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 at www.eyepreferparis.com.
Shopping mecca that Paris is, visiting trendy shoppers are always on the prowl for the latest and greatest finds they can’t get back home.
Concept stores with a variety of eclectic merchandise along with cafes, restaurants, bookshops, and other ancillary services have become the go to places for trendsetters. Here are two of my favorites I always take my tour clients too.
The original concept store of Paris, Colette is a favorite among the fashion forward crowd. Founded by the mother and daughter team of Sarah Andelman and Colette Roussaux in 1997, the three-story shop has been long been on the cutting edge of fashion and design with other shops around the world imitating the same concept.
The main floor is a quirky mix of designer hip hop sneakers, T-shirts, coffee table books, electronics, and cosmetics, where one can buy everything from a five euro plastic Paris souvenir to a 5,000€ diamond encrusted iPhone case. Upstairs is clothing, shoes, jewelry, and accessories for women and men with some of the top international designers, including Comme des Garcons, Courreges, Gucci, Jeremy Scott, Roger Vivier, and Moncler.
One of the other things that sets Colette apart from their competitors is their collaboration with designers to produce exclusive items just for them. Past collaborations include an Hermes scarf, T-shirts from Lanvin and Balmain, a watch by Karl Lagerfeld, and macaroons from Laduree.
If you want to see and be seen, have lunch at the water bar on the lower level, which offers over 50 types of bottled water from around the globe.
213 rue Saint Honore, 75001
Bringing a more Bohemian approach to the concept store, Merci was an overnight smash success when it opened in 2009 on the outskirts of the hip Marais quarter, with its popularity creating a new shopping district that didn’t exist before.
To enter the cavernous 15,000 square foot space on three floors, one passes through a cobblestone courtyard where an abandoned old model red Fiat greets you.
The entrance atrium acts like a gallery space, where the environment changes every four to six weeks, with a different theme or single designer presented. The rest of the main floor has casual clothing and accessories for men and women from designers Isabel Marant, Liberty of London, Stella McCartney, Marni, and Merci private label.
Climbing up the suspended metal staircase to the upper level you discover a fun world of furniture, home accessories, lighting and lamps, stationery, and bedroom linens. Downstairs is kitchenware, bake ware, and the latest kitchen gadgets.
There are three restaurant spaces: the cozy Used Book Café, where you curl up with a good book and a cup of tea; on the lower level, The Merci Canteen, an organic restaurant serving fresh seasonal salad plates, soup, homemade desserts, and beverages; and the Cinema Café, serving a casual menu of charcuterie, soups, and salad while running a vintage film on the wall.
111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003
Open 10AM-7PM Monday to Saturday, closed Sunday