Carola Long: 'Modern French labels like Maje are filling the gap between premium high-street shops and designer stores'

There's nothing like watching fashion shows to fill one with an insatiable desire to shop. The urge is particularly acute at the Paris couture or ready-to-wear collections, where it's not only the clothes on the catwalks but also on everyone in the street that leave one coveting thy French neighbour's wardrobe.

Since my wallet won't stretch to a Chanel spree, my not-that-guilty Parisian shopping pleasure has been a cool boutique label called Maje whose prices are somewhere between APC and Marc By Marc Jacobs. They have a chic little branch on the Rue Saint-Honoré, near the Louvre, and they do a fine line in staple pieces with a rock'n'roll twist. Think mannish blazers, harem trousers and little silk printed tops – my last wear-to-death buy was a navy leopard-print silk T-shirt.

As is always the way with addiction, the occasional Maje fix when in Paris is no longer enough. But that's OK, because the label is expanding over here. They now have, among other stockists, a shop in London's Sloane Street, a space in Selfridges and a shiny new Maje boutique which has only just opened in Harvey Nichols, where the store's buying director Averyl Oates says, "French labels represent an extremely successful area of the business for us at the moment".

It's part of a trend. Unless you've been avoiding the shops and acting as if there was a recession on or something, it would have been hard to miss the influx of "contemporary" (ie. modern and affordable-ish) French labels over here. The exciting thing about brands such as Maje (pictured), Sandro, Vanessa Bruno Athé, Zadig & Voltaire, Prairie des Paris and APC is that they fill a gap in the market between premium high-street shops such as Whistles and designer stores, and their designs are still niche enough to feel unusual and special.

"These designers don't subscribe to anything too 'fashionable'," says Averyl Oates. "They prefer instead to concentrate on core staples that are still cool in more of a classic, understated way." Labels like Maje are a one-stop shop for that Left Bank, rock'n'roll hippie look that French girls have perfected. Now, however their secret's out.

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Shoppers at Selfridges department store in central London
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