This is the true test of their bottom line; if they will let you go or accept your last offer.
3.Finally, do as much research as possible before you go. Make sure you like the Invitations to Private Sales Facebook Page, which will get you in to some fabulous events. Here are some great websites to help you along the way… Haute Marias BlogSpot will guide you to some great vintage shops in the Marais. The Shopping In Paris website gives a great summary of where to go for what. Oh, and print out Time Out’s 100 Best Shops In Paris.
Where To Stay? It doesn’t get much more glamorous than this Deco Decadance Apartment in the Marais available through One Fine Stay. Perfect for a girls weekend away. If you would prefer a hotel we have some great options listed in previous articles; click here and here.