I've visited Paris many times, but not once has it just been for pleasure. As one of the major fashion hubs, it's a regular spot for editors to go back and forth from for various things (interviews, shows, events and so on), but I've literally never had a great deal of time to actually stroll through the city in the way I've often dreamt of.
For example, I've not seen the Eiffel Tower apart from when I whizzed by in a cab, I haven't visited the Moulin Rouge, and I've never made the most of the extraordinary shopping options because I'm more likely to be running late, hungry and prioritising finding a croque monsieur. So with PFW drawing to a close, I've made a resolution: I will go to Paris for a holiday, and I will shop to my heart's content. Maybe I'll even need to go solo…
Many stores, franchises and brands are now available globally via the internet, but there's still something magical to be said for a shopaholic experiencing some local action. Whether it's that you can pick up a niche homegrown designer label that hasn't yet exploded on Instagram, or it's simply the thrill and memory attached with buying something exciting in a special place, the below itinerary covers a lot of ground.
To help me in my quest for finding the coolest spots to shop dans Paris, I tapped local talent to get the inside scoop. Laura Gauthier Petit is the founder of up-and-coming French fashion label Fête Impériale Paris—a slow-fashion brand with a unique, super-elegant aesthetic.
You'll enjoy the botanical prints and whimsical dresses as much as her hot tips in her home town. "You can find any style you want in Paris," Gauthier tells me, "From amazing vintage pieces, great young and ethical designer pieces to luxury houses." Keep reading to see her top destinations when shopping in the City of Lights…
THE AREA TO HEAD TO (IF YOU'RE SHORT FOR TIME)
As with many short or weekend getaways, you can sometimes feel pushed for time when it comes to shopping (galleries, museums, restaurants and general touristy experiences tend to take up the largest portions of your day). So if you're in Paris and on a tight timeline, Laura recommends heading straight for Le Haut Marais, aka the Upper Marais. The Upper Marais is in the third arrondissement of the capital city and is supposedly where many silver-screen stars reside. It's all packed solidly with the coolest contemporary stores, like one of the fashion pack's favourite lifestyle pitstops, Merci.
THE BEST DEPARTMENT STORES
The department stores in Paris may not be as supersized as those in America, or even in comparison to the gargantuan Selfridges in London, but they are tightly edited and full of charm. Should the Brexit negotiations shift unfavourably for our exchange rate, it would be wise to invest in French and European brands when you're on their turf (with the potential tax increase, buying in situ could well be cheaper than importing to the UK). Laura has a couple of top department stores she'd tell shoppers about. Firstly, Le Printemps Haussmann, as it is reportedly "great for finding new up and coming brands, and for a more international selection."
Le Printemps Haussmann: 64 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris
Visit Printemps for more information.
Laura Gauthier's second option is less fashion-focused, although many people I know still like to hit up the rails for clothes and accessories. "I go to Le Bon Marché for its food, fragrances and lingerie selection," she says. "Bon Marché also hosts some interesting art installations throughout the year," according to Gauthier, so be sure to check the schedule of what's going on in case there's something to fill the cultural void when you've spent two hours in the shoe department… Le Bon Marché in the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) area of Paris was actually the world's first department store, opening its doors in 1852. The tiled escalators have been made famous over the years and act as an ideal Instagram backdrop today.
Le Bon Marché: 24 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris
Visit the online version of Le Bon Marché, 24 Sèvres, for more information.
THE BEST INDEPENDENT FASHION STORES
When Laura told me about Encré, I was instantly intrigued because I had never heard of it before. A scroll through the brand's pretty edgy Instagram account revealed one key detail: Timothée Chalamet is a fan. Plus it's based in Le Marais. This means easy-breezy shopping and a chance of spotting Timothée, so it sounded promising. According to Laura, Encré is a "gender-neutral young design brand that creates embroideries inspired by the master of painting art (Van Gogh and Matisse, for example). We collaborated together to create outfits for the band L'Impératrice. Designer Charlie Faron mixes streetwear with art—you'll find the perfect hoodie with an artistic twist."
Encré: 11 Rue du Pont Aux Choux, 75003, Paris
Visit Encré for more info.
Of course, it would be remiss of us to not mention Laura Gauthier's own boutique, Fête Impériale. "I created a salon where customers can come, have a tea, discover our universe, the atelier, how I select the fabrics and try the collections on," she says. "We can also do made to measure garments for specific occasions." Brides-to-be and women with major parties to attend, you've been warned!
Fête Impériale: 28 rue du Roi de Sicile, 75004 Paris
Visit Fête Impériale to shop the collection online and get more info.
THE BEST FLEA MARKET
Any thrifting fan worth their salt knows of Parisian flea market legends. There are really wonderful things to be found (for fashion, interiors and more), but you often need to travel right to the very edges of the city on the exact day at an exact time to really win big. It's a dedicated affair, so it's helpful to have the destination Laura would recommend.
"Les Puces, Porte de St Ouen, for furniture and homeware," she shares. "It's also great to find great archive pieces from Yves Saint Laurent, Claude Montana and other designers who are no longer with us." Les Puces is the part of the flea market that is closest to the Metro station Porte de Clignancourt (end of the #4 line), so it's a trek, but at least you can haul your finds back easily! I'd suggest reading up ahead of time—this Culture Trip starter's guide to these markets is super helpful.
THE BEST LIFESTYLE STORES
You probably know by now that the beauty team at Who What Wear loves to visit Parisian pharmacies (the French girls are so lucky with their scientifically-led, affordable drugstore products), but Laura has an additional go-to beauty junkies should add to the list tout suite. If you're done in Le Marais and moving on, skip over to the 2nd arrondissement and visit Nose Paris. It's Laura's favourite place to find original home scents, candles, new fragrance brands and perfumes. This store is described as a "perfumes and beauty curator" on Instagram, and its brand roll call certainly lives up to our high expectations—from all of the Frédéric Malle scents we've ever desired through to super-luxe skincare from Susanne Kaufmann.
Nose Paris: 20 Rue Bachaumont, 75002, Paris
Visit Nose Paris for more information.
If homewares and interiors are more your jam, you need to know about the super-chic lifestyle store where Laura likes to buy pieces to furnish her spaces: Bensimon. This concept store covers everything from tennis trainers to cool sofas, and its offshoot—Gallery Bensimon—is well worth checking out for contemporary design and the kind of decorative objects that make a house a home. You'll be tempted by everything here—from the cute vases to the jumbo, sculptural lighting fixtures and unusual artwork on offer. There are multiple branches of the Bensimon store, but it's Rue des Francs-Bourgeois that Laura recommends. Fortunately for your feet, that's also in the Marais area.
Bensimon: 8 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 75003, Paris
Gallery Bensimon: 111 Rue de Turenne, 75003, Paris
Visit Bensimon for more information about both locations and to shop online.
THE BEST AFFORDABLE STORES
Laura heads to Monsieur Paris for its well-priced "poetic handmade" jewellery. From intricate little pendant medallion necklaces through to fine stacking rings, we're also glad we've discovered this little gem. The jewellery is handmade in Paris, and you can visit its boutique workshop in one swoop when you're already in Le Marais. Ta-da.
Monsieur Paris: 53 Rue Charlot, 75003 Paris
Visit Monsieur Paris to shop online as well as find more info on the store.
Last, but by no means least, it's the French boutique store an in-house brand that we've seen rising through the ranks during the past round of fashion shows in Paris, The Frankie Shop. The jumpsuit (worn by Erika Boldrin, pictured above) has been a recent hit. Laura was a fan before the rest of us caught up: "One of my favourite multibrand stores is The Frankie Shop," she says.
Again, it is in the Marais district, so it's worth spending some time to check out its eponymous line as well as the other cult labels the store stocks, such as Rodebjer and Ganni. It's not as affordable as a high-street store, but when Paris is all about luxury, it's pretty reasonable in comparison.
The Frankie Shop: 14 Rue Saint-Claude, 75003 Paris
Visit The Frankie Shop to buy online and find out more.
Next up, the coolest European high-street buys.