The truth is, that shopping in Paris is a delight because there are few ways you can go wrong. Whether you bought a necklace at an exclusive address, a flea market or at an out of the way, down a little side street jewellery store, the result is the same. Like diamonds worn with jeans, it will no doubt be sublime yet gasp inducing.
This -je ne sais quoi- factor is the natural result of a culture, where the pursuit of excellence in beauty and conscious appreciation for the pleasures of life, are an unspoken mantra. The expression of this mantra manifests in hundreds of ways.
The art of shopping is therefore a semi-sacred pursuit. A search for the elixir that will reflect beauty, good taste and intelligence through a thoughtful acquisition. To this end, the French are not simply shoppers, but connoisseurs. If they are not true connoisseurs, they will aspire to it and cultivate it. The lazy ones may want to give the impression that they are despite being far from it.
Beware of the faux connoisseur. They will make the purchase appear to have value, when really it’s as authentic as a “Chanel” bag made in China. Understand that part of the DNA of this paradise like city, means that treasures of beauty will abound. A rarity, would be to find something ugly, yet in Paris it would somehow still exude charm.
The mystery then becomes, mastering the art of identifying the charlatans from the actual connoisseurs. This in itself can become labour intensive. I will save you some time, and direct you to a woman whose good taste, intelligence, sensibility and appreciation of all things magnifique and chic, you can always rely on. She is the quintessential style guide to Paris, Ines de la Fressange.
If you are unfamiliar with Ines, I suggest a quick Wikipedia search. You can trust her to give you the best addresses in Paris, arrondissement by arrondissement. Ines is the #1 choice. Her book Parisian Chic City Guide is all you’ll need and her key selections will no doubt lead to other great finds beyond this 171 page magic carpet ride.
Parisian Chic City Guide is a compact little book, which easily fits a small handbag – great for tourists who don’t wish to carry backpacks and appear like very obvious tourists -. Each chapter is dedicated to her favourite finds based on the quartiers and their unique vibe.
When you find yourself in The Latin Quarter, you can be sure that you’ll know where to buy the best striped top, purchase a notebook from the finest stationery store to record your handwritten travels, buy a beautiful floral arrangement to impress, indulge at the most decadent cake shop and rendezvous at a traditional restaurant full of so much charm you’ll wonder if you’re in a movie.
Yes, her recommendations are quite specific and she tells you exactly where to go and why – but nicely.
Generous of spirit, Ines shares with her non Parisian readers, snippets of phrases full of enough attitude to make you feel at home when you get to your destination. These priceless pearls will set you apart from the average tourist stock.
At Cibus, an all organic Italian restaurant, she advises you make reservations in advance as there are only six tables. If anyone tells you they haven’t been able to secure a booking, act surprised and declare nonchalantly that it’s such a shame. Play it down.
If you want to wear cashmere at secretly inexpensive prices, head to Not Shy, the cashmere market outlet. When someone admires your sweater, casually comment that you don’t like to overspend on cashmere -but don’t reveal your source.
When you’re in The Marais and remember a drab part of your house that could do with a little *something*, go straight to Merci, the coolest, chicest concept store. Your house will thank you later, in English or in French. Everything there makes an impact.
The wonder of a flea market is making discoveries you know no one else will have. But if you go to Broc’ Martel, you can have the added pleasure of saying like La Parisienne: “It reminds me of the flea market, but even better”.
Et voila the purpose of this guide-book. To enjoy the magnificent city of Paris as any tourist would wish to, but even better, enjoy it as the most chic local would and does.
You can visit her store Ines de la Fressange Paris, in Saint-Germain de Pres, 24 rue de Grenelle.