12/30 Clothing and Vintage Shopping in Paris (and what it taught me about leadership)

It’s pouring rain here in Paris today and a great day to be indoors! Exploring the many many clothing shops that dot the  city is an option. I’ve been here now 10 days and here is my synopsis of the shopping scene:
If you are looking for the big brands (Dior, Chanel, Givenchy, Celine, Louis Vuitton)
You can find them on Rue Montaigne. For several years running, I’ve hosted women leaders at a private salon in the Chanel flagship here to share the story of Coco Chanel building the first women’s workwear brand, freeing women from corsets and lace, so they could move as freely as their male counterparts. But, if ducking in and out of shops isn’t your jam, the department store Samaritaine offers 600 of the world’s most iconic (and avant garde) brands under one roof. LVMH, entrusted DFS, the parent company to design and operate the space across the street from its Pantheon-sized store. The art installation outside the LV store is worth checking out. It’s the likeness of contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama, known for her gigantic pumpkin installations and instagram-worthy mirrored rooms. She signed a collaboration with the French fashion house.
Average dress price: 4,000 EUR and up
If you are looking for authentic French brands 
You can find them in the Marais, and strewn across the city.  I am personally eyeing up this dress at Gerard Darel for the next adventure (Turkey in August) or this midi length polka dot dress at Claudie Pierlot for fall. I ended up buying this dress at Antoine et Lilli. COLOR is the order of the day and this store is not for the faint of heart. The gentleman at the store kindly showed me how to properly tie the belt on my wrap dress, for minimal bunching of the belt and maximum slimming effect (high up in the back, double fold in the front).


Average dress price: 345 EUR


If you are looking for cheaper authentic French brands

I walked into Monoprix in search of mustard, turkey and bananas. Watching me at the grocery store is sheer comedy. Brow furled, trying to make out the French on packaging and even more so, what food is inside. But I found myself drawn instead to the dress section. Much like Target, the grocery doubles as a clothing store and sells an explosion of “robes” in a variety of colors, perfect for the beach.  Cyrillus reminds me of Banana Republic or the Gap.  I’m eyeing up this jumpsuit, which women wear on the streets with a certain elan. I love this A-line sweet white summer dress at Oysho.

Average dress price: 119- 59 EUR


The real treasure, in Paris is buying VINTAGE.

Paris is the equivalent of mecca for all things vintage. I don’t know how to buy this genre of clothing— at all. I don’t understand it.  I’m overwhelmed by it. My street is lined with vintage shops. The Universe is insisting on my education in this space, whether I want it or not. Last night, Paris was host to a huge music festival. Shop owners were moving racks and racks of vintage clothing to and fro.  I tip toed into shops and asked questions. People were kind enough to help me understand.  Acer Meringue in the Marais is a woman-owned showroom, featuring several designers, both new and vintage. They were having a little party, with champagne on offer. I declined. I had just come from the gym and wanted to keep the goodwill I had earned in the last hour for at least a few more. I did however, walk away with a bright blue vintage top, featuring a tie-neck and white thread embroidery detail on the sleeve and bottom. (I also asked how the to style the darn thing.)

In Canal St. Martin, there is a sweet little woman owned store called Machicadou. The store clerk shared that television shows have made buying vintage popular.  Customers can get well made, one-of-a-kind pieces, but for a fraction of designer prices. I settled on a black and white polka dotted dress with a tango-like train, full of drama and ruffles, but easily dressed down with a pair of sneakers. Several “outlet” stores dot the Canal selling “frip,” another word for vintage fashion, but they are starting to disappear. 

Average dress price: 50 EUR

I thought about it afterwards, and there are some interesting parallels with leadership and shopping for vintage clothing

1. Have an open mind:   I usually walk into a store having made a whiteboard of the outfits I plan to wear. I’m on the hunt for a specific item. I can’t do that in a vintage store. An open mind, a keen eye, and the ability to see potential are my friends when sifting through the racks. I’m navigating through different styles, eras and trends.

2. Appreciating History and Tradition: Vintage clothing tends to size smaller. I have to take my time and try everything on. At the same time, it’s forcing me to appreciate the value of history and tradition. I’m exploring ways to blend the old while innovating with the newer existing pieces in my wardrobe.

3. Attention to detail. I discovered a stunning white straight cut gown, with a gold filigree on the v neckline. But I had to seriously think about whether it was right for me. The fabric is incredible, but it would take a fair amount of tailoring to save it. Sometimes, I have to let go and move on..


More Posts