Boutique brilliance: Small is still beautiful in Paris' shopping streets

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Paris is close to shopping heaven. Here, bakers can be superstars – and, even in the centre of town, you can find hardware stores alongside high-end fashion. All the global chains are here, but there is also an incredible number of homegrown, one-off boutiques. The summer sales continue until 26 July. After that, many places close for all or part of August, when it is not unusual to find shop windows swathed in brown paper.


Merci (owned by Bonpoint founders Marie-France and Bernard Cohen) is to the early 21st century what Colette was to the end of the 20th, only here it mixes new and old. White minimalism has been replaced by artfully distressed raw concrete, metal stairways and gantries of a converted industrial space on the edge of the Marais. Here clothes by Isabel Marant, APC, Acne or Helmut Lang hang alongside vintage dresses and jackets or a Fifties designer handbag.

There is a vast basement kitchen section, while upstairs you might find antique wrought-iron garden furniture alongside a metal Bugatti chair designed by François Azambourg. There are candles and perfumes, Bauhaus switches and picnic plates, a restaurant and a café-cum-second-hand bookshop. Prices are far from thrift store, but at least you can feel good about it since profits go to charity.

Must buy: classic Tolix metal chair in exclusive white perforated version (from €259)

Merci, 111 boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 (00 33 1 42 77 00 33;

L'Eclaireur Sévigné

Behind a 17th-century stone façade, an extraordinary wooden structure by Belgian artist-architect Arne Quinze – with recycled planks, car-painted cardboard and flickering video screens – turns l'Eclaireur's luxurious womenswear boutique into an art installation. It's as much a place to gawp at as to buy something from, but Armand and Martine Hadida (who founded the first L'Eclaireur boutique 30 years ago) have their finger on the fashion pulse. They've picked out cool clothes and accessories from labels such as Céline, Balenciaga, Junya Watanabe, Lanvin and Gareth Pugh; and mixed little black dresses and gorgeous bags with streetwise T-shirts and punky jewellery.

Must buy: small black Céline handbag (€520)

L'Eclaireur Sévigné, 40 rue de Sévigné, 75003 (00 33 1 48 87 10 22;

Tsé et Tsé

Their products were once available only in design outlets such as Sentou, but Tsé et Tsé Associées (designers Catherine Lévy and Sigolène Prébois) opened their own tiny shop this spring. Heralded by a curly red neon sign, it lies on a side street between rue St-Honoré and the Tuileries. The quirky-yet-covetable designs mix practicality and fun, including triptych mirrors, articulated coat hooks, suspended vases, hanging metal lamps, beautiful warped porcelain bowls and cups with metallic glazed interiors.

Must buy: The April test-tube vase has become a design classic (from €133)

Tsé et Tsé, 7 rue St-Roch, 75001 (00 33 1 42 61 90 26;; closed from 15-20 August.

Hugo & Victor

Hugues Pouget, former pastry chef at Guy Savoy, a Michelin three-star restaurant, conceives his cakes as haute patisserie, creating new collections every season, with chocolates that look like marbles and gâteaux presented in shiny black and chrome vitrines. Eight flavours (chocolate, vanilla and caramel all year, plus five seasonal options) are each presented in two versions – experimental Hugo and more classic Victor – and also matched with a suggested wine.

Must buy: the raspberry St-Honoré, transformed with freshly crushed raspberries (€5.30)

Hugo & Victor, 40 boulevard Raspail, 75007 (00 33 1 44 39 97 73,; closed 1-15 Aug.

The Bordeauxthèque at Galeries Lafayette

Galeries Lafayette is the department store to end all department stores, with the largest shoe floor in the world, all sorts of fashion – from high street to luxury labels via young designers – plus menswear, home and food stores. More than 20 places to eat include the summer-only Franco-Japanese La Terrasse, which has an astonishing rooftop view. Last year, the store opened the Bordeauxthèque, in partnership with a Bordeaux négociant. After walking past neat shelves of affordable everyday bottles (from €5) and less affordable not-so-everyday bottles, you reach the holy of holies: a circular drum where a roll call of the grandest grand crus includes Château Latour, Haut-Brion, Margaux, and Pétrus. At the centre are vintages of Château d'Yquem from 1899 to 2006, ranging in colour from pale gold to russet brown.

Must buy: hard-to-find vintages of Château d'Yquem (from €300 to €10,000)

Bordeauxthèque at Galeries Lafayette, 40 boulevard Haussmann, 75009 (00 33 1 42 82 34 56;

Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Francis Kurkdjian has turned perfume into a lifestyle event. He has created fragrances for Jean-Paul Gaultier, worked with top chefs and designers, masterminded perfumed extravaganzas for Versailles, and now has his own minimalist glass-and-steel showcase. The range extends to room candles, luxurious scented washing liquid, fabric conditioner and even tubes of bubble-blowing liquid (pear, mint, herbs, violet), ostensibly for kids but snapped up by parents.

Must buy: refreshing lemon and bergamot Aqua Universalis (from €95)

Maison Francis Kurkdjian, 5 rue d'Alger, 75001 (00 33 1 42 60 07 07;; closed 15-20 Aug.

Vanessa Bruno

In an airy St-Germain store, Bruno's style is about achieving that effortless Parisienne look: feminine dresses and sleek, fluid coats with asymmetrical cuts. But it is her bags that have gained a cult following from with-it teenagers and their mothers. These include leather carry-alls and the coveted coloured canvas tote with sequinned handles (also available in leather, patent leather and studded versions).

Must buy: the canvas tote bag in bottle green, plum or slate blue (from €105)

Vanessa Bruno, 25 rue St-Sulpice, 75006 (00 33 1 43 54 41 04;

Matières à réflexion

Up in the burgeoning fashion district of the Haut Marais, Matières à réflexion combines the trends for vintage and ecological fashion, recycling vintage leather jackets into soft new leather bags. Some keep little zips and seams, some have a two-tone Art Deco touch. You can also bring along your own much-loved leather jacket or choose one from the store's stock to have your own personalised bag (count three to four weeks for fabrication).

Must buy: the little bag made from vintage jackets and chain detailing (€160)

Matières à réflexion, 19 rue de Poitou, 75003 (00 33 1 42 72 16 31;; closed 7-23 Aug.

Christian Louboutin

Only Christian Louboutin could make the most desirable thing about a shoe its underneath – the trademark scarlet soles. Set on the corner of the historic Passage Vero Dodat arcade, colourful peep-toes, low boots and sexy slingbacks are presented like jewels under individual Perspex domes. Don't plan to walk round town in them, though: Louboutin does do flats, but heels are what counts here, classified as high, extremely high and total madness.

Must buy: high-heeled python Zig (about €800)

Christian Louboutin, 19 rue Jean-Jacques-Rousseau, 75001 (00 33 11 42 36 53 66;; closed 1-15 Aug. The branch at 68 rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré opens all summer.

E. Dehillerin

Behind its green-painted façade, this legendary kitchen emporium is a relic of the old Les Halles market suppliers. It still serves professional chefs today but also caters for enthusiastic amateurs, with every imaginable kitchen utensil on show. There are spatulas, whisks and ladles for serving from one person to 500, plus chef's knives, parers and truffle graters, and floor-to-ceiling shelves laden with stainless-steel, cast-iron and copper saucepans, crêpe pans, blini pans and madeleine moulds.

Must buy: an Eiffel Tower cake mould (from €7.24)

E. Dehillerin, 18-20 rue Coquillière, 75001 (00 33 1 42 36 53 13;; closed Mondays in August.

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