Monday, February 13, 2012
However, my knowledge is not unique, as a quick scout around the Internet will prove. There are eleventy million shoppings guides out there on the web, all of which remind you that Paris is one of the world's great shopping destinations, that the yearly sales (soldes) are an institution and that some of the world's best fashion houses are based there.
It's all true, but there are a couple of things I didn't learn from the Internet and will now tell you.
1. Apart from the very high end designer-consignment shopping and a couple of cute random boutiques down in Montmatre, vintage shopping in Paris is mostly a very unsatisfactory experience. I don't care if Sophia Coppola did go one of the most popular stores while she was making Marie Antoinette - most of the well known vintage stores are a disorganised tangled mess of stained polyester, torn shirts and bags that leave thin films of dust on your fingers.
2. The exception to this is the fabulous clothing stall at the Port Vanves flea market in the 14th arrondisement.
These markets are held every Saturday from 7am - 1pm. There's about 350 stalls vying for your euro. Port Vanves is not as large or crowded as its distant, more popular cousin at Clignancourt, nor is there a lovely man selling irrepressibly good crepes like there is at Clignancourt but there is a great variety of genuine antiques and fun vintage finds, and there is Madame, who sells the cheapest and most fabulous second hand clothing in Paris. Madame has a strict price scale - 5 euros for a top, 8 euros for a skirt, jacket or trousers, 10 euros for a coat.
Here we see a blogger expressing the muesli of emotions evoked when one picks up a new (still with tags) Yves Saint Laurent skirt and realises a) it's 8 euros B) the matching jacket - also still with it tags - is just down there on the pile and c) neither are her size.
Yves Saint Laurent was just one of the many labels in Madame's varied stock. I bought a Sonia Rykiel duster cardigan, a Sonia Rykiel jacket, a Paul Smith (black label) wool skirt, an Anne Fontaine shirt, a YSL Rive Gauche silk blouse, a Lanvin scarf and left am still kicking myself for leaving behind a double breasted knitted blazer by Louis Feraud and a cloudy grey cropped jacket in silk and cashmere by Agnes B. I also wished I bought some of Madame's Hermes ties, which she sells for 5 euros a piece.
All of the garments I bought (and all the garments I went through) are in excellent condition.
The Port Vanves flea market spans two streets and you'll find Madame at the junction of those streets. She is literally at the heart of the markets. Just look for the small crowd of delighted women eagerly sorting through a huge pile of clothes.
And get there early.