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Shopping in ParisMay 26, 2009 By: Richard Nahem
Richard Nahem, an ex-New Yorker living in Paris, leads private insider tours showing visitors the Paris most of them never see on their own (www.eyepreferparistours.com), and also writes a popular insider's blog www.eyepreferparis.com.
Paris is filled with high fashion designer shops and brands, which are all over the world now, thus diminishing their strictly Parisian cache. But two original concept stores seem to stay on the cutting edge of fashion, bringing shoppers unique items they can’t get everywhere. Shopping is always high on the list of must things my tour clients want to do and these two shops are always a delightful, eye-opening stop.
Pioneered by a mother and daughter team, Colette is the original Paris concept store. When Colette and Sarah opened the trendsetting store 10 years ago on this off section of the rue St. Honore, little did they know it would become a style destination and other fashion shops would quickly follow them. It has been a magnet for fashionistas and, during fashion week, they crowd into the shop in droves, snapping up the latest designer duds and accessories, from a cheap chic Monoprix cotton top for 15 euros to a rhinestone encrusted cell phone for 3,000 euros.
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, it was recently renovated and now the main floor is a potpourri of coffee table books, CDs, electronic gadgets, perfume, and cosmetics, many exclusively made for them, along with a newly added special section for up to the minute skateboarder T-shirts and crazy, colorful sneakers. Upstairs is high fashion women’s and menswear including Prada, Miu Miu, Comme de Garcon, Marc Jacobs, Lanvin, Proenza Schouler, and Yves St. Laurent. If you are hungry and thirsty, go downstairs to the water bar, the canteen for the scene and be-seen crowd, which offers an array of over 50 bottled waters from around the globe plus a vegetarian friendly lunch menu. Ask any hip Parisian what’s the chicest boutique in Paris and the unanimous answer will be Colette.
New kid on the block, Merci, has recently given Colette a run for its money. Opened just in time for fashion week in March, it is the brainchild of Bernard and Marie Cohen, the duo behind the hugely successful children’s luxury clothing line Bonpoint. The Cohens wanted to give back something to the community but also offer a radical new fashion concept store. The massive shop (over 15,000 square feet) on the edge of the Marais is more like an old fashioned emporium but with the latest and greatest merchandise.
On three levels, the shop is a wonderful mix of used book shop and cozy café, designer vintage clothing shop, Annick Goutal perfume bar where you fill your own bottle with your favorite fragrance or create your own, fabric counter, kids clothing shop, furniture showroom with eclectic, one of a kind pieces, a basement filled with inventive and useful house wares, and clothing boutique with exclusive pieces by top designers at 40 percent off.
The cherry on the cake is that a portion of the proceeds is donated to a children’s charity in Madagascar, so you can shop till you drop and not feel guilty.