For years I have been traveling to Paris with great shopping expectations, only to be disappointed by the homogenization of the European shopping experience. Not only are many of the stores the same as those you can find stateside, but even the small boutiques have overpriced versions of things I could find back home. This last trip to Paris, I was determined to unlock the hidden joys of shopping in Paris. I scoured the city and found exactly the experience I had been searching for!
Vintage: I spend an entire day traipsing through the entire city to find the best vintage shops. I ended up empty handed with a huge blister and stinky feet. Here is my hypothesis with regard to vintage/thrift store shopping. The French buy quality and keep it forever, so what you have left in vintage and thrift shops are items that are old and grungy. Of course, there are probably some diamonds in the rough, but I honestly don’t have the patience. However, if you love to hunt for a treasure and you are not a label snob like me, I recommend the Marais for vintage shopping.
The Marais is in the 4th Arrondissement and is full of boutiques and several vintage shops. Note: The Marais is Paris’s Jewish Quarter and many say that this is the reason that most shops in the Marais are open on Sunday. So when the rest of Paris is shut tight on Sunday, you can get a little shopping done and enjoy a delicious Falafel (L’As du Fallafe) in the Marais.
- Sarl Alternatives: 18, Rue Roi de Sicile, 75004 Paris. This vintage shop has actual designer merchandise. Items can be pricey, but you may be able to find something good. I saw a huge Fendi Tote bag for 300 Euros.
- Miss June Boutique: 30, Rue de Sevigne 75004 Paris. This shop has cute vintage inspired clothes.
- Airnoos Mode & Decoration: 52 Rue du Roi Sicile, 75004 Paris. Another shop with cute vintage inspired tops and sweaters. A little pricey, but they have a sale rack in the middle of the store.
- La Piscine: 13, Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 75004 Paris. They have several locations around the city, but this one is conveniently located close to other shops in the Marais.
- Free P*Star: 8 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004 Paris. A Vintage store with racks full of clothes and a basement level full of jackets and coats. I would say this was one of the more promising of vintage shops.
- Coiffeur Vintage: 32, Rue de Rosiers, 75004 Paris. I wanted to love this store, but I found it a bit claustrophobic for my taste. It was full of young fashionable French teens and college age kids when I went, so be ready for a crowd in this tiny shop.
- Fripes Star: 1, Rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris. A little larger than Free P*Star and Coiffeur Vintage. I still struck out here and thought the clothes were too icky for me, but it is worth a peek.
- Honorable Mention in the 11 Arrondissement: Come on Eileen, 16 Rue des Taillandiers, 75011 Paris. If you found treasures at the vintage shops in the Marais and want to go for more, Come on Eileen has racks full of vintage and designer clothes. Out of all of the vintage shops, I found the merchandise in this one to be the most interesting. There were a lot of fun dresses and designer wares. I found a few items, but upon closer inspection they had stains or tears, so be careful. Down the street from Come on Eileen is another Vintage shop, Tosca Paris, 1 Rue de Taillandiers, 75011 Paris. They had a few high-end vintage pieces in this small shop.
Consignment: Okay, so I don’t exactly have the most stellar endorsement for vintage shops in Paris. However, I found my fashion mecca in one of the ritziest neighborhoods in Paris, the 16 Arrondissement. After my rather disappointing day of vintage shopping, I moved on to the next used clothing category on my list…consignment. JACKPOT!!!! I am not sure why consignment seems to be so much better than vintage shops in Paris, but I think it is because consignment seems to cater to wealthy Parisian women who would not be caught dead in last seasons’s Prada. So, you can find high end designer merchandise in excellent condition, including things with the tags still on them at nicely discounted prices. If you want to find a special deisgner piece to remember your trip to Paris, I recommend the consignment route or Depot Vente.
If you love designer merchandise, then I highly recommend that you budget at least half a day at this next 16 arrondissement shop.
- Reciproque- Rue de La Pompe, 75016 Paris. This is the self proclaimed largest consignment shop in Paris. The store literally consists of multiple boutiques covering an entire city block. My heart stopped when I found this place and I almost peed my pants about three times. First, when I found two silk Chanel blouses for under 150 Euros (one was 110). Second, when I realized they had an entire shop full of designer handbags. Third, when I actually entered the handbag shop…we are talking racks and racks and racks of buttery leather, Dior, Prada and of course Chanel….sigh! There was a camel colored medium sized Prada satchel in pristine condition for 300 Euros. On a side note, the basement of the handbag shop has coats and scarves.
- Here is a rundown of the different shops. The best thing about the shop in my opinion is the way it is organized….by designer. We all have designers that we love or that fit better and it is nice to just be able to make a beeline for your favorites. The handbags are also organized this way. Chanel handbags are in a glass case in the handbag shop and YSL was in a nook in the front of the handbag shop when I went. In the main clothing store, the main floor had blouses, light jackets, slacks, skirts and dresses and the basement had shoes, coats and I believe some evening-wear.
- 97 Rue de La Pompe: Menswear.
- 93,95 and 101 all have Women’s clothing and accessories.
Flea Market Finds: This trip to Paris, I braved the flea markets for the first time. I armed myself with my most comfortable shoes, a diet coke and dragged my poor mom to the flea market at St. Ouen on Saturday morning. I forced my mom out the door sans lipstick at 8:30 fearing we would miss all of the good stuff because it was so late. All of the guide books said to get there by 9 am. Well, the guidebooks are wrong! Most of the stalls don’t start opening until 10 am, so catch a few more zzz’s and eat breakfast in the city before heading out to St. Ouen. St. Ouen is in a bit of a sketchy neighborhood in Paris, so wear a money belt if you have one and withdraw cash from an ATM in Paris proper before you leave so you don’t have to try and find one there. Once you arrive and exit the metro station, follow the touristy looking crowd under the highway overpass. You will see traditional American flea market stalls selling junk…pass that stuff and head straight for Rue de Rossiers (you will end up there if you keep going straight past the junky merchandise on your left).
Also, make sure you have a return metro ticket before you leave because the metro station can be a bit scary with young French thugs presumably running some type of metro ticket scam. They will accost you when you enter and offer to sell you a metro ticket which will not work. The metro ticket machine was not working when I went so we had to queue up to buy our tickets and fend off the thuggies and their ticket hawking, gawking and what I could tell even with my rudimentary French were some rather dirty and inappropriate comments related to what they would “do” to me if they had the chance. If you have your return metro ticket ready, you can bypass the thugs, insert ticket and be on your merry way back to the city.
What surprised me the most about the Flea Market, besides the fact that I did not have to wake up at the crack of dawn (which made me HEART Paris even more) is the set up. It is not the typical “flea market” set up we have in the States or even on Portobello Road in London. There is not an outdoor market with makeshift stalls. Instead, the flea market consists of multiple indoor markets where vendors rent permanent space. They only open Saturday and Sunday, which I find so strange since they have permanent space. Think of it like a bunch of storage units with electricity where the shop keeper merchandises their goods like a boutique. This is the place to go if you are looking for vintage accessories like purses or jewelry. Most of the vendors are selling antique furniture, but I searched the whole market and found all of the good shops carrying vintage fashion pieces!
Think of the purveyors of the vintage clotting stalls at St. Ouen as French Rachel Zoes. They have exquisite taste and went bananas for the selection of items in the store. Keep this in mind when discussing an item, asking for a price and negotiating. I have found it is far better to bargain saying that you love the piece but can only pay x amount rather than saying it is not worth the price they are charging. In short ask yourself how you would behave if Rachel Zoe were selling the contents of her closet…you would have respect for her, her taste and the value she places on the items. I saw “Ugly American Syndrome” (UAS) in all its glory at St. Ouen. An American women in her forties saw a designer purse, picked it up (without asking) and asked the Rachel Zoesque shop keeper for the price. When the shopkeeper gave the price, the American rolled her eyes, clucked her teeth and threw the item back on the display case. I was horrified, but not more so than the French shopkeeper who rushed over to the item like a it was a bird with a broken wing. Here are some etiquette tips for St. Ouen so that you can avoid UAS:
- Most shopkeepers speak English. However, when you enter greet them with bonjour (smile not necessary). Before you ask questions in English, ask parlez vous anglais?
- Ask before you touch.
- Bargaining is okay, but never do so by disparaging the item.
- If you love an item, but don’t love the price. Ask for a card and then ask them if you may call them later if you want to purchase. Call them on Monday with your best offer as they are more likely to give a discount if they had a slow weekend in terms of sales.
Here is a rundown of the best of the best of St. Ouen vintage shops by Market.
Marche Vernaison 99 Rue de Rosiers
- David Roy. Allee 1 (Aisle 1), Stand 3. 99 Rue de Rosiers, 93400 St. Ouen. This is the largest and in my opinion, best of all of the St. Ouen Vintage fashion stalls. They have lots of Chanel handbags and accessories along with Chanel suits. They also have some beautiful if not pricey one-of-a-kind jewelry items. I fell in love with a beautiful Chanel bag. The asking price was 1200 Euros. Sadly I did not adopt her.
- Le Grenier d/Amatxi. Alee 4 (Aisle 4), Stand 74. This shop had a few more recent designer pieces…more recent spells more affordable. I spotted a cute Chanel bracelet for 250 Euros.
- Christine L. Alle 5 (Aisle 5), Stand 84. 99 Rue de Rosiers, 93400 St. Ouen. This shop had a great selection of Chanel bags and jewelry. Everything was very pricey.
Marche Serpette 110 Rue de Rosiers
- Clara Larde. Alle 1 (Aisle 1), Stand 28. 110 Rue de Rosiers, 93400 St. Ouen. Beautiful pieces here. Lots of true vintage finds at this shop.
- Patricia Attwood. Alle 2 (Aisle 3), Stand 7. 110 Rue de Rosiers, 93400 St. Ouen. Loads of scarves and some Chanel jewelry.
- Le Monde du Voyage. Alle 3 (Aisle 3), Stand 15. 110 Rue de Rosiers, 93400 St. Ouen. This shop seems to specialize in high-end luggage pieces. They have a large selection of Louis Vuitton and Hermes. When I was there, they had a huge selection of scarves and a glass case full of fun designer jewelry, including a beautiful thick silver Chanel cuff for 450 Euros. That cuff was probably the best designer buy I saw at the market.
Marche Dauphine 132/140 Rue de Rosiers
- Lucetter Pistre and Nadine Gasso. Stand 78.79.65. More vintage, but this time more space!
- Catherine Pearce. Stand 120. This shop has affordable costume jewelry…necklaces at 30 Euros. I went home with a few of these necklaces and have been wearing them like crazy!
- Librairie AMK. Stand 187. First Floor (really the second for North Americans). So this shop has no vintage fashion…at least not that you can wear. However, it does have fun vintage fashion posters and old ad posters which are easy to roll up and pack in your luggage and then have framed with you get home for the perfect piece of artwork and a reminder of your trip to Paris! The shopkeeper is the absolute loveliest women who speaks English and will translate any posters that you buy. I highly recommend this shop for an affordable souvenir. The vintage reproduction posters start at 8 Euros.
For fabulous tips on vintage and thrift shopping visit my friend, Ginger’s blog, Electric Blogarella. She dissects the vintage shopping experience like no one else! Click here to check it out.