Cheryl Shops Paris...and Antwerp...and Amsterdam
People go to Paris to see priceless works of art, eat fine cuisine, see the famous monuments, and so on. I did all of these things, but, first and foremost, I went to Paris to shop. Unfortunately for me, I picked the week in which the Euro soared to all-time highs against the dollar to do so. So while Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, et al. were out of the question, I did manage to find several awesome places to indulge without totally breaking the bank. Thankfully, Paris is a completely fabulous city in terms of fashion--every woman is so gamine and chic (and thin!), you can't help but be inspired.

Most of what I know about French contemporary designers comes from the oft-overlooked "designer exclusives" section at La Redoute, which is a French mail-order catalogue owned by PPR (which owns Gucci, YSL, Balenciaga, etc.)--and that knowledge actually came in handy. Antik Batik is a boho-chic chain, kind of like a smaller, more focused Anthropologie; like many of the stores I'm mentioning, it has locations throughout the city, but the one I visited was in St. Germain. Et Vous has a lot of stores, and while their prices were a bit more palatable, I found their clothes a bit too conservative for my taste--think of them as the Banana Republic of France. Vanessa Bruno and Isabel Marant are two of France's top contemporary lines, and while the former is getting easier to find in the states, the latter is still few and far between. But I'd say keep looking in the states, because both stores were exorbitantly expensive, although they (thankfully) also have secondary lines, Athé and Etoile, respectively. Same goes for Paul & Joe and Paul & Joe Sister. I liked what I saw in the window of Sandro, but unfortunately, the Marais store was totally mobbed with Asian tourists, so I didn't go in, and the one close to our hotel was always closed when I walked by. Wasn't meant to be, I suppose. Zadig & Voltaire, Manoush, and BA&SH were three of my favorites--all have an effortlessly cool rock-chick vibe...which of course comes at a price. I had the best luck at Comptoir des Cottoniers, where I bought a skirt, a dress, and a new winter coat (pictured here--très chic, non?); I think the fact that a lot of the pieces are cotton helps to keep the prices in a somewhat-affordable range.

Chain-store-wise, I found, as I usually do in Europe, that Zara is far better than in the U.S., and, strangely, so was the Gap! MW wanted jeans and I was going to buy their sublime Balenciaga-knockoff jodhpurs, but we figured we'd see another Gap in Antwerp or Amsterdam. Um, wrong. We spent the rest of the trip kicking ourselves over this. Oh well.

One of my favorite stores overall was Abou d'Abi Bazaar, a well-stocked, multi-label shop in the Marais, with prices definitely in the affordable range. I got a top/dress there--I call it that because I can't still quite figure out which it's supposed to be, although I'm guessing that it's a dress, as everything I bought in France was on the short side. You can't miss Colette, the groundbreaking "lifestyle store" on Rue St.-Honoré (our hotel was conveniently located right across the street). Also worth a visit in the Marais is ethe Mariage Frères store, which, to a tea-drinker like me, is like Mecca. I spent 76 Euros on tea there, then fretted that I didn't buy enough (although I am happier to report that this was the one thing I bought that was actually cheaper in France). Another must-see is Deyrolle, a store featuring all manner of garden implements, instructional posters, and stuffed dead animals. And while I love to make fun of MW and his love of bookstores, I have to admit that Shakespeare & Co., an English-language bookstore in the Latin Quarter, was pretty damn cool, especially since I got to meet Alicia Drake, author of The Beautiful Fall, there (and I highly recommend the book--an account of Paris fashion in the '70s). And of course no trip to Paris is complete without at stop at Monoprix, a grocery store/pharmacy/clothing store in the vein of Target, but far more upscale--I loaded up on La Roche-Posay skincare, Elnett hairspray, and striped socks (a huge trend in Paris).

For the fancy stuff, you can start out on the Champs-Elysees for the Louis Vuitton flagship, Guerlain, and the Sephora (like Zara, I felt like Sephora, especially in terms of fragrance selection, was far better in France), then hit Avenue Montaigne, Avenue Georges V, and Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré for the rest. Or, if you fancy yourself a bobo (bourgeois bohemian, of course), Rue de Grenelle in St. Germain had YSL Rive Gauche, Frederic Malle, Iris (the upscale shoe chain), and a host of other ritzy stores. The three big department stores are Le Bon Marché on the Left Bank and Printemps and Galaries Lafayette on the Right. Of course, we didn't have time to visit any of these, because we spent several hours on our last day looking for the near-mythical APC Surplus store...which was not located on Rue Madame (as noted on Lucky's Paris shopping guide) but on Rue des Fleurs, and when we finally got there...it was closed. Agony.

As for Antwerp and Amsterdam, we didn't do much shopping there. Antwerp, which is home of the Antwerp Six (Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, and Marina Yee), is kind of a kooky city, and in terms of shopping, it's either super-high-end boutiques or high-street stores. So, hey, I got some great stuff at Mango! I do recommend hitting the bookstore at MoMu (the fashion museum)--I got an awesome book on 20th-century fashion icons. Antwerp also has some of the crappiest weather ever, so by the time we got to Amsterdam, I developed a cold and thus didn't have much stamina for shopping. Our hotel was located amongst the quirky "nine streets" shopping area, which had a lot of cool-looking vintage stores; the fancy stuff is on PC Hoofstraat, near the museums. Since I spent a lot of time in bed, however, I wholeheartedly recommend our hotel, the Pulitzer.

I'd like to end my Paris shopping guide with two points. One is that clothes in Europe run all over the place size-wise, just like in the U.S.--I bought several size 38s, some 40s, and my coat was a 42--although in a lot of stores in Paris, they only put the 36s and 38s (sizes 4 and 6 in the U.S.) on the racks, so if you need something bigger, you have to ask for it. The second is that in my 10 days in Europe, I did not see one woman wearing high-waisted nor wide-leg jeans--it was all skinny, all the time. So I'm taking that as my cue to put off wide-leg jeans until the spring. Because, hey, I've pretty much blown my fall shopping budget anyway!

3 comments

Jane said...

I just came back from Paris for vacation as well, and like you consulted the "lucky shopping guide". Wasn't able to find the APC surplus store, but I lucked out @ Vanessa Bruno and Le Bon Marche!

Anonymous said...

I did not know there was an APC surplus store, and your post wanted to make me jump on a plane to Paris right away. But perhaps that won't be necessary...this month's Lucky claims that an APC surplus store is opening/has opened in Williamsburg on Grand Street. Hopefully Lucky got the details right this time! Has anyone checked it out yet?

Cheryl said...

anonymous, now that you mention it, I do remember The Shophound reporting that there would indeed be an APC surplus store in Williamsburg. Here's the post:

http://www.theshophound.typepad.com//the_shophound/2007/06/apc_surplus_sto.html

I haven't heard any official word about the store opening yet, but when I do, I will certainly post about it!