I stood outside the shop window, drooling at a dress.
“Let’s go inside,” urged Mr. French, grabbing me by the elbow and steering me towards the doorman.
“We can’t go in there,” I whispered, “It’s Dior.”
“Of course we can go inside. It’s a store. It’s here for us to go in.”
“But we would never spend that kind of money on a dress.”
“That doesn’t mean you can’t look.”
I recently learned that a lot of Anglophones are intimidated by walking into Paris’ luxury shops, even when they have the budget and know what they want.
Maybe it’s our culture, or the conviction that every Parisian is born with inherent elegance, but I’d like to break that myth and put your mind at ease. First of all, most of the sales people in those stores are not Parisians.
In fact, on a recent trip to Chanel, I couldn’t find a salesperson on the floor who spoke French! They spoke English, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese, but, “We are very sorry, Madame, only our manager speaks French and he is at lunch.”
Paris wants to be the fashion capital of the world and international brands pour a fortune into their flagship stores because they want visitors. But to make things even easier, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you venture into the world of couture:
Ask for assistance. Even if you’re shy and don’t intend to buy, it’s OK to ask for help. Good salespeople are passionate about their brand and enjoy your interest, happily answering questions about how pieces are made and the thinking behind a design.
Salespeople are just that; salespeople. They are there to sell you something, so listen to them, but if you have the budget and you’re considering on splurging for the pleasure of saying to friends, “Oh, this old thing? I bought it in Paris,” then do it because you love the piece.
Don’t listen when they tell you the silk camisole is perfect, while your inner voice screams it’s two sizes too big. You know what you’re comfortable in, and when it comes to your personal style, you’re the expert.
There’s really no reason for the curious to abstain. If you want to admire that dress, buy the bracelet, drool over a handbag, slip your feet into an iconic pair of pumps…walk right in and write your own Cinderella moment.
In general, the more luxurious the brand, the kinder the salespeople tend to be. Let’s be honest, the staff at Zara likely deal with more traffic and garments in a day than the team at Gucci do in a week . They are tired and often confirm the rumor that Parisians are rude.
Even if you think you don’t belong in a boutique and you’re not dressed in designer labels, the high-end shops have taught their staff not to judge, because you just never know. The client may be a star in disguise, a discreet millionaire, or maybe a poor nobody who may be somebody someday. If the staff are rude, ignore their attitude and don’t let it stop you from enjoying your adventure.
Where to shop:
For Fashion: Avenue Montaigne, off the Champs-Elysées is a dream street for brands like Dior, Prada, Chanel, Fendi, Celine, Chrome Hearts, Bottega Veneta, Versace, and Valentino.
For Jewels: Head to the Place Vendôme and up the rue Royale to hit Cartier, Chaumet, Chanel Jewelry, JAR, Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Dinh Van.
For a brands you won’t find at home: The rue St.-Honoré has a lot of international designers; including Louboutin, Hermès, and Goyard; but the area is also full of shops selling unique fashions like the tailor-made bags at La Contrie, Lydia Courteille jewelry, Notify jeans, and cashmere sweaters at Exemplaire.
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