Shoe Shopping in Paris
THE SHOP The sexy red leather soles from Christian Louboutin (19 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, First Arr.; 33-1/42-36-05-31) have been turning heads for the past 13 years. These cult-status heels may be available elsewhere, but devotees visit Louboutin's original jewel box of a store to find special editions and perhaps even bump into the designer himself (his office is just behind the boutique). TOP PICKS Pink Chica Fiora high-heeled, crepe satin slippers with handmade silk flowers ($710); Paname Zeppa sandals ($580) with wide linen straps and straw platform heels.
THE SHOP "Chez moi, it's all about sex, shoes, and rock 'n' roll—I don't do cute," says Rodolphe Menudier. Karl Lagerfeld hired the designer for Chloé back in 1989, after which he had stints at Chanel and other houses before launching his own line in 1994. Just off the Place Vendôme, Rodolphe Menudier (14 Rue de Castiglione, First Arr.; 33-1/42-60-86-27), a shoe shadow-box designed by Christophe Pillet, is one of the sleekest spots in town. TOP PICKS Glamour tango pumps ($530) in red-glitter satin with clear Plexiglas heels; for men, white leather oxfords ($425) with orange leather insoles, an homage to Serge Gainsbourg. WHAT'S NEARBY The beautifully wrapped soaps at Annick Goutal (14 Rue de Castiglione; 33-1/42-60-52-82) make fantastic gifts.
THE SHOP Some of the best designers have trained at Charles Jourdan (23 Rue François I, Eighth Arr.; 33-1/47-20-81-28), but it had been decades since the 85-year-old brand was hot. Since February 2005, creative director Josephus Thimister, formerly of Balenciaga, has boosted Jourdan's style quotient and given the label's classic pump a sexy new contour. TOP PICKS Red python sandals with ankle strap ($470); two-tone gray canvas sandals with wooden heel ($350).
The New Generation
THE SHOP Michel Vivien (15 Rue Molière, First Arr.; 33-1/42-96-38-20) is getting all the buzz thanks to raves for his line for Lanvin. Parisiennes flock to his diminutive shop on a little street behind the Palais Royal for ultra-feminine sandals. TOP PICKS Gold metallic pumps with basketweave open toe ($495); red patent leather high-heeled sandals ($410). WHAT'S NEARBY Cibus (5 Rue Molière; 33-1/42-61-50-19; lunch for two $100), one of the tiniest and tastiest Italian restaurants in Paris.
THE SHOP The fashion crowd complains that Pierre Hardy (156 Galerie de Valois, Jardins du Palais Royal, First Arr.; 33-1/42-60-59-75) doesn't reinvent himself enough, but his loyal fans keep coming back for perfectly designed shoes. Hardy, who does the footwear for Hermès and Balenciaga, likes clean lines and peep toes. TOP PICKS Gold lizard slingbacks ($845) for women; kangaroo brogues ($630) for men.
THE SHOP Paris's party girls love Bruno Frisoni (34 Rue de Grenelle, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/42-84-12-30), on the Left Bank, for beautifully made shoes with playful details. Frisoni, who first got noticed as the accessories designer at Lanvin, likes to have a bit of fun with ribbon accents. TOP PICKS Black high-heeled patent leather slingbacks ($615) tied with a striped ribbon bow; cocoa patent leather wedge-heeled sandals ($445).
THE SHOP Stylist Valery Duboucheron's shoe-and-bag shop, Hoses (41 Rue de Poitou, Third Arr.; 33-1/42-78-80-62), in the trendiest corner of the Marais, helped launch Walk That Walk and Avril Gau; it also carries more established labels such as Marc Jacobs. Duboucheron stocks the store the way she would pull together a fashion shoot, offering eye-catching shoes in interesting colors. TOP PICKS To & Co celadon and navy leather high-heeled loafers ($380); Walk That Walk's sleek high-heeled caramel loafers ($380) with contrasting top-stitching.
THE SHOP Italian shoe manufacturer Iris (28 Rue de Grenelle, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/ 42-22-89-81) makes shoes for Marc Jacobs, Chloé, John Galliano, Proenza Schouler, and Véronique Branquinho. So it's no surprise that fashion fiends head straight for the company's store for the world's most complete selection of these brands. TOP PICKS Chloé Mary Janes ($615) with wooden platforms and ankle ties.
THE SHOP Patrick Melloul first opened Biondini (26 and 78 Ave. des Champs-Élysées, Eighth Arr.; 33-1/43-59-11-59) 20 years ago when he noticed that most Paris boutiques had only a meager selection of evening shoes. Today, Biondini is the largest high-end shoe retailer in town, and its three newly renovated shops are frequented by Saudi princesses, industrialists' wives, and starlets alike. TOP PICKS Gianmarco Lorenzi low-cut stiletto pumps ($345); Dolce & Gabbana checked slingbacks with white python trim ($525).
For Men Only
THE SHOP Strategically located near the entrance for in-and-out shopping, the shoe department at Le Bon Marché (24 Rue de Sèvres, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/44-39-82-80) offers one of the best-edited collections in town, with choices—but not too many. TOP PICKS Emma Hope leather-and-velvet high-tops ($370); Dior Homme leather oxfords with perforated detailing ($475).
Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts
The newly expanded Norman Foster–designed center features a collection that spans centuries and continents: a Francis Bacon painting hangs next to a reliquary head from Gabon.
Founded by Patrick Melloul, Biondini sells a collection of super pricy, and unique, shoes. The largest designer shoe retailer in the city, the company offers cutting-edge designs in men's and women's shoes at three revamped and minimalist boutiques on the Champs Elysee. Frequented by a demographic with disposable income to burn, Biondini specializes in labels that are conspicously beautiful and/or consciously cutting edge. Glam luxe women's platform shoes often co-exist beside occasionally demure selections like designer ballet slippers.
Ground zero for a dizzying selection of straight-off-the-runway styles, this Italian manufacturer of some of the world's most coveted shoe labels sells its wares at a boutique showroom on Rue de Grenelle. Making available a host of its coveted brands at one all-inclusive location, Iris stocks the designer footwear of partners Marc Jacobs, John Galliano, Victor & Rolf, and Véronique Branquinho, among others. Selection, not discount pricing, is the attraction here. Brands carried are comparably priced to each designer's own boutique prices.
The city's aristocratic Marais district hosts this ritzy repository for designer shoes, handbags, and jewelry owned by stylist and fashion consultant Valery Duboucheron. Situated in one of the trendiest areas, Hoses displays one-of-a-kind pieces in a space exuding simple elegance: a cream Louis XVI couch and single 18th-century Flemish portrait adorn an understated interior with pale pink walls. A who's who of established and up-and-coming labels are in residence, including Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Laurent, Roberto Del Carlo, and Avril Gau.
Famed for his fondness for treating shoes like pieces of clothing — fabrics and even zippers often adorn his designs — Bruno Frisoni sells whimsically unique shoes and colorful handbags at his popular Left Bank boutique on Rue de Grenelle. Now the art director for iconic French shoe label, Roger Vivier, Frisoni has become a favorite, designing sophisticated heels, platforms, and flats mixing glamour and edge. Past designs include feather-trimmed stilettos and black patent platform shoes embroidered with the words "God Save the Queen" in gilt thread. Frisoni's many celebrity devotees include the likes of Kate Moss, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Victoria Abril.
Formerly of Christian Dior and Hermès, impeccably pedigreed shoe designer, Pierre Hardy, displays his sculptural shoes at a black-lacquered space at Palais Royal Gardens. Resisting the trendiness of other designers, Hardy crafts relentlessly modernist boots, slingbacks, pumps, and wedges in a recognizable design style. Criticized by some for not straying from his typical designs more often, Hardy keeps his emphasis simple: clean lines, exquisite shapes, and jaw-dropping details characterize his footwear lines. In addition to mens and womens shoes, Hardy's distinctive handbag line is also sold.
Parisiennes flock to his diminutive shop on a little street behind the Palais Royal for ultra-feminine sandals.
Since February 2005, creative director Josephus Thimister, formerly of Balenciaga, has boosted Jourdan's style quotient and given the label's classic pump a sexy new contour.
Cutting-edge décor meets decadent shoe design at this boutique selling the high-fashion footwear of Rodolphe Menudier. Making its home amongst the shops of the Right Bank's bustling rue de Castiglione, Menudier's showroom occupies a visually arresting space designed by Christophe Pillet: metal cupboards, black windows, and a wall covered in white crocodile are among the highlights of the boutique's interior. The designer's consciously sexy shoe designs — think stilettos with ankle straps and pointy-toed 3-inch heels — are displayed enticingly in open silver-handled drawers alongside sensual hosiery selections by Gerbe and Chantall Thomas.
Located on a street that’s considered prime territory for hunting down kitten heels, stilettos, and wedges, Louboutin’s leopard-print pumps are prey truly worth stalking. Not only are the red-soled heels beautifully crafted and flattering, somehow the designer’s creations manage to be comfortable, too. With shoes lovingly presented on illuminated shelves, Louboutin’s Left Bank boutique looks more like an art installation than a shop.
Insider Tip: If you are visiting Paris during the sale seasons (mid-January or early summer), it is well worth lining up outside the shop first thing in the morning for the designer bargains.