Bargain-Hunting in St.-Germain
The next day I meet Juliette Gitel-Lassablière in the heart of the Sixth Arrondissement. Though Gitel-Lassablière, effortlessly chic in jeans and a trench, insists that there are all kinds of affordable gems hidden in this fancy neighborhood, I am frankly dubious. To prove her point, she suggests we dip into André, a chain shoe store I must have walked past a thousand times. Once inside I realize how it is that French women manage to look so stunning on minuscule salaries: a black suede high-heeled pump, elegant as a Louboutin though minus the red sole, is $125. At Monoprix, the massive discount store that I have occasionally visited to pick up Band-Aids and Bourjois makeup, the looks are a total eye-opener. Like H&M, Monoprix collaborates with designers, which is why the $110 black dress with the satin straps is so alluring—it’s from Erotokritos, a cult label with its own Parisian boutiques.
Of course, bargain is a relative term. Gitel-Lassablière points out that what a five-and-dime designer dress needs is a decent handbag and takes me to Les Trois Marches de Catherine B, where everything is secondhand, super-mint, and bearing one of just a few labels: Chanel, Vuitton, Hermès. Prices range from $140 for a scarf to $5,600 for a tangerine Kelly bag (but at least there’s no waiting list).
The next few hours are a retail whirlwind: she introduces me to Cyrillus, Paris’s answer to J.Crew, where a sharp blouse with pleated sleeves is $69; to Losco, where the made-to-measure belts worthy of Jane Birkin are around $195 (maybe not the most affordable belt in the world, but pretty good for a one-of-a-kind keepsake). At Des Petits Hauts, a literally star-studded boutique (étoiles dot the pink floors), a quintessentially Parisian pink mohair cardigan (think Amélie) is $145. For more-classic tastes, the remarkably unpretentious Eric Bompard has cashmere pullovers at under $280. There are even less-rarefied souvenirs at the vast Pharmacie Suprapharm, with coveted powder-room brands—Klorane shampoo for $5.90; Elgydium toothpaste, $7.50 for two; Anthelios sunscreen for $12—sold at reduced prices. “Don’t even think about coming here on Saturdays—it’s a nightmare,” Gitel-Lassablière warns. Last up is the adorable Bonpoint outlet, where the iconic baby clothes—pin tucks! smocking! hand-knitted booties!—are all 30 percent off, though it doesn’t actually say this anywhere, which is why I finally admit to myself that it’s sometimes indispensable to have a native guide.