Independent shops thrive in Paris. Not only is the world’s fashion capital rich with one-off boutiques and concept stores, its designers are taking a more sustainable approach to everything from knitwear to homeware. Naturally, when it comes to food, the city’s patisseries and fromageries are simply unmatched.
While retail chains have slowly made inroads into the French capital, one-off stores remain Parisians’ first port of call. Whether selecting a beautiful gift or looking for the perfect souvenir, visitors should follow their lead. Shopping is something to take your time over in Paris. Choosing a block of cheese or a bottle of wine to take to dinner necessitates at least a few minutes’ discussion about pairings, browsing for a piece of jewellery means finding out about the artist who made it and picking up cookware might elicit a lesson on 19th-century French cuisine. That’s not to say Paris is short on contemporary design and innovation. From sustainable stationery to ethical fashion, it now has some of the most exciting shopping in Europe. To mark Small Business Saturday, Culture Trip celebrates the independent shops in Paris that carry the torch for ethical business trading and sustainability.
Founded in 2015, with an uber-photogenic Canal Saint-Martin boutique following in 2018, Lisa Gachet’s womenswear label is among those leading the charge against fast fashion. Her concept? Four collections a year that are bold, fun and fairly priced, plus a new do-it-yourself sewing pattern every month for those who want to stitch their own clothes. Her store stocks selected beauty brands alongside the Make My Lemonade clothing and footwear collections. The dressing rooms are some of the prettiest in Paris.
Merci has long been the high-end concept store for fashion and homeware. Spread over three spacious floors, the meticulously laid-out racks include Merci’s own labels and regular collaborations, as well as designers such as Soeur, Masscob, Missoni and Comme des Garçons. When shopping fatigue sets in, there are three cafés to choose from; the loveliest is Merci’s Used Book Café, where you can leaf through one of the library’s many books over a cup of tea. A percentage of Merci’s profits also support educational projects in Madagascar.
Not content with shaking up the world of sustainable footwear, the founders of Veja, Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion, opened Centre Commercial in 2010. The shop now has three locations around Paris and its curated men’s, women’s and kids’ collections continue to spread the message that environmentally friendly fashion is the future. The collections aren’t cheap, but expect pieces that last, from the likes of Patagonia, Saint James, Naked & Famous, People Tree, Birkenstock and, of course, Veja.
Sept Cinq’s two boutiques have a simple concept: they only stock products made by créateurs parisiens. (Its name translates as “seven five”, in honour of the city’s postcode.) Elegant yet quirky jewellery (dangly earrings, delicate gold bracelets and pretty barrettes) is a Sept Cinq mainstay, but the store is increasingly branching out into shoes, bags and its own line of slogan tees. On the menswear side, there are watches, scarves and wallets. You can also find Parisian-made soaps and mugs that make great gifts.
Since 2012, Papier Tigre has sold some 350,000 notebooks made with approximately 20,000 tons of recycled paper. There’s a serious commitment to sustainability behind this papeterie’s bold graphic-print stationery, totes and planners. The shop also sells a few handpicked items from small Parisian accessories brands such as Macon & Lesquoy, and its own line of felt-tip pens. To further limit its environmental impact, Papier Tigre is moving more and more production to its workshop in the 3rd arrondissement. It’s also launched a design-your-own notebook service, allowing you to customise anything from the binding to the page formatting.
From its classic, rustic-chic porcelain, which is inspired by 18th-century techniques, you’d never guess that Astier de Villatte was only founded in 1996. Handmade in France, mostly in its Parisian studio, each piece is unique. The shop is best known for its tableware – bowls, plates and platters finished with a milky-white glaze – but it also sells scented candles and eau de cologne. More unusual are the mugs produced in collaboration with artist Serena Carone, which feature costume jewellery-style gold rings inlaid with precious stones in lieu of handles.
Greengrocer’s, fromagerie, butcher’s, fishmonger’s and deli rolled into one, Terroirs d’Avenir is militant about food sourcing. The company was founded in 2008, following a Slow Food meeting in Turin, with a mission to supply the public and Paris’s restaurants with artisanal, sustainable and (mostly) organic produce. It started with three tiny shops on rue du Nil, and has since expanded across the city, spurred by an increased awareness of the importance of traceability. Come to pick up the finest seasonal vegetables, salty Breton butter or a few slices of Prince de Paris ham.
Maison Aleph’s glorious angel-hair pastry nests are the must-buy alternative to samey boxes of macarons. This family-run business was founded by Myriam Sabet, who was born in Aleppo and trained in patisserie in Paris. Sabet has created a sensation with her blend of Levantine flavours (cardamom, halva and pistachio) and rich French ingredients (normandy cream and clarified butter). The combinations change seasonally, but might feature mango and jasmine, or yogurt and damask rose. The nests come in travel-friendly versions without cream, and there’s an intriguing range of chocolate bars flavoured with everything from sumac to zaatar.
For a last-minute cheese fix before hopping on the Eurostar, there’s only one place to head. With its sans serif signage and minimalist displays, Taka & Vermo might stock all the great classics, but the Faubourg Saint-Denis fromagerie is far from traditional in its outlook. French cheeses are seasonal, so ask for advice on what to buy – perhaps a soft and mild goat’s cheese, a squishy bleu d’auvergne or a perfectly ripe camembert (if you don’t mind stinking out your suitcase).
Part shop and part tasting room, with very reasonable corkage fees, Cave de Belleville is well worth the schlep up the hill from Belleville Métro station – although don’t expect to get a seat if you turn up after 8pm. This unusually airy cave (wine shop and bar) was among the first to specialise in natural wines, and customers usually have to wait in line for one of the staff members to help them browse the shelves. Champagnes and pét-nats (pétillant naturel, a sparkling wine) are among the best options to take home, as the bottles are stronger and less likely to break in your luggage (they’re made to withstand the pressure of the fizz).
This extraordinary – and extraordinarily expensive – Aladdin’s cave of cookware counts Julia Child and Anthony Bourdain among its past devotees. In business since 1820, today it’s almost a place of pilgrimage, albeit one that still supplies professional chefs in France and beyond. The shop is renowned for its extensive range of copper pots and pans, as well as all manner of moulds, mixing bowls and utensils. Displays are very short on information (including prices), so be prepared to explain your budget and what you’re looking for.
The Parisian speciality coffee scene was slow to develop, but roasters are now seriously making up for lost time. La Brûlerie de Belleville was one of its pioneers. These days, Belleville doesn’t just serve masterfully made café crèmes and espressos in its coffee shops and supply beans to restaurants, it also dispatches blends around France as part of a subscription service. Visit its 19th arrondissement boutique, where the coffee is roasted and shipped, to pick up a bag of beans. The most atmospheric place to sample its coffee is La Fontaine, a short walk away in the 10th arrondissement.
Head to Fleux’ for striking contemporary furniture | Courtesy of Fleux’
It’s hard to define this sprawling four-location emporium in the Marais. At first it appears to just stock hip homeware – Scandi-chic recycled-plastic stacking baskets, €100 gold robot statues, cactus-shaped coffee-pod holders and ‘cheeky’ mugs decorated with line drawings of nude couples. Explore a little further, however, and you’ll find striking furniture, adorable kids’ toys and smart linens. It’s the antithesis of identikit IKEA design and the ideal place to stop for an unusual ornament or print to take home.
A true cabinet of curiosities, this taxidermist has been in business since 1831. Part museum, part shop, it’s completely one of a kind. Although it’s long worked exclusively with animals that died from natural causes in zoos or farms, Deyrolle’s focus is shifting to include education about environmental concerns as well as the art of taxidermy (it’s an official partner of COP21 and UNESCO). Pass on the stuffed zebras and dramatically poised flamingoes and pick up a copy of Deyrolle’s book to learn more.
Ground Control is one of the most exciting community spaces to open in Paris in the past few years. Set in an old warehouse near Gare de Lyon, it encompasses several bars, diverse food vendors (some housed in repurposed bus chassis and Métro carriages) and – improbably – an aeroplane fuselage, complete with working lockers. Objets Trouvés is the on-site concept store, where you can pick up vinyl records and responsibly produced cushions from Afrika Tiss and illustrations of Paris by Julie Flamingo.
Green Factory is best known for its ‘Jurassic lab’ terrariums, | Courtesy of Green Factory
These green-fingered entrepreneurs were championing succulents long before they became the must-have desk accessory. But the plants sold at their two Parisian boutiques are a little different from a standard aloe or snake plant. Green Factory is best known for its “Jurassic lab” terrariums, miniature ecosystems housed inside apothecary jars that only need to be watered a few times a year. They’re all handmade in Green Factory’s rue Lucien Sampaix space, where you can also attend a variety of workshops.
The Marché Saint Pierre isn’t a shop, but an enormous fabric market, just minutes from the Sacré-Cœur. It’s an absolute treasure trove for dressmaking supplies. Service is old-school: bolts are measured amid the rolls of fabric and you take your paper ticket to a central booth to pay. You’ll find everything from simple cotton and tulle to elaborate toile de jouy prints, with buttons, trimmings and so on across the street in the Mercerie Saint-Pierre. Shops specialising in lace, silk and fancy dress line many of the surrounding streets.