Paris, unlike the average UK city centre, does not have a destination high-street shopping area, which many first-time visitors find bewildering. Rather, the city is divided into 20 arrondissements (like separate villages) which all differ widely in terms of culture, atmosphere, architecture and shops. Alicia Drake moved to Paris from London two years ago and immediately found herself hunting around for clothes - in the world centre of fashion:"There is no high street tradition in Paris at all, the majority of shops are independently run boutiques, which are very formal and demand a certain etiquette," she says.
The average British shopper has a DIY approach: the customer will select their garment from a rail, queue for the changing room, hunt for alternative sizes and then make his or her purchase. In Paris the opposite approach is the norm, "I entered a shop last week, pointed to a dress and asked the vendeuse for my size and that was all I had to do. She found my size, led me to a dressing room, and catered for my every need thereafter," says Drake. "The French much prefer formality, so don't try to be mates with them, they won't appreciate it."
Apart from these gems of advice, the book is a step-by-step guide to every stylish shop worth its salt in Paris. Ever wanted to know where Galliano gets ideas? Where Madonna buys her perfume ? Where supermodels buy their knickers? It's all there.
The guide also features illustrations by Jason Brooks who contributes to Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and Tatler, easy-to-read route maps, tips on the best cafes local to the shopping areas, even advice on the type of coffee to order - never ask for a cafe latte after 11am, and if you want to look cool with the waiters ask for a noisette (espresso with a dash of milk) in the afternoon. Each shop listing has key words which indicate the type of customer it attracts. Best of all, most shopping areas are within walking distance of each other.
The most intriguing thing about the book is the vast cultural difference between Paris and London. In Paris there's a "type" of person for every arrondissement: "If someone says they live in the16th arr you immediately think Alice bands and bourgeois living, the 6th (Rive Gauche) is where Parisian cliches - Gauloise smoking philosophers, artists, poets and jazz musicians live; the 9th is very creative and fashionable and Le Marais is quite gay, and so on," she explains. Drake also matches London shopping "types" with Parisian arrondissements: Portobello fans should head for the 2nd; Brompton Cross shoppers, the 6th ; Sloane Square shoppers, the 7th; and ladies-who-lunch the 8th.
If you don't fit in so far, don't worry, there is something in Paris for you. As Drake says, the book is not for fashion victims, and as long as you are not in Paris this weekend (along with every fashion editor in the world), you should find the guide as useful as the Yellow Pages, only far more glamorousn
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