The Paris Shopping Olympics

Featured image
Café de Flore after the rain.

I had heard nightmarish stories about Paris in the lead up to the Summer Olympics. But my rugs needed to be replaced, and I had to find a club chair and some other bits and pieces for our apartment. Immediately, I learned of one bit of Olympian collateral damage to Paris — the price of hotels. Thankfully, I found a very well-located apartment on Airbnb and decided to go for it.

Friends had warned me that the traffic in Paris was another Olympic hurdle and that many parts of the city were shut down already (even though the games do not start until late July). They were right. My driver picked me up at CDG, and it took two hours to get to the rue du Bac on the left bank. Normally it takes 45 minutes to an hour. Our poor driver was not happy, either. I dropped off my bags, collected the keys to the apartment, and headed out.

Lobster, Sole and Shellfish on the rue du Bac
Lobster, sole and shellfish on the rue du Bac.

I decided to have dinner chez moi that night. The rue du Bac is packed with all kinds of stores. A dinner of Norman sole would be perfect, and a local poissonerie had extremely fresh fish. I didn’t look at the price and discovered that it was 78 euros a kilo after I paid for it. My friends later informed me that I had walked into the most expensive fish purveyor in town. But it was delicious.

The Eiffel Tower From La Place d'Alma
The Eiffel Tower from La Place d’Alma.

The next morning, I headed to the right bank to meet a friend for lunch. The weather was dreadful; cold and rainy. It was so bad it made the morning news. And I discovered what it is like to get around Paris on the metro when one of the main stations, Place de la Concorde, is closed. I had also been warned not to take taxis. The leaden skies seemed to match the mood of Paris.

The Terraces Were Empty in Paris
The terraces were empty.

The headlines on the news declared that the restaurant owners in Paris were unhappy, too, as no one was able to dine outdoors. Marius et Janette is normally packed, but it was so cold that there were no customers on this day. Nonetheless, our lunch at a cozy Japanese restaurant close to the Champs-Élysées was a delicious (and indoor) experience.

A New Department In Galleries Lafayette
A new department in Galeries Lafayette.

I needed to go to a department store to pick up some thing. I had heard that Galeries Lafayette had opened a vintage clothing department to offer more circular fashion. And indeed they had a very large one. Many different vendors had concessions. I quite liked this counter that pieced together filing cabinets, stereo equipment and other oddities.

One of The Many Vendors
One of the many vendors.

There are a lot of vintage stores in Paris. The French have a waste-not want-not attitude. Vintage can be inexpensive ready-to-wear, or pieces from famous designers. This vendor offered a bit higher end selection than most of the others.

Galleries Lafayette, Blvd. Haussmann

The Opera All Covered Up in Paris
The Opera Garnier all covered up.

I decided to take a bus back home. But that was easier said than done. Not only is Paris disrupted for the games, but miles of streets are torn up for repairs and for upgrades (gas lines). Streets around the Opera Garnier were reduced to one lane, and even the Opera itself was scaffolded for repairs.

Bright Looks With A Bobo Touch
Bright looks with a Bobo touch at Brand Bazar.

Brand Bazar brightened things up a bit as it’s always full of looks. This season, again, everything was bohemian with ethnic touches. Caftans, peasant blouses and more. Not my favorite look but en vogue, I suppose.

Brand Bazar, 33 rue de Sèvres

Clothing That Is Close To Custom in Paris
Clothing that is close to custom at Ken Okada.

Ken Okada is a Japanese designer who has a small elegant shop near the rue de Grenelle. Intricate shirts are his specialty. Small details make the clothing special.

Ken Okada, 1, bis, rue de la Chaise

Summer Prints and Straw Bags
Summer prints and straw bags at Allison.

The next day, I decided to shop in my ‘hood, on the rue du Bac. It was still very cold and gray. Allison is a neighborhood store filled with contemporary-priced clothing. And this boutique too, was filled with boho looks. Again caftans and peasant blouses filled the shelves.

Allison, 65 rue du Bac

Fashion For The Feet in Paris
Fashion for the feet at Dore Dore.

Close by was an itty-bitty boutique filled with socks, stocking, and other accessories. Paris is known for having stores that are extremely specific. There are also gloves, umbrellas, slippers and more tucked around the store.

Dore Dore, 77 rue du Bac

Welcome To A Tasting
Welcome to a tasting!

Ryst-Dupeyron-Vintage and Company has a large selection of wines. They also display them on the street. I wonder how this would go over in New York, and how long it would take before the bottles vanished.

Ryst-Dupeyron -Vintage and Company, 79 rue du Bac

Where To Get The Classic French Drivers and Loafers
Fairmont is the place to get those classic French drivers and loafers.

Parisiens live in loafers. Fairmont offers a very large selection of boots, loafers, drivers, and even slippers. I am partial to their fur-lined leather ones.

Fairmont, 94 rue du Bac

A New Branch Of Sezane
A new branch of Sézane.

Sézane, a very trendy French label, has opened a boutique on the rue du Bac. The store was packed. The brand calls its boutiques “apartments.” This one was full of clothing and things for the home.

Sézane, 122 rue du Bac

Fashion For All Aspects Of Life
Fashion for all aspects of life at Le Bon Marché.

I then headed for Le Bon Marché, a fashionable department store on the rue du Sèvres. The designer, Sarah Lavoine, creates clothing in addition to producing a full line of furniture and home accessories. They are testing new ways of merchandising their store, too. This visually interesting display located on the women’s fashion floor mixed decor with clothing.

Le Bon Marché, 24 rue de Sèvres

A Repurposed Building As An Anchor
A repurposed building as an anchor.

1 June is La Nuit Blanche in Paris when cultural events (free of charge) are held all over the city. Friends of mine had reserved space for a dance performance, organized by Fondation Fiminco, in a new arts center in Bobigny-Pantin (the city is busy building other arts centers on the outskirts of Paris). A neighboring building housed a DJ, so the crowd could dance the night away.

 Fondation Fiminco, 43, rue de la Commune de Paris,  Romainville

Dancing In The Spotlight
Dancing in the spotlight.

Blanca Li choreographed the performance, and mixed inorganic-type material visuals with the dancing. The audience stood to watch the dancers as they interacted with the screens.

The Audience Moves WIth The Dancers
The audience moved with the dancers.

The dancers moved around a series of four sets, located on different floors. The performance lasted for about 45 minutes and was given several times over the course of the night. If you are ever in Paris on June first, be sure to look and see what events are scheduled. It’s a real treat.

All Sorts Of Puces At Clignancourt
All sorts of puces at Clignancourt.

The next morning I headed to the Puces, or flea market, at the Porte de Clignancourt. The skies were grey, but there was no rain for a change. I love the Puces, but I had not been there for five years. When you come out of the metro, there are rows of informal stalls full of inexpensive clothing, sneakers and jewelry.

A Store Full Of Art Deco Pieces
A store full of Art Deco pieces.

As you walk up the rue du Rosiers, there are actual antique shops. Art deco and furniture from the 1940s to the 1970s is the most sought after. There was very little “brown furniture,” French country, and 18th and 19th century to be found.

The Entrance To The Paul Bert Serpette
The entrance to the Paul Bert Serpette.

There are many different markets in the area. I have always found le Paul Bert to be good for furniture, which is what I was looking for. The market has both stalls that line the allees, as well as some in a huge building. Walking the Puces is always an adventure as you never know what you will find.

The Allées With Plenty of Finds
The allées with plenty of finds.

On this particular trip, there were lots of metal sculptures like the two giraffes above. I was looking for a specific kind of chair. And I was lucky enough to find it.

Some of The Many Stalls Inside
Some of the many stalls inside.

The interior of the market has larger pieces of furniture. Row after row of dealers with furniture and objects fill the interior space.

Vintage Clothing and Accessories in Paris
Vintage clothing and accessories.

There are also dealers selling vintage clothing and accessories. This one has a large boutique called Les Merveilles de Babellou. It carries a wide selection of mostly designer clothing and accessories. Other dealers have more “historical vintage,” i.e. period, or less expensive pieces.

A Small Building Filled To The Ceiling
A small building filled to the ceiling.

One store across the rue Paul Bert from the Serpette was stuffed with all sorts of items, from bears to butterflies. There are other markets to explore like the Vernaison, Malassis and Dauphine. Good restaurants are dotted around for lunch and after, with several fashionable hotels nearby and modern apartment buildings which have come to the neighborhood.

Les Puces de Clignancourt, porte de Clignancourt

St. Germain Is Under Construction
Saint-Germain is under construction.

The next morning the sun came out. What a difference! There was more construction, too. The courtyard of the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés was being dug up, and big machines were stationed on the sidewalk.

Everything Is A Construction Zone
Everything is seemingly a construction zone.

I had planned to go to the Hôtel de la Marine, a very interesting heritage museum on the Place de la Concorde. Since that metro was closed, I had to go one stop beyond to La Place de la Madeleine. The streets around it were completely dug up, and traffic was reduced to one, very slow, lane.

The Usually Crowded Rue Royale
The usually crowded Rue Royale.

There was a police vehicle blocking the Rue Royale, and traffic was diverted to other streets. So strange to see bits of Paris so empty. But there was a huge traffic jam right behind me.

La Place de la Concorde is Firmly Closed
La Place de la Concorde is firmly closed.

A chain link fence was positioned to keep cars and people from getting to the Seine, with two sets of bleachers installed. The newish Olympic sports of breakdancing and skateboarding will be taking place here. I am not sure I understand the logic of shutting the main square in Paris down for over four months for such “minor” sporting activities, but then logic has never been the forte of the Mayor of Paris. The Hôtel de la Marine was closed because they were doing a photoshoot, without so much as a note on their website. C’est Paris!

A Big Selection Of Books In French and English
A large selection of books in French and English at Galignani.

Galignani, one of the premiere bookstores in Paris on the Rue de Rivoli, sells books in French and English and has a comprehensive selection of fiction, non-fiction and a huge selection of books on the arts. It is always a great place to visit.

Galignani, 224 Rue de Rivoli

A Park In What Used To Be Les Halles
A park in what used to be Les Halles.

I had not been to Les Halles in ages, which was Paris’ central fresh food market. A trendy shopping area in the ’80s, it is now going through a transformation. There are still plenty of traditional restaurants like Au Pied de Cochon in the area.

Anything A Chef Might Need
Anything a chef might need at E. Dehillerin.

Many food-related stores are still in the neighborhood, too. E. Dehillerin is one of them, which has moved into a smaller space. Anyone looking for quality copper pans and specialty cookware can spend hours here browsing and buying. The small store was jammed.

E. Dehillerin, 18-20 Rue Coquillière

Foie Gras And Much More
Foie gras and much more at Comptoir de la Gastronomie.

Comptoir de la Gastronomie has been here forever. Foie gras, caviar, paté en croute, smoked salmon and other luxury edibles like wine and Champagne line the walls. Half of the space makes up a quaint little restaurant full of delicious eats.

 Comptoir de la Gastronomie, 34 Rue Montmartre

One Of The Original Fripperies
One of the original fripperies.

Kiliwatch has been here for decades. Inexpensive vintage is sold in fripperies in France. Cool clothing and accessories aimed at young customers fill the store. Years ago there were luxury designer boutiques in this neighborhood, but they are now closed. More street-style stores are taking their place.

Espace Kiliwatch, 64 Rue Tiquetonne

Coffees, Baking Supplies, and More
Coffees, baking supplies, and more at G. Detou.

G. Detou is another one-of-a-kind Paris store. A new owner recently bought it and enlarged it. Chocolates, vanilla, flours, jams, sauces, marron glacé, honey, and mustards fill the shelves. You name a French foodie specialty and you can find it here. Sadly, there is no website. It’s a destination spot as people of all ages love the shop.

G. Detou, 58 Rue Tiquetonne

Street Style The Parisien Way
Street style the Parisien way at Shinzo.

Shinzo has about five stores lining the rue Étienne Marcel. They sell tons of sneakers and replicas of baseball and basketball uniforms, and pretty much every American street brand you can think of. It’s wildly popular.

Shinzo, 39 Rue Étienne Marcel 23, 25, 27, 29, and so on

A New Model For Retail
A new model for retail at Alatone.

Across the street is Alatone, another fripperie with an unusual business model. Each rail of clothing is one price. There were trench coats for 25 euros a piece, jogging pants and shorts for 10 euros a piece, and many other varieties of clothing. Rumor had it that there were Burberry coats for 25 euros, but that was not the case. Much of the stock is not the best quality, but some pieces were amusing, like the Snoopy shorts to the left. 

Alatone, 15 Rue de Turbigo

Sculptural Shirts and Dresses in Paris
Sculptural shirts and dresses at Dice Kayek.

I hopped on the metro at Etienne Marcel, and headed back to the left bank. Dice Kayek, a Turkish brand, had opened down the street from the Café de Flore. The designers do interesting shapes in beautiful fabrics. The look is slightly avant-garde and unique.

Dice Kayek, 15 Rue Saint-Benoît

La Place de Furstenberg and Its Lights
La Place de Furstenberg and its famous lights.

One of the dealers at the Puces had told me about a fabric supplier who makes beautiful mohair velvet. The new chair was going to need new cushions, and mohair velvet would be perfect. La Place de Furstenberg is right behind the Saint-Germain Church, and many fabric showrooms are located in here. The square is tiny and immaculate. And C&C Milano had the perfect fabric.

C&C Milano, 4 Rue de Furstemberg

Time To Relax In The Sun
Time to relax in the sun.

The afternoon was beautiful. La Palette, one of my favorite local cafes, was right around the corner. It was time to enjoy the sun and a glass of wine.

La Palette, 46 rue de la Seine

Colorful Pieces From Irié
Colorful pieces from Irié.

There were old stores and new ones on the left bank. Irié has been here forever. The designer is Japanese, specializing in clothing with an easy-wash finish. The Rue du Pré aux Clercs had been full of trendy stores up until a few years ago. Some of the spaces are now for rent; hopefully new stores will open.

Irié, 8 Rue du Pré aux Clercs

A New Multi-Brand Boutique, Moss
A new multi-brand boutique, Moss.

There have been changes on the Rue de Grenelle too. Moss is an interesting multi-label store full of clothing. Italian designers are the focus here, and you will also find a lot of shoes.

Moss, 22 rue de Grenelle

A Collection of Office Ready Clothing
A collection of office-ready clothing at 17H10.

17H10 opened down the street. The name means 10 minutes after 5 p.m. There were well-made and well-priced blazers, skirts and pants. There are not that many brands aimed at working women in Paris, so this is an interesting change. They have several stores around Paris.

17H1018, Rue de Grenelle

Notre Dame Is Opening Soonish
Notre Dame is opening soonish.

The next morning I was off to meet a friend in the very Haut Marais, where vintage stores abound. I took a bus that goes from the left bank to the cafe where we were meeting, which goes through the Île de la Cité. The cranes were still visible up and around Notre Dame, and it was still covered in scaffolding. But a new spire has been put back on the roof, and it is set to reopen this December.

A Graphic Store For Sporting Clothing
Apnée, a graphic store for sporting clothing.

There are tons of new stores in the Haut Marais. The quartier is one of the most branche, or fashionable in town. Apnée specializes in men’s swimwear and other sports clothing. You can find some pieces for women as well.

Apnée, 23 Rue du Pont-aux-Choux

Modern Vintage For Everyone in Paris
Modern vintage for everyone at Seven Boys & Girls.

Seven Boys & Girls is an interesting store. It has both high and low, with more of a street edge. Most of the clothing is for women, and it features Chanel, Balenciaga, Burberry and other brands.

Seven Boys & Girls, 7 Rue du Pont-aux-Choux

The Large Carreau du Temple
The large Carreau du Temple.

There are lots on new stores in the Temple neighborhood. The Carreau du Temple was built in the 1860s when the medieval buildings of the quarter were torn down. It now houses special exhibitions and events. This is technically part of the Haut Marais.

The Girft Shop in The Broken Arm
The gift shop in The Broken Arm.

Nearby is one of the hippest stores in Paris. The Broken Arm offers clothing for men and women on two floors, with a gift shop attached. Prada, Alaia, and Comme des Garcons are merchandised with tons of sneakers and tees. It is a high-low mix that is of the moment.

The Broken Arm,12 Rue Perrée

Bobby, A Large Dépôt-Vente near République
Bobby, a large Dépôt-Vente near République.

Bobby is a huge store. It advertises itself as Dépôt-Vente, which is basically resale. There are Burberry trenches here, but they are in the 200 euro range. You do get what you pay for. Unlike the fripperies, everything is spotless, and there is a big selection of merchandise. You could spend a few hours going through the racks.

Bobby, 168 Rue du Temple

A Boutique Full of Curated Vintage
A boutique full of curated vintage.

We then crossed over into the République quartier. This hood is newly chic. Louise is another Dépôt-Vente, but on the luxe side. You will find labels like Chloe, Stella McCartney, Miu Miu, Celine and Chanel. Everything is in very good shape, and as one would expect the prices are not cheap.

Louise Paris, 10 Rue de Lancry

Paris Vintage At Its Best
Paris vintage at its best.

My favorite store has to be Thanx God I’m A Vip. This is a series of stores for women, men, and children. The women’s store has an interesting layout, featuring two entrances and three long, narrow corridors filled with clothing. The white dresses above are suitable  for weddings. Clothes are hung by color, and you will find things from Hermes and Chanel in addition to other lesser brands. There is also a big selection of ’50s and ’60s hats, lots of bags and shoes. I will definitely be going back to this store next time I am in Paris. But I will definitely wait until after the Olympics.

Thanx God I’m A Vip, 12 Rue de Lancry

Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn. 

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