Best Paris Clothing Shops: How Do You Spell 'Chic'? P-A-R-I-S
By Paige Donner
Paris Local Expert
A couple years ago I was out shopping the January sales here in Paris with a friend of mine. He happens to be 6’4". Long story short, it proved tough to find a shirt and pants that fit him. So, here on this list, you’ll find included a shop that fits the big and tall kind, as well as one that specializes in tailored dress shirts.
For kids, the French make some of the cutest children’s clothes. It’s like buying doll clothes for babies. Bonpoint is the most famous and their shop in St.-Germain-des-Prés has a selection from 0 to teen with a café terrace upstairs. And don’t be surprised if you see Baby George wearing some of these togs.
For us ladies… If I could shop at one store and one store only that would be Hermès. Or Chanel. One day I will. In fact, on a recent outing one rainy afternoon at their new(-ish) flagship St.-Germain-des-Prés boutique, my mother poked me in the ribs and whispered, Look ! Look at that raincoat ! Indeed, it was beige, understated, flawlessly designed chicness personified. That, paired with one of their silk scarves, and you really wouldn’t need to wear anything else… But for those of us who still pull of these looks on a budget, I’ve listed some great shops for men, women and children where, paired with your eye for style, you can dress like the best and demurely tell everyone, I got it in Paris, darling, where else ?!
This is a stock clearance and brand outlet shop right in the heart of the chicest Marais shopping. The boutique is set off from this charming street by way of a shaded courtyard. Because it's a clearance shop, you never quite know what you'll find there. The racks are mostly filled with women's clothing though there are some selections for men, too. Brands that you may stumble across include A.P.C., Sandro, Repetto, Chevignon, Et Vous, Zadig & Voltaire. And all at greatly discounted and marked down prices. There are several of these La Piscine boutiques in Paris (like in St.-Germain-des-Prés) but I find that this one in the Marais has the best pickings. (01 48 87 59 24)
Didier Ludot La Petite Robe Noir
Didier Ludot is the famous haute-couture vintage shop located at the Palais-Royal. He opened a complimentary boutique on the other side of the gardens, in the Galeries de Valois, that carries exclusively little black couture vintage dresses. Superb! It's true, you can't help but feel like Audrey (Hepburn, that is) when you're browsing through his racks. His taste is impeccable and you'll find only the best labels: Balenciaga, Dior, Chanel, Chloé, Hermès and etc. If you have time to shop for more than just that one exquisite black dress that will have you looking fabulous no matter where you go and with whom, then do head over to the Montpensier side of the Palais-Royal galleries for a peek into his main boutique. Yes, it's all vintage, too.
This is one of those boutiques where everything is classic. Classic coats, classic dresses, classic gloves, classic accessories. You could easily see a Grace Kelly type shopping here, above all for her basics. Weill is one of the oldest couture imagined, ready-to-wear fashion houses in Paris. It originated in the historical clothing district of rue d'Aboukir where founder Albert Weill and his wife, Anna, designed high-end quality clothing based on the couture designers' models, which they then whisked off to the department stores. That was in 1892. Voilà. A quality brand was born. Today the house's creative director, Edward Achour is recognised for his taste and pragmatism. Prior to joining Weill he was at Burberry, Escada, Ralph Lauren, Torrente and Carven. Signature touches are femininity, gracefulness and a timeless style that is at once aesthetically pleasing and easy to wear. (01 47 42 49 84)
The story of Bonpoint, the luxury children's clothing store, begins in 1975 (officially). Prior to that Marie-France Goutal, one of the five founding sisters, was a stylist at Dior. She and her sister Dominique dreamt of dressing their children in the kind of clothes they adored. BonBon was born. Their meeting with an antiquarian, a man who owned a shop called The Point, was the alchemy that created Bonpoint. 120 shops worldwide later, this children's clothing brand dominates in the highest circles (think princesses, princes and celebrity royalty). Their concept shop in St.-Germain-des-Prés really is worth stopping into. It's housed in its own self-standing townhouse. Each fabulous themed room leads to the next even more fabulous room. During the warm months, its terrace café offers a secret little spot in which to relax and repose. Toys and books complete the children's shopping scenario. (01 40 51 98 20)
Tara Jarmon boutiques appeal to the little lady in all of us. Often bejewelled with brightly colored collections, this Canadian-born designer has established herself as a solidly successful designer and boutique owner here in Paris. She first arrived after attending a few years of university in Southern California. She then enrolled at the University of Paris and the rest, as they say, is history. She now makes Paris her full time home, with her husband and three children. The boutiques are a treat. I particularly enjoy the upstairs fitting salons at the rue Faubourg St. Honoré location, but they all carry the season's collections. Nice little accessories, too, such as handbags and costume jewelry, round out the boutiques' offerings. (01 45 63 45 41)
If tailored shirts are your professional taste, this new design boutique will serve as your tailored shirt emporium. What's more, it's for men and women. The boutique's design is spacious with an all-white and black interior, allowing the shirts to be showcased. The storefront works with William Figaret who is the son of the French luxury shirt-maker, Alain Figaret. The specialty is custom-tailored dress shirts from mostly Italian fabrics by Albini and Thomas Mason. But you can also find off-the-rack shirts here too. Monograms are your personal preference, you say ? They offer these in different fonts and colors which are subtly embroidered into the shirts. Shirts are assembled in Poland and then shipped anywhere in the world, within a fortnight. (01 53 75 48 01)
I wandered into these boutiques for a solid year without having any clue that it's a sustainable fashion line. A sustainable French -- as in Made In France -- casual wear fashion line. That's saying something. The boutiques are all over Paris, from Passy to the Marais and their new collections each season have just enough originality to make you feel like you have exerted at least a bit of your personal taste on the trends of the day. Case in point, when everyone was sporting orange, Ekyog revealed its bright yellow jackets. That was nearly two years ago, well before the yellow you see everywhere today in, say, Zara shop windows. What's more, these clothes, crafted from all sustainable textiles and even some organic cottons, are built to last.
Let's face it, North Americans, for the most part, are just a bigger breed than their European counterparts. This can make shopping in Paris for a man taller than 6' a bit of a, shall we say, challenge ? Thank goodness for Capel Store. The shop specializes in sizes for Big and Tall men or, as they say in their promotional materials, Extra Tall and Extra Large men. For us coming from the US or Canada that translates to normal-sized. Brands you can find here for your guy include Boss, Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren. Their house label, Blue Capel, is aimed at a bit younger, or younger-dressing, client. A nice bonus is that they do on-site tailoring at any of their three Paris locations. (01 42 66 34 21)
Chanel has defined class and couture for over a century. Her original boutique on rue Cambon is still there and for fashionistas wanting to make a pilgrimage, is a must-see. These boutiques on Avenue Montaigne, one of Paris's most glamourous shopping streets, are big and beautiful and always crawling with the best-dressed. The one boutique is across the street from the other, which makes it convenient. The lady who started it all. Gabrielle Chanel. Aka Coco. The legend lives on under the creative direction of Karl Lagerfeld. The original boutique at 31 rue Cambon is worth the pilgrimage. History has it that the grande dame herself, Mademoiselle Chanel, used to stand at the top of the staircase and watch her clients being fitted in her creations below. Chanel never seems to stop dazzling and the house's latest dictum of "tennis shoes to the grocery store" means everyone is sporting tennis shoes and "trainers" absolutely everywhere this season. At least they are easier to walk in than stilettos on Parisian streets. (01 40 70 82 00)
The luxuriousness of Hermès. My favorite of their Parisian boutiques is the one on rue Faubourg St. Honoré, just behind the American Embassy. Why ? I find it the most welcoming, the most redolent of the Hermés signature scents of leather horse saddles, printed silk scarves and the scent I remember from childhood, Calèche. For the sake of this listing, however, I'll leave out the horse bridles and perfumes for now and focus just on the clothing. Available here are men's, women's, children's and babies' clothing in standard sizes. Need I explain that these are clothes that last a lifetime ? The silks are the finest, the cashmeres the softest, the cotton the highest weave and most vigorously brushed, the tweeds and wools sourced from the world's best suppliers. For a thoroughly different Hermès experience, check out their St.-Germain-des-Près boutique. (01 40 17 47 17)
About Paige Donner
Paige is a transplanted Parisian. She first arrived as a young bride in the early 90s to live in Paris, having uprooted herself from her native California. From then on it has been an on-again, off-again love affair with the City of Lights, one that has grown fonder over time. Paige hosts Paris GOODfood+wine and World of Wine for World Radio Paris. When not in Paris Paige often travels visiting French vineyards. She's also producer of Paris Food And Wine. As a journalist, Paige also writes for the NY Times,LA Times, Michelin Guide, Fodor's, Blackbook, Variety
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