Pictured: The Louis Vuitton flagship store on Avenue des Champs-Élysées is a must-visit for fashionistas in Paris.
One of the world’s fashion capitals, Paris is a shopping mecca—not just for haute couture but also for prêt-a-porter, vintage designer furniture, and gourmet food. Paris serves as the muse for legendary France-based designers like Alber Elbaz, Sonia Rykiel, Nicolas Ghesquière, and Karl Lagerfeld, and is also a place for inspiration for the country’s up-and-coming creatives. Here you’ll find trend-setting styles that are exported to streets around the world. Fashionistas can outfit themselves from head to toe in scene-stealing garb, with some coveted accessories to boot. Voici, some tips for your next retail adventure in the City of Light.
For high fashion, one of the most prestigious streets is the Avenue Montaigne. Home to fashion heavyweights like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Chloé, the street forms the edge of the Triangle d’Or (the city’s Golden Triangle). Another glam destination for shopping is Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Traversing the first arrondissement in the very heart of Paris, this east-west artery is lined with famous stores like Christian Louboutin, Chopard, Frette, Givenchy, Chanel and Lanvin. (For a sweet pick-me-up while shopping, pop by Ladurée at 16 Rue Royale.)
The other beloved shopping districts are Saint Germain and the Marais. In recent years, the upper Marais (third arrondissement) has reached the pinnacle of cool, with boutiques like Isabel Marant, Vanessa Bruno, Frenchtrotters and The Broken Arm attracting bourgeois and bohemians alike. On the Left Bank, the historic streets of Saint Germain are home to a treasure trove of addresses, like the A.P.C. flagship store and Hermès, occupying the former swimming pool of the Hotel Lutetia. Just across the street at 14 Rue de Sèvres is the buzzworthy new flagship for Berluti, the men’s bespoke bootmaker which is seeing a triumphant revival by LVMH. CEO Antoine Arnault has been in the headlines recently for his bold mission to rejuvenate the brand, and the store employs a team of elite shoe-makers and tailors who create bespoke, personalized attire.
Paris à la Folie
Savvy shoppers jet to Paris for the semi-annual soldes. Traditionally these sales were only allowed by law to take place twice a year: in January (les soldes d’hiver) and July (the summer sales). Nowadays stores can mark down items at any time, but the soldes are still a major event, where you can score big discounts on fashion.
Pictured: Surface to Air, 22 rue de Grenelle is a popular boutique and creative studio, dedicated exclusively to womenswear.
Tips: Get your elbows out and be prepared for a fashion frenzy. Before the sales officially kick off, Parisians have already scouted the racks of their favorite stores, identifying exact items to be purchased. Go early on a weekday, and for the smaller boutiques, make sure to call ahead to confirm store hours. (Shops in France are often closed on Sundays, and even Mondays.) Typically the discounts will increase over the two-week period of les soldes. (By the end, you’ll be able to snag items for 75 percent off.) However, there’s no guarantee on availability, so if you see something you like, better act fast.
No matter the time of year, shopping in Paris can be a good deal because the Value Added Tax (VAT) is refunded to international visitors. Fixed at 20 percent in January 2014, this consumer tax is applied to merchandise like clothes (not hotel stays). To get your refund, bring your passport while you shop so that merchants can fill out the necessary paperwork, which you file at the airport upon departure. Note that the VAT refund is only issued for purchases above 175 euros, on items to be exported (i.e. not worn in France). Designer bags will always be cheaper in France; hence brands like Louis Vuitton impose limits on the number of items purchased in-store to avoid illegal reselling abroad.
A Parisian’s Little Black Book
The best place for one-stop shopping is one of the iconic department stores, the grands magasins like Galeries Lafayette Haussmann (haussmann.galerieslafayette.com), Printemps, or Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, where you’ll find myriad brands all under one roof. Near the Hôtel de Ville, BHV has gone upscale with a recent rebranding campaign. (In the process, the store has tacked on the word “Marais” to its name.)
Pictured: Habitat 1964, the popular home furniture chain founded by Sir Terence Conran, opened at the Paris Puces in 2013.
During the holiday season, some Parisians will block off one day at a grand magasin to buy all their gifts in one fell swoop. Perks include VIP services (personal shoppers) and lovely on-site eateries, including the panoramic roof terrace at Galeries Lafayette and the Rose Bakery Tea Room at Le Bon Marché.
December witnessed the launch of the newly renovated La Grande Epicerie de Paris, the legendary food hall at Le Bon Marché, after an 18-month makeover. Luxury Travel Advisor attended the star-studded soirée, which featured free-flowing champagne and France’s best gourmet products on the menu. The new destination is designed in reference to the halles (France’s covered markets of yesteryear), celebrating the savoir-faire of artisans, and the new restaurant (La Table) has a menu by an M.O.F. chef served in a magical setting under a soaring glass atrium.
Concept stores continue to be au courant in Paris. Some of our favorites include Surface to Air, Colette, Merci, and L’Éclaireur, which has multiple boutiques across the city, including one at Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris.
Pictured: L’Eclaireur has multiple boutiques across the City of Lights, including one at Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris.
Needless to say, you can also satisfy your craving for all things vintage in the French capital. In a beautiful setting on the Palais Royal, Didier Ludot has rare and refined items from the most famous fashion houses. Flea market shopping has a long history in Paris, and brocantes (bric-a-brac markets with professional dealers) continue to take place monthly in different neighborhoods around the city. Check the website www.spam.fr/brocantes.php for the calendar of events. The Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, located at the northern edge of the city, is the biggest such market in the world, and attracts 11 million visitors a year for antiques and vintage fashion. In big news for 2013, Habitat, the popular home furniture chain founded by Sir Terence Conran, opened a vintage depot there. At the Puces, we recommend stores like Artemis et Cunegonde for retro fashion, and Le Monde du Voyage for Louis Vuitton trunks and Hermès bags.
Pictured: Restaurant La Table de La Grande Epicerie de Paris serves food in an enchanting atmosphere, under a soaring glass atrium.