Paris: Shopping Tips from an Insider

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 (, and also writes a popular insider's blog


Christmas in Paris this year seems more festive than usual. From the Champs Elysees with its trees dripping silver lights to the giant ferris wheel towering over the Place de Concorde, the city is awash with dazzling lights, magical window displays, and divinely decorated trees.

At Printemps this season, Karl Lagerfeld, the king of Paris fashion design, has transformed the windows into a Chanel fantasy. His theme is an animated marionette named Coco who dresses in a Chanel quilted suit and strolls through a garden with mystical flowers and plants. Hannah Macgibbon, head designer for Chloe, architects Jakob and Macfarlane and furniture designer Herve Van Straeten have also created windows with the theme of earth, air, and fire.

Down the boulevard, animated bunny rabbits dressed in red velvet jackets, babies floating on pillowed mushrooms, and hot pink furry chicks scaling wild rose printed trees grace the windows of Galeries Lafayette. Fashion windows have girls in white dresses, not so innocent as the ones in The Sound of Music, made of tulle trimmed with black velvet ribbons, instead of blue satin sashes.



Hermes, the ultimate luxury retailer, is ignoring the recession blues with its windows this holiday season. An India safari is the theme with rich oil paintings of crocodiles, elephants, and Bengal tigers, which are the perfect backdrop to show off the gray pearl-encrusted Kelly bag, copper high-top sneakers, espresso brown shearling overcoat, a juicy orange crocodile Birkin bag, and most decadent of all, a silver ostrich horse saddle.

Behind those fantasy facades, some bargains are lurking. French law states that stores cannot advertise sales before the official sale date of January 7. However, many stores get around this policy by having private or unannounced sales. At the chic specialty store Le Bon Marche, customers were sent an invitation to get 40 percent off most of its designer clothes. Many other popular boutiques such as Zadig & Voltaire and L’Eclaireur have already marked down selected merchandise 30-50 percent off. When you go into a shop, ask the sales staff if there is a private sale going on or any reductions and chances are the answer is yes.

To help you navigate the storm of the official sale on January 7, where shoppers will be practically breaking down the store doors, there’s an official site called Don’t Miss the Winter Soldes— with five itineraries designed for serial shoppers to best scoop up les bargains.

Happy bargain hunting and may the best shopper win the biggest bargains.

 Store  Address Telephone
 Printemps 64 Blvd. Haussmann, 75009  08 92 68 68 91
 Galeries Lafayette
40 Blvd. Haussmann, 75009
01 42 82 34 56
 Hermes 24 rue Faugourg St. Honore, 75008
01 40 17 47 09
 Le Bon Marche
5 rue Babylone, 75007
01 42 22 05 63

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