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Best Bargain Shopping in Paris

Dragnet chair by Kenneth Cobonpue at Merci, 
a three-story boutique 
in the Marais.

Photo: Marie Hennechart

Cutting-Edge Paris, Uncovered

The following afternoon I fetch Rosemary Rodriguez at her chic offices near the opera house. But our destination is far from these elegant digs. Like so many people in the fashion business, Rodriguez, who is wearing jeans, a Liberty of London button-down, a pair of spectacular antique diamond earrings, and a Goyard tote, only gets really excited these days by something truly off the grid. Which is why we taxi straight to Thanx God I’m a V.I.P., in the neighborhood between the Place de la République and the Canal St.-Martin. Rodriguez is ecstatic in this vintage clothing store, but in fact the whole quartier delights her. She points out Du Pain et des Idées (“Best baguette in Paris!” she crows); the leather wholesalers with their goods piled haphazardly in the window; the restored Alhambra dance hall; the couscous joints. We walk toward the canal to Artazart, a bookstore with Banksy monographs, among other finds. The peaceful curving waters, traversed by picturesque bridges, look nothing like the Paris I know.

Then it’s over to Merci. I am enraptured by this three-story multi-brand boutique. With everything from limited-edition designer clothes and books to flowers and linens, it is giving Colette a run for its money in the hipness sweepstakes.

Soon we’re deep in the heart of the Haut Marais. Rodriguez favors Pretty Box, yet another vintage store (a pre–Alber Elbaz Lanvin shirt is $130), and Hoses, a shoe shop with a sleepy dog in the corner and footwear with the coveted Avril Gau label. At Pring, the strappy heels are displayed in octagonal metal boxes; at Moon Young Hee, halfway between a shop and an atelier, a glorious silk chiffon skirt, puffy as a cloud, is $450. I love a gossamer garment, but in these hard times I am equally drawn to the more utilitarian, oddly chic designs at Yves Andrieux Vincent Jalbert, made from unlikely vintage fabrics—parachute nylon; linen and cotton meant to cover French camping cots. Happily zipping myself into an elaborate multi-seamed number, I’m forced to concede that without Rodriguez’s leading the way, I would never have parachuted into this place.

Lynn Yaeger is a Travel + Leisure contributing editor.

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