Fashion & Beauty

Book Bit: Sophie the Parisian

Hunting for a bargain. / Illustration by © Alessandra Ceriani

We gauche Americans can’t get enough books and articles about how to eat, dress, shop, entertain and look as sophisticated as a French woman.  Several years after the publication of Ines de la Fressange’s Parisian Chic and its companion, Parisian Chic City Guidecomes a new, more expansive guide to French style:  Sophie the Parisian: Style Tips From a True Parisian Woman by Nathalie Peigney (Rizzoli, 2018). The author, a marketing consultant and journalist, shares her secrets about Parisian women, dividing the book into 103 alphabetically arranged keywords, ranging from Accessories (the “salt and pepper” of style) to Flowers (the French love white flowers) to Plastic Surgery (in Paris, it’s don’t ask, don’t tell).

In the excerpt below, Peigney takes us on an all-day shopping tour of her favorite stops in the City of Light. You can find the book at local booksellers, but you can also purchase it directly from the publisher.


PLACE DES VICTOIRES in the 1st arrondissement is one of the city’s classic shopping spots. It’s there we find our Parisian, with her best friend on her arm or her darling in tow, picking out the latest French fashions with simple but sophisticated good taste: oh-so-Parisian clothes, jewels, and accessories. It’s also a good part of Paris to go shopping for household linens, home decoration ideas, and gifts (but Place des Victoires is not the only great shopping spot in town). Join me for a guided five-hour shopping tour. We’ll start at 10:00 a.m. at the Etienne Marcel metro station, break for lunch at a nice bistro at Place des Victoires, and finish our day with a glass of fine wine at a wine merchant in the Galerie Vivienne, a nineteenth-century shopping arcade. Don’t forget the concept: the Parisian is an independent and multifaceted shopper. She is trendy but never a fashion victim.

  • Exit the metro onto Rue Etienne Marcel. At No. 15 Rue Etienne Marcel, have a look at Declercq, an extravaganza of home trimmings, fabrics, and decoration. Our fashion tour commences at No. 21, at Ba&sh, a brand created by girlfriends looking to put together the “ideal wardrobe.” Everything there is ultra-feminine, modern, and incredibly Parisian. A few doors down, at No. 25, we find Kabuki, THE fashionista’s boutique, with a nice collection of sublime designer clothes by the likes of Alexander Wang, Balenciaga, Balmain, Barbara Bui, Givenchy, Kenzo, and Stella McCartney, not to mention Shourouk jewelry. Next stop is Naf Nafat No. 33 for a fresh, young, impertinent style—nothing old-lady-like. Let’s move on to Comptoir des Cotonniers at No. 35. You’ll just love this brand’s elegant city-girl style of easy-to-wear clothes for mother and daughter.  Now let’s hop across the street to No. 42, where we find Sandro, the up-and-coming name in the world of premium ready-to-wear for the Parisian looking for a style that’s more rock ’n’ roll than Comptoir des Cotonniers, more with-it than Vanessa Bruno, and more colorful than Les Petites. At No. 44 reigns The Kooples, a rising star in Paris. This French brand has a unique concept: “The Kooples dresses Couples” (i.e., they feature coordinated unisex style clothes for you and your beloved). At the same spot, don’t miss the multi-brand shop By Marie that showcases both emerging and established designers. They have vintage items as well as all sorts of things to strike your fancy. Next stop, Iro at No. 46—a textbook case of a brand that started off with pretty basic stuff but finally took flight and is now the princess of Parisian street-style, with apparel that is cool and glamorous. Now for a real must: a visit to Claudie Pierlot at No. 49. Allow yourself plenty of time to try things on, and you’re sure to leave the shop laden with shopping bags. Everything is tops there. Timeless styles distinguished by all kinds of little details to discretely catch a man’s eye. Time to walk over to Place des Victoires. On the way, we’ll stop off at La Piscine. This piscine is not a swimming pool, as its name suggests, but a 3,000-square-foot clearance outlet with bargains on brand-name clothes. Once again, allow yourself plenty of time to browse.
  • Our Parisian shopping odyssey continues with the shops at Place des Victoires, a circular plaza that owes its name to the victories of King Louis XIV (represented by the equestrian monument in the center of the square). Our next destination is Apostrophe, at No. 1 Place des Victoires, which features “second skin” clothing, with nice materials and pure simple cuts that will please active, sophisticated women who hate ostentation. Apostrophe is popular with French television celebrities and international politicians. (Let’s do lunch … I’ll drop a few names.) If you appreciate really fine linens, check out Yves Delorme next door. Then at No. 2 we step into Zadig & Voltaire, one of the ultra-coolest brands on the planet. They’ve just modernized their Parisian line with some “basic” outfits that rock! On to No. 3 Place des Victoires, where we find Gérard Darel, a leading name in Paris for more than forty years. Gérard Darel’s unique vision of fashion is often inspired by iconic figures such as Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. The styles of the 1950s are revisited with a modern twist. Next, if you love fashion jewelry, stop at Agatha, at No. 5—bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings, and anklets galore. The style is lovely, fresh, and unpretentious. At the same address, Les Petites is another must. The look is a savvy blend of ethnic, vintage, and sensual romanticism (embroidery, lace, and delicate materials). I love it!

    The practical Parisian stows her stuff in a catchall, be it Balenciaga or Ikea./ Illustration by © Alessandra Ceriani.

  • Turn left onto Rue Croix des Petits Champs and amble over to No. 46, Avril Gau, creator of the Parisian’s favorite minimalist bags and shoes. So chic, ma chérie! Well, it’s nearly 1:00 p.m., my dear. I don’t know about you, but for me shopping always works up an appetite. Let’s backtrack to No. 43, Les fines Gueules, my favorite eatery in this neighborhood. Glad I phoned them yesterday. It’s always best to reserve the day before. This place is an absolute joy for those who really like good French food: try the steak tartare of Limousine steer or the bluefin tuna tartare, both are super!
  • Not too full for a couple more hours of shopping? Great! We’re back to No. 10 Place des Victoires, to “le must of the must,” called simply Victoire (what else?). This is a store we return to, season in, season out, because they make us feel so at home. The collections are gorgeous and varied: fad, classic, city casual, or dressy. They also have eccentric and must-have accessories, not to mention fun things for ephemeral occasions and designer fashions in timeless styles. Next stop is Maje to shop for casual wear that is simple but feminine. Just ravishing!
  • Walk for about a minute or two down a little street called Rue Vide-Gousset to the Place des Petits-Pères. On the way, you’ll see the Notre-Dame des Victoires basilica and, at No. 4 Place des Petits Pères, you’ll discover a surprising florist called Sylvain George, specializing in orchids, of which he offers more than sixty types! It is so interesting when Sylvain talks about his flowers . . . a real botany lesson! At No. 6 there’s a shop called Maison Bleue, a novel concept store offering a remarkable mélange of old and new jewelry, vintage accessories, and select creations by young designers such as Petite Mendigot, Les Cerises de Mars, but also Nat & Nin, and Delphine B1. Upstairs, you’ll find Maison Bleue’s designer hair salon.
  • Follow Rue des Petits-Champs to your right until you spot the enchanting entrance to the Galerie Vivienne. Take in the Neoclassical décor. What atmosphere! At the entrance to the gallery, visit the boutique of Jacqueline Singh, a creator of marvelous fashion jewelry. At No. 15 visit Nathalie Garçon for exuberant feminine creations that please Parisian actresses. At No. 25 there’s La Marelle, a consignment shop with great bargains on luxury articles. At No. 34 we come to the boutique of Alexis Mabille, the haute-couture designer loved by everyone who’s anyone. At No. 26 you’ll find the creations of Catherine André, famous for her jacquard weaves and her jerseys and shawls in stunning colors.
  • Return to Rue des Petits Champs and walk down the street to visit another historical shopping arcade called Passage Choiseul. Stroll down a magical passageway from another era. Notice the glass roof and natural lighting that make this illustrious place so charming. One of my favorite shops there is No. 11, L’Effet Bulles, where I buy gifts, costume jewelry, and cool decorations.
  • 6:00 p.m. How time flies! Back to Galerie Vivienne for our last stop, Legrand filles & fils, a renowned wine merchant and traditional gourmet foods shop. Here we sip a glass of fine wine in a sublime early-twentieth-century atmosphere. Relax, you have done a good job.

—Nathalie Peigney

From © Sophie the Parisian: Style Tips From a True Parisian Woman by Nathalie Peigney, published October 2018, by Rizzoli.


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