Paris: Fashion capital
Author: MELANIE HANSCHE
Photography: SHARYN CAIRNS
Fiona Lane is a seasoned Paris veteran. She's been visiting the city since the early 90s in her capacity as a fashion editor, dropping in once, if not twice a year, for the spectacle that is the show season. While fashion week is the main draw for her trips, Lane, now Madison's fashion director, always makes time to visit her favourite haunts.
"I love how pretty Paris is. It's so intrinsically beautiful and loaded with history. Of course, I'd be lying if I didn't say the shopping is one of its major drawcards. I get rather greedy and tend to buy a lot for myself, as well as my friends," says Lane.
It wasn't always so. Her first trip was a backpacking expedition, later returning for work when she was based with fashion magazines in London. "Every time I came here I had a different experience. The first few times I didn't have much money so I was really frugal. In fact, the best thing I learnt from those trips was how to navigate the Métro because I couldn't afford cabs. It's a great skill to have; I still catch the Métro to all the fashion shows around town. My tip is to get a 'carne' of 10 tickets and off you go."
When it comes to fashion week itself, Paris is still the grandest daddy of them all. There are several shows throughout the year: ready-to-wear in February and October (Lane attends both) and haute couture in January and July.
"They're still the most highly-regarded events of their kind in the fashion world. The Paris shows are the most fashion forward and innovative of the lot."
Paris transforms during the show seasons - but be warned. "During fashion week, Paris is inundated with the most incredibly stylish people in the world. All the fashion magazines are here and everyone's dressed to the nines. It's like a hyper-version of the Paris you see in the movies. It's a spectacle, but let me tell you, it's hard to get a room or a restaurant booking," says Lane.
Lane also loves visiting in summer when she says the city is at its most beautiful. And for shopping, she recommends several areas, starting with the Left Bank district that takes in the Latin Quarter and Saint Germain. Not only is it an outstanding place to shop, it also has ambience in spades. "There are some great jewellery stores which sell lots of oversized ethnic cocktail rings and necklaces. Australia really lacks that, so I like to go and check out what's on offer. Plus, there are loads of cute cafés and bars and I make sure to have a Campari in the afternoon after I've had a wander around."
One of the city's other premier shopping districts is the old Jewish quarter, the Marais, and it's here that Lane picks up some decidedly more eclectic pieces. "The area is jammed with kooky, colourful shops and cafés. You'll find everything from crockery to vintage fabrics and exotic art imported from Africa. And it's the only area in Paris you can shop on a Sunday, when everything else is closed."
Keeping Lane's advice in mind, why not make like a fashion maven, arm yourself with this personal list of shopping and eating experiences, and knock yourself out in the fashion capital.
Clignancourt Flea Market
I think this is the most interesting market in Paris and it's certainly the largest and most famous. It stretches for blocks on the north side of the city and my tip is to take the time to wander. There are hundreds of antique and furniture stores; you'll find Baroque mirrors, Art Deco pieces, cookware, vintage lace and clothing. Not all of it is practical to take home, but it's fun just to explore. 18th, Porte de Clignancourt (Sat-Mon).
I really like the ultra-trendy Colette boutique on rue Saint Honoré for its variety and mix of labels. They stock clothing, shoes and accessories by all the top designers, as well as homewares, books and music over three floors. Sometimes they have exhibitions and screenings and there's a water bar in the basement; they serve over 50 still and sparkling waters, which is kind of mad, as well as energy drinks and light meals. It's innovative and eclectic. 1st, 213, rue Saint Honoré, +33 1 3335 3390, www.colette.fr.
This may seem a bit daggy but I always pay a visit to the GAP store on the Champs-Elysées. It's the largest of its outlets in mainland Europe and as I rarely travel to the US, I find it's a good opportunity to stock up on staples like plain T-shirts and tops - they're really good for basics. 8th, 36, avenue des Champs-Elysées, +33 1 5688 4800, www.gap.com.
My favourite shop in Paris is Isabel Marant, a French designer revered for her layering, detail and handiwork. If you've ever wondered why a French woman looks so casual yet chic, it's likely she's wearing Isabel. I always stop by to pick up some beautiful, light T-shirts in a fine blend of cotton and linen. 11th, 6, rue Charonne, +33 1 4929 7155.
Every time I go to Paris I buy myself a new pair of leather sandals from this tiny store in the Marais. They're on the expensive side but the craftsmanship is superb and they really last. They also have three outlets in Saint Tropez where the shoes were originally made. They're also available from Sydney's Bloodorange boutique if you want to buy them closer to home. They're divine. 6th, 16, rue Pavee, +33 1 4027 0357.
This is a fantastic department store with multiple locations around Paris. I like its variety; you can buy everything from beautiful stationery (I always pick up tissue-lined envelopes and paper), to gorgeous fresh food, cheeses and wines. It's a real find.www.monoprix.fr.
If, like me, you have lots of friends with newborns, this is the best place for gifts. I buy cute little baby suits en masse and send them out to all corners of the globe. I also get the basic round-neck, long sleeve tees from their adult range for myself in white. 8th, 116, avenue des Champs-Elysées, +33 1 4074 0203.
The best department store in Paris is Printemps. Printemps carries all the luxury brands across seven floors of fashion including Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci, as well as French brands such as Voltaire and Kenzo. And the flagship store on boulevard Haussmann is a wonderful historical building with the most beautiful glass cupola. 9th, 64, boulevard Haussmann, +33 1 4282 5787, www.printemps.com.
Rue Saint Honoré
The Saint Honoré district, near the Louvre, is the place for high-end shopping and I adore it for its pure glamour. All the classic fashion houses and big name brands are here: YSL, Chanel, Gucci, Prada, Hermès, Versace. This is where I come to splurge; I buy all my designer pieces here.
Eat and drink
There are many salons de thé in Paris and this Old-World number, set in an 18th-century mansion, is one of my favourites. It's fantastic for lunch because it's right near the Saint Honoré shopping district. The menu is trés international - they even have Shanghainese-inspired dishes and cocktails. 8th, 8, rue d'Anjou, +33 1 4017 0477, www.restaurant-1728.com.
This is where the fashion set hangs out after the shows, it's become a bit of an institution. There's great people watching in the bar, you'll see models galore. The decor's really opulent and in summer the tables in the courtyard are a gorgeous place to enjoy a (heftily-priced) cocktail or two. 1st, 293, rue Saint Honoré, +33 1 4244 5025, www.hotelcostes.com.
If you want a really fancy French experience, so chic it's nearly intimidating, visit the upmarket L'Avenue. This is also a fashion hangout and it sports a very cool velvet and gold interior and a groovy upstairs bar. The perfect excuse to get dressed up. 8th, 41, avenue Montaigne, +33 1 4070 1491.
This is one of Paris's original tea salons and there are several sites around the city but my favourite is Ladurée Bonaparte, in the heart of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district. It's a beautifully ornate room and they have the most gorgeous frescoes adorning the walls. I always order a Ladurée salad and a glass of rosé followed by tea and their famous macaroons - the rose petal, blackcurrant violet and red fruit flavours are my faves. 6th, 21, rue Bonaparte, +33 1 4407 6487, www.laduree.fr.
Le Café Marly
This brazenly red café, within one of the wings of the Louvre, is the place to be and be seen; it's a bit of a celebrity haunt. It has a stunning view of the Louvre's pyramid and inside the café all that separates you from the art is a glass wall. It's the perfect spot for an afternoon aperitif and they do a really good coffee. 1st, 93, rue de Rivoli, +33 1 4926 0660.
This museum is housed in an elegant mansion and displays works of Baccarat crystal, jewellery and accessories. Philippe Stark designed the interior and it's decorated with the most amazing crystal chandeliers. There's a restaurant on site called the Cristal Room; it's expensive but well worth a visit. 16th, 11, place des Etats-Unis, +33 1 4022 1110, www.baccarat.fr.
I love this restaurant and bar - on the top floor of Paris's futuristic art complex, the Centre Pompidou - for a drink to soak up the atmosphere and the views over the city. The décor is very minimalist and postmodern; it's a very funky place to sip a glass of Champagne and remind yourself you're in the most beautiful city in the world. 4th, 19, rue Beaubourg, +33 1 4478 4749, www.centrepompidou.fr.
To get your fix of classic French food you must drop in to Vagenende. It's a very traditional, cosy brasserie in the Belle Epoque style. While it's a bit touristy, the food is excellent and all the favourites are on the menu. I usually order the classics; an onion soup, steak frites and a crème brûlée. 6th, 142, boulevard Saint-Germain, +33 1 4326 6818, www.vagenende.fr.
Other Paris shopping tips
Visit a chemist and seek out the Embryolisse lait crème concentrate moisturiser. You can only get it in France - it's what all the makeup artists use. Also stock up on violet-coloured, flavoured and scented treats you won't see elsewhere, like lollies, pastilles and macaroons. Rue de Rivoli is the place to go for all the kitsch junk stores. Pick up fantastic Eiffel Tower key rings and turn them into pendants for your friends. French supermarkets are just amazing. You can pick up a bottle of Moët & Chandon Champagne for $40 or a very decent Beaujolais for less than $10.