Going to Paris for a shopping spree needs not put your household finances down for the next two years. It simply requires a little planning, and being let in on little-known shops offering bargain basement deals.
Paris is a shopping mosaic
Those of you who visited Paris already know that from a shopper’s perspective, the city is divided in broad sections where stores of the same trade tend to congregate. A mosaic of many colors, tastes, and price ranges.
Take Saint-Germain-des-Prés, for instance. The highest part of the famed area, situated closest to Boulevard St Germain, is home to designer clothing stores, sidewalk cafés and restaurants. Dive in, and your footsteps will lead you to Rue de Seine where the art galleries have drawn together.
From Saint-Germain, walk up the Rue de Rennes, towards the Montparnasse area. You’ll be crossing the Rue Du Four where even more expensive clothiers line up the facades. But continue on to the Saint Sulpice metro station, around which many clothing stores offer cheaper garments and accessories.
Sales season in Paris
In another area of the city, not too far from the old Opera house, the Boulevard Haussmann became the homestead of the department stores over a century ago. The Printemps store was built there in 1865, followed closely by the Galeries Lafayette, in 1893. Department stores are not unlike Ali Baba’s treasure cave: clothes, shoes, jewelry, watches, accessories, perfumes spread on a five-story high, gigantic floor space.
Their selection is great, but you have to visit Paris during the official sale seasons to find true bargains there. And there are only two sales seasons in France: winter, and summer. Their respective starting dates in a given year are set by administrative decree, and they each last 6 weeks. In Paris the winter sale season usually starts in the second week of January. The summer sales season starts toward end-June.
Designer depot bargains
For off-season bargains look somewhere else. The gems are often to be found in small shops in God-forsaken streets, or in hard-to-find first-floor apartments. This is especially the case of designer depots.
Though it has become a brand name in North America, a designer depot is in fact a form of commerce. People like you and me bring in clothes we don’t want to wear anymore, and get a little money from the shop owner who will resell our garments for a little more money to other people.
I can hear your blasé comments: “Tcha! Consignment stores! Thrift shops!…” Well, in Paris, designer depots aren’t exactly your regular Salvation Army-type stores. Not at all.
Though not all equal before God, Parisian designer depots are often owned and managed by women with a background in the fashion industry. Women with flair and a sharp eye for what to wear and how. Women who can readily tell you why you would look better in this dress than in that one.
In ‘designer depot”, there is the magic word ‘designer’. Parisian designer depots offer designer and couture clothes at deep, deep, deep discounts. And mind you, clothes in quasi perfect condition. Clothes worn only once. Well, maybe twice.
If you come to them with your regular hoodies, or your last season tennis shoes, or your mall-shopped polo shirt for that matter, do not expect to be welcomed. Expect rejection with a disapproving stare instead.
So, where do they hide?
Then again, not all designer depots were created equal, and where you go shopping for practically-perfect-in-every-way designer clothes is the true measure of your inside knowledge of the city.
I would like to recommend you three ‘petites adresses’ [the French for ‘best-kept-secret places’] I selected amongst a host of others.
For those of you, ladies, who like the classic look, ‘Priscilla’ is the shop for you. Priscilla is lady who owns the place. She reveres such signature names as Yves Saint Laurent, Max Mara, Kenzo, Chistian Dior, and Sonya Rykiel. Her prices range from EUR60 for a skirt, to EUR75 for a jacket, to EUR130 for a lady’s suit. Priscilla advises you to rummage around, and come to her place with an open mind. The shop is located at 4 rue Mouton- Duvernet, in the 14 th district. The nearest metro station is Mouton-Duvernet. Its opening hours are between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm on Monday, and between 11:00 am and 7:00 pm from Tuesday to Saturday with a one-hour break at 1:30 pm.
My next address, ‘Le Jupon Rouge’, is situated at 9 rue de Rochechouart in the 9th district. The owner, Tania, describes here designer depot as “colorful, ethnic but not hippie, and certainly not classical in style”. Tania offers a selection of up and coming French designers such as Bali Barret (a fencing-style vest for EUR45, cashmere blend cardigans for EUR45 to EUR100) and Vanessa Bruno (wool jackets, EUR90). She also carries more established signatures such as Agnès B (her signature black jacket is offered at EUR50), and vintage Ungaro blouses for EUR45. Ladies looking for shoes can fall for pairs of Stephane Kelian low-cut cuban boots (EUR100), Repetto ballerina shoes (EUR40), or vintage low-heel horseriding boots (EUR40-70). Tania opens her doors from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10:30 am to 7:30 pm with a one-hour lunch break at 1:30 pm.
In a totally different style, Griff-Troc is the designer depot you need to lose yourself into when you want to go chic-chic-chic. The owner, Beatrice, chose to specialize in perennial, classic basics in perfect condition. Chic has a heftier price tag, of course, but on the upside Griff-Troc offers brand names for 15-30% of boutique prices. On the shelves at the time I wrote this article, Beatrice had a Chanel suit for EUR1000 (vs. EUR5000 at Chanel’s), a brand-new Chloe bag for EUR800 (instead of EUR1200), several astounding evening dresses priced between EUR1200 and EUR1500 (Chloe, Dior, D&G, Valentino), and Hermès silk scarfs on offer for only EUR150. She maintains a full selection of bags, jewels, and fragrances. Chic classic never dies, who cares about whether your Chanel suit is this season’s or not? The busy boutique is located in the posh section of the 17 th district, at 119 Boulevard Malesherbes. The nearest metro stations are Villiers and Monceau. Its opening hours are between 10:30 am and 7:00 pm, from Monday to Saturday.
More shopping tips to come
These are just three of my selection of designer depots and small boutiques.In subsequent articles I will recommend more of those ‘petites adresses’, including some specializing in men’s wear. Meanwhile, I hope you have had the opportunity to meet Tania, Beatrice, and Priscilla in person, and find a couple of eye-pleasing items for yourself. Ta-ta!