These top French designers create iconic looks that are hard to find at home.
With global fashion taking over the world, it’s hard to find that special piece that can’t be bought online. These quintessentially Parisian designs are still relatively unknown in the United States, making these boutiques the perfect place to shop for a one-of-a-kind Parisian look.
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Inès de la Fressange
Once-upon-a-time muse for Karl Lagerfeld, Inès de la Fressange is now an icon of Parisian fashion, admired for her gift of blending casual elegance with the mythical je ne sais quoi Parisiennes are so famous for. Her eponymous boutique has quickly become the go-to address for fashion and eclectic housewares (Need a bike? Or a lunch pail?) that are eternal classics with a modern twist. Her annual agenda, available in French and English, provides fashion tips throughout the year for a gift that keeps on giving.
INSIDER TIPVisitors can watch Inès’ team of fashion designers create limited edition pieces in the atelier at the back of the shop.
With a name that sounds like French aristocracy, Edwina de Charette de la Contrie was born loving the finer things in life. After years of looking (unsuccessfully!) for the bag of her dreams, she decided to make it herself, and along the way, she fell in love with the French art of maroquinerie (leather work). The driven artisan now has her own atelier and boutique, LaContrie, where fashionistas can choose from a small selection of bags on display. The real fun, though, is rifling through the leather swatches of textures and jewel-tones to order a bespoke bag of one’s own.
Catherine Lévy has wanted to make her own jewelry since she was a young girl and would sit on the kitchen floor stringing chickpeas into wearable art. As an industrial designer and part of the internationally acclaimed Tsé & Tsé design team, Catherine now makes jewelry that reflects her childhood ambitions. The purple-haired Parisian strings brightly-colored, semi-precious stones from India along gold strands and folds them into eye-catching pieces that are anything but childish. Her poissarde earrings are particularly remarkable for the modern twist they add to a traditional Provençal design.
INSIDER TIPDorette is so popular that Tsé & Tsé often runs out of stock. Never fear—just blocks away, White Bird jewelry gallery always has a good selection of Dorette pieces on display.
A French brand, created by a North African immigrant, made in Italy, with an English name, Atelier Notify jeans are a new world style following the tradition of old-world tailoring. Shoppers can find jeans off-the-rack, or have them custom-made at either of the brand’s Paris boutiques. Even better, Notify will personalize any jeans at their workshop in the Bon Marché department store. Choose from a selection of embroidered images, or draw something up yourself, and the Notify team will add it to your denim for a look that is uniquely yours.
INSIDER TIPIf you really love Paris, they have an artist who will ink your jeans with the city’s icons and monuments.
This intimidating address behind an imposing porte-cochère is just steps from the National Assembly. Visitors who dare are buzzed into the residential building and follow the light streaming through the garden courtyard to the L’Atelier Renard workshop. There, trained artisans create bespoke bags, briefcases, and accessories in the sellier method of leatherwork that was originally invented for equestrians. There’s a small selection of leather goods available for immediate purchase, but most clients come here to work with Renaud’s team for a true haute-couture experience.
INSIDER TIPWalk-ins are welcome, but appointments are preferred. Don’t be afraid to get creative. They’re happy to make metro ticket cases, door pulls, or a box to hold the tools for your personal passions.
Le Slip Français
In the vanguard of the Made in France movement, Le Slip Français introduced their blue, white, and red banded men’s underwear in 2011 and the brand was an instant hit, thanks to the scented micro-capsules keeping each brief smelling its very best. They now make athleisure, pajamas, socks, and the regional Charentais slippers that are an essential accessory in every grandpère’s closet. Even the historic French brand, St James, has started a collaboration with LSF, giving a contemporary look to their iconic striped sailor sweaters.
Ask any Parisienne about her Bensimons and she’s likely to start sharing memories of summers past. Inspired by army surplus, the reasonably priced, rubber-soled, canvas sneakers, known as Le Tennis, have become a French warm-weather staple since they were first launched in the 1980s. Beyond footwear, Bensimon is a woman’s prêt-à-porter brand known for casual, easy-to-wear fashions.
INSIDER TIPBensimon also owns one of Europe’s most important design bookstores, Artazart.
Zespà, Aix-en-Provence was founded by a trio of engineers from (you guessed it!) Aix-en-Provence. The team wanted to create a shoe that was fashion-forward, yet casual enough for their native South of France. And they wanted it to be 100% Made in France, with each piece hand-sewn in small workshops. They came up with a collection of shoes and really made it big when their white-soled, leather sneaker was chosen to strut the catwalks of the international fashion scene.
Parfum Sur Mesure
Stéphanie de Bruijn is a bubbly Parisienne, full of passion. A talented musician, she left the stage and chose to perform the more subtle art of composing scents. She spent eight years studying perfumes in the cradle of France’s fragrance industry, Grasse, and she is now one of the few women recognized as an award-winning “nose.” Parfum Sur Mesure is her boudoir workshop/boutique where she offers a symphony of ready-made, semi-couture, and haute-couture fragrances.
Gab & Jo
The rooster has been a symbol of France since the Roman era. At Gab&Jo, a stuffed coq crows from the window, announcing all that is great in French design. Founder Alexis Leroy has created a one-stop-shop for souvenirs, with 100% Made in France gifts for everyone. From baby slippers to granny glasses and a fragrance for each arrondissement, every object at Gab&Jo comes with a story. Stopping by is less like shopping and more like a stroll through the collective French mind.
Getting ready for summer holidays one year, engineer Jeanne Signoles wished she could find light-weight, heavy-duty bags that also looked great in the trunk of her car. She designed some canvas pieces, trimmed with leather, had them stitched together in her native Carcassonne, and—voila!—a brand was born. Her collection now includes school bags, backpacks, weekend bags, and just about anything created to hold other things. L/Uniform bags are still made in the south of France, but they are now found at her pocket store on the Quai Malaquais, where shoppers can personalize each piece, choosing strap colors, custom badges, and embroidered initials.
It is hard to think of anything more French than a blue, white, and red logo with a rooster. That would be Fusalp, a brand that has been an icon for French skiwear for decades. Parisiennes walking by their St Germain boutique stop as waves of nostalgia remind them of their first trip to the alps, or the Christmas they found love. Fusalp now integrates 21st-century technology with the futurist fuseau look they perfected for the French Olympic team in 1964.
Michel Heurtault was so fascinated with umbrellas that his childhood hobby was fixing them for friends and neighbors. He now has an atelier with an entire team working to repair, restore, and create umbrellas. Hidden under the arches of the Viaduct des Arts, his workshop is cluttered with parasol skeletons, bolts of fabric, and ancient tools. It is hidden by Parasolerie Heurtault’s small storefront where clients are invited to look through his collection of handles before choosing the shape, fabric, and details of their bespoke creation.