So maybe that is a teeny tiny over-statement. I am not a philistine, whatever my blog may have led you to believe. I know full well that Paris is crammed full of more art galleries, museums, magnificent architecture, and breathtaking parks than even the most determined of tourists could possibly visit. I mean, I feel that just by walking to work through the old cobbled streets of St Germain I’m absorbing more than enough culture to make up for watching (ok, re-watching) the first 2 seasons of Gossip Girl in pretty much one sitting.
Don’t get me wrong, I love spending an afternoon wandering around a gallery or visiting an exhibition. This is partially because voluntarily doing a bit of culture now and again allows me to feel SO smug and grown-up afterwards, but I genuinely do enjoy it. However, being honest, in my pre-Paris fantasies it was the Marc Jacobs Spring/Summer collection at Colette I saw myself admiring, not the ancient stained-glass windows of Notre Dam.
Until now, and even after visiting New York quite a few times, I have always maintained that London has THE BEST shopping in the world. I would still never, ever dream of knocking my beloved hometown and there is even a little, overly-patriotic part of me that still wants to say that London just has the best EVERYTHING. But after experiencing the Parisian shopping facilities, I just know that wouldn’t be true.
The exchange rate might not be ideal and European sizes are unbelievably confusing but despite these drawbacks, if you are lucky enough to be in Paris it is SO worth sacrificing a day or two of sight-seeing to really hit the shops. Those ancient columns aren’t going to disappear. But that last pair of Alexander Wang peep-toe booties in your size just might.
Sadly, what with work and fashion week and after-parties I have not had quite as much time to shop as I’d hoped. It’s a tough life, I know. But still, with the limited free time I’ve had, I think I’ve managed to do a pretty epic tour of the best Parisian Boutiques.
Here are a few of my favourites. Enjoy!
When I stumbled across ‘The Kooples’ on my first saturday morning in Paris I couldn’t believe my eyes. Imagine a chicer, Parisian version of every London fashionista’s high street favourite, All Saints. That should give you an idea of the quirky treats that this avant-guard French label has in store. The Kooples’ signature style has a sort of grungey glamour (‘glunge’ if you will) thing going on that is not unlike what we have seen on the catwalks at Balmain – and revisited in our dreams – for the last few seasons. Think sharp shoulders, fierce stud detailing, exposed zips, and dashes of sequins and lace. My favourite piece has to be their black leather shoulder back with the studded base. It may be a slight rip off of the lust-worthy Alexander Wang ‘coco’ bag, but as it’s a good £500 cheaper and still utterly gorgeous, who the hell cares. I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures inside the store (here or practically ANYWHERE else in Paris, sorry but why!?) so check it out on their website at http://www.thekooples.com. Apparently The Kooples may be coming to London soon… And you can bet that I’ll be first in line for their flagship store on it’s opening morning!
Maje and Sandro
French labels Maje and Sandro are two of my favourite up-and-coming brands that have only fairly recently started to become well known and easily found in London. Both have fairly similar styles. I love that their pieces are on-trend and modern but at the same time still manage to be pretty, girlish and extremely wearable. Their prices may not be all together bank balance friendly, but I really think it’s always SO worth paying a little more and getting something well made. Topshop may endlessly churn out affordable catwalk copies, but they tend not to last more than a season at best. However, you can guarantee that any piece by Sandro or Maje is beautifully cut, excellent quality… and will give you endless happiness just by hanging in your wardrobe looking good enough to eat.
Now I know that you can find Sandro or Maje concessions in Selfridges, Harrods, Harvey Nicks etc, but it really is just SO much nicer going to the brand’s own boutique. Firstly, there will obviously be a much, much wider selection of pieces in a shop solely devoted to Sandro or Maje (of which there are many in Paris). Also, in said store you will be fawned over by sales assistants whose purpose is to help you find that Maje/Sandro piece that you just can’t resist. They know the collection inside out and have such a vested (AKA concession related) interest in you finding something irresistible that they are delighted to run around pulling out pieces you might like and searching for different sizes. This without a doubt, makes for a much nicer shopping than the London alternative: battling your way through Selfridges and scouring every single floor for the one or two rails devoted to the label in question, just to find that that inevitably the item you covet has sold out in your size.
When I think of Claudie Pierlot in comparison to another French brand like The Kooples, whilst both seem to positively ooze chicness, their styles could not be more different. You will certainly not find studded detailing, fierce heels or exposed zips ANYWHERE at this smart, navy-fronted boutique! Claudie Pierlot is all about classic cuts, clean lines, beautiful fabrics and put-togetherness. Ever so slightly preppy, more than slightly nautical, maybe a little on the conservative side but still I could not be more in love with this brand. I was initially attracted to the boutique by the generous use of the breton stripe I glimpsed through the window. After spending a good hour in there I came to the conclusion that with or without my stripe fetish I would still rate the Claudie Pierlot boutique as definitely worth a visit.Paris doesn’t really seem to do high-end high-street like London, so Claudie’s prices are admittedly a little steep. However if you want to splash some cash on a piece that you will hang on to for a few seasons to come I would recommend heading here as whatever you purchase will be timelessly elegant. That body-con, shoulder-padded black lace number may be spot on right now, but you may look back and wonder why you chose it over a tastefully cut shift dress by Claudie Pierlot that could earn it’s keep over the years to come.
56 Rue de Saintonge, 75003
If it’s ‘one off’ boutiques that your after, I recommend heading to the 3rd arrondissment. There you will find an ENDLESS supply of stylish little stores stocking every designer under the sun, from the big names we all know and love, to the very latest imports by the hottest design grads from all over the world. Dolls is a perfect example of this. The main focus of the boutique is that it supports and sells up-and-coming French, Danish and Spanish designers such as Riannedewitte, Leaf and Ambre Babzoe. However you can also find a few long established brands such as Sass and Bide, Citizens of Humanity and Hoss Intropia. Definitely worth a visit if you want to go home with a piece by someone who none of your friends have heard of (oh the satisfaction)… or if you just want to pick up a good pair of jeans.
124 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003
Galerie Simone boasts an impressively varied selection of designers. You can find pieces by largely unheard of new labels such as La Parigote, Marcello Toshi and Daydream Nation and also established brands like Something Else and Vivienne Westwood. I found that Galerie Simone’s stock had a slight urban hippie feel to it. Not really my style and most definitely NOT a place to go if you want to invest in something classic that you’ll treasure for seasons to come. But if your after a pair of the patterned ‘traveller pants’ that have (to my disgust) been everywhere this season, then definitely make a trip to Galerie Simone. At least that way you wont find yourself wearing the same ethnic printed monstrosities as half of Oxford Street.
Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003
Mere steps away from Galerie Simone, Bazaar is yet ANOTHER lovely boutique that has a great selection of both mainstream and up-and-coming designers. It’s seemingly endless stock includes pieces from Little Marcel, Used Jeans, Majestic, Emma Blues, Antik Batik and Beatrice Boyle for Browns Focus. It seems to me that French style falls largely into two catagories: chic, groomed and high-fashion and more avant-guard, effortless elegance (think ethical fibres and rough hems). Bazaar definitely falls into the latter camp, but it’s urban hippie feel is more Isabel Marant than Gap-year-tragedy so overall I’m a big fan of this store. I had never really come across the label ‘Majestic’ before and thank god I have now, as their beautiful cashmere blend tee’s are right up there with James Perse and Splendid’s!
Shine is, without a doubt, my favourite boutique in Paris, and possibly the entire world. The list of brands it stocks pretty much reads as a whose-who of the most covetable labels around. Every single item of clothing within Shine’s exquisitely decorated walls is guaranteed to be SO on-trend and lovely that it would take a will of steel (or alternatively just really bad taste) to leave empty-handed. You can find pieces by Acne, Chloe, Richard Nicoll, Helmut Lang, Alexander Wang and Stella McCartney to name but a few!
As you can imagine I was positively salivating the moment I entered the store, and of course I spent the best part of 3 hours browsing it’s rails and trying on virtually everything there. I also found the assistants attentive and really quite warm and friendly. Totally unlike the stereotypically self-important and cooly snobbish characters often found in up-market boutiques. To top it off they also have the most luxurious ‘cabines de essayer’ with rich carpeting, sliding doors and extremely flattering lighting! If you have time to visit one boutique in Paris, I recommend that its Shine. Making a few purchases there could basically bankrupt you (at least in my case it has), but trust me, when you wear those Acne jeans or Helmut Lang leather jacket for the first time, living off pot noodles for the next month will seem SO worth it.
A.P.C and Isabel Marant
Rue de Saintonge, 75003
No explanation necessary!
I really don’t think that any sane person would need an explanation as to why paying a visit/ paying homage to divine labels A.P.C and Isabel Marant in their very own Parisian boutiques is SO worth it! But just in case, I’m going to give one. Let’s be honest, Isabel Marant’s designs are lovely in any capacity. Be it the odd piece in a Westbourne Grove boutique or a picture of her latest catwalk show gracing the pages of Vogue. However, the collections are definitely at their best (and the same goes for my other French favourite, A.P.C) when perfectly displayed in a spacious boutique solely devoted to them! The A.P.C and Isabel Marant stores may not exactly be quirky, one-off ‘finds’ but they are examples of French style at it’s very best. I think that paying them a visit is a cultural activity on par with visiting the Louvre and therefore an essential part of any Parisian excursion.
Love Ella. X