Today I decided to go shopping, even though I didn’t really have much money to buy stuff with. I just wanted to see the insanity that is Xmas shopping in Paris. To maximize the craziness, I decided to go to places where the shopping would be at its maddest and also most glamorous. I his rue Saint-Honoré (one of the poshest shopping streets in Paris), and then headed up through Place Vendôme (where all of the jewelers have their flagship stores), and then up into Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. The day was interesting and at times vexing, but here are the highlights.
- At the very concept-y store, Colette, you can’t actually carry your purchase to the counter. If you want to buy a shirt but you also want to keep on shopping, you have to leave the shirt with the Person In Charge Of Shirts, and then when you’re ready to make your purchases you have to tell the person at the counter that you had a shirt put aside for you. Now, I’ve done enough time in retail (*shudder* Urban Outfitters for 5 years) to know that most purchase decisions are impulsive and fragile, and every obstacle you put in the way of a purchase encourages the shopper to actually think about their purchase. So, by the time I had finished wandering around the store, I had come to the conclusion that I didn’t need a 55€ t-shirt, and left it there. If he had let me take the t-shirt with me and hold it as I continued shopping, I don’t doubt that I would bought it (and probably had buyer’s remorse afterwards).
- As I passed place Vendôme and past the main Cartier store (flush with guards at the door and unbelievable jewels in the windows), I come across the unbelievable: Tati Or. You see, TATI is a clothing / housewares / whatever chain that is probably the closest thing France has to WalMart. It mostly specializes in dirt-cheap knockoffs and tends to flourish in poor immigrant / minority neighborhoods. So TATI has somehow managed to afford a small shop on this most expensive of streets to open their own hard-discount jewelry store. I looked through the windows and was pretty impressed with their business model: not so much fake jewelry as simple, plain designs with almost-pure precious metals and semi-precious stones. For example, I saw a flat-link 975/1000 silver chain for 49€. Next to Cartier, this seemed like quite the bargain. Anyway, I just loved the idea of TATI opening a jewelry store in the posh-est area of town.
- Célio [Warning: loud webpage] suddenly has stuff I like. In the past, I’ve always seen Célio as a more European version of the Gap—which is to say, a rather monotonous wardrobe for self-effacing privilege / aspiring underprivilege. I don’t think that’s changed much, but at least this season Célio has discovered color. In particular, they’re all about the purple, violet, cerise and pink. These are all colors I can get behind. And the prices are pretty damn good. Woven shirts for 23€ - 30€ is pretty hard to beat on the upper-end of the chain-store scale. I didn’t buy anything today, partially because I got sick of waiting for the group of 4 saleswomen clustered around the cash register to stop talking and help me find sizes. Maybe I’ll try again during the week.
- This may not come as a surprise to those of you who know me, but it hit me while I was wandering through Printemps: Polo Ralph Lauren is my anti-style. Whatever that label does I am pretty much sure to detest. Go figure.
- I bought scarves! At Galeries Lafayette, I picked up a bubblegum-pink cashmere scarf and another wool-acrylic scarf that is dark brown with a series of thin, green-red-orange stripes along one side. It wasn’t the most luxurious shopping spree, but it still gave me a bit of retail therapy. Mmm, the warm glow of consumerism.
- The famous vitrines are in place and it’s chaos. Both Printemps and Galeries Lafayette have elaborate, shiny, moving displays in all of their shop windows. As is the tradition here in Paris, the displays are mostly directed toward children, and so the scene outside these stores are almost crazier than inside, with parents pressing their children against the windows.