The Marais quarter has long served as Paris's fashion barometer, drawing the city's top art and design talent to open storefronts since the '80s. With so many boutiques to choose from, it would take weeks to thoroughly explore them all. For those of us with less time, these four standout boutiques rank supreme, consistently providing a choice selection of cutting-edge design, in atmospheric settings—and at prices for every budget, to boot.
The spanking-new Ra boutique brings some theatrical dazzle to the chic upper Marais—clothes spill over the floor from a mini-stage, jewelry sparkles in a coffin, and decked-out mannequins mill about like so many understudies. Taking their cue from '20s Symbolist art, the Ballets Russes, and Russian cinema, the Antwerp-based owners—who made fashion waves with their Antwerp-based mother ship—create a fantasy space to display fabulous limited-edition pieces and handpicked ready-to-wear. Look for Christian Wijnants's flowing blue-on-black sequin cape and David Szeto's masterfully draped dresses, along with established virtuosos, like Rodart, Gareth Pugh, and Givenchy.
Don't Miss: Over-the-top hats, made-to-order shoes, rare vintage pieces, and curated art books.
Buy It: www.ra13.be
Going 30 years strong, L’Eclaireur's visionary approach introduced France to the likes of Helmut Lang, John Galliano, Ann Demeulemeester, and Martin Margiela, defining the term "concept store" in the process. Among their six Paris boutiques, the extraordinary shop at 40 rue Sévigné is a mecca for international fashionistas. Serving as both a style lab and giant interactive sculpture of sorts, images flicker from 150 video screens and walls rise and fall to reveal backlit armoires and niches filled with luxury clothes and accessories. Classics like Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe, and Maison Margiela mingle with glamour stars Haider Ackerman, Carven, and L'Agence, plus a slew of European artist-designers. A revolving collection of knitwear, leather, and lingerie is punctuated by handpicked bags, scarves, and some of Paris's best jewelry.
Don't Miss: Camilla Skovgaard's iconic shoes and ravishing Drome leathers.
Buy It: www.leclaireur.com
3. Surface to Air
Started by a group of artists and designers, the Surface to Air boutique on rue Vieille du Temple dispenses with the line between art and retail. Minimal displays present clothes like sculpture, and a revolving series of pop-up shops, experimental music soundtracks, and art exhibits make shopping feel like an event. The understated collection of edgy separates for men and women are ever-popular with hipsters for their staying power. Although the label can be found in specialty stores worldwide, nothing conveys the group's message like their Marais flagship.
Don't Miss: Women's platforms, flats, and strappy sandals are among Paris's best.
Buy It: www.surfacetoairstudio.com
For fashion lovers on a budget, the Swedish-based COS, H&M's sophisticated sister, is the go-to boutique for the kind of contemporary minimalist design that usually comes with a maximal price tag. The bright, uncluttered space features streamlined wardrobe staples for men and women (and a limited line for kids) alongside elegant standouts reflecting the latest trends. A neutral palate of black, gray, navy, beige, and pale pastels is punctuated with crimson, orange, blue, and metallics. Made from natural fabrics, like cotton, silk, cashmere, and leather, the European-made clothes rely on quality and fit to attract a more upscale customer, and the accessories—including gloves, belts, bags, wallets, scarves, and jewelry—could easily go for triple what you'll pay here.
Don't Miss: Sleek platform sandals and whimsical cardigans and tunics for spring.
Buy It: www.cosstores.com
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Photo Credit: courtesy Ra