If it’s quantity you’re looking for, just follow the crowds to the boutique-jammed streets of the Marais. But for a real Paris quartier with everything you need for a fun shopping day in the city, Rue de Charonne fits the bill. As more Paris neighbourhoods succumb to retailers who seem to travel hot on the heels of the hip crowd, offbeat corners don’t stay undiscovered for long. The Rue de Charonne is an exception. Since the ’60s, the street has attracted a mash-up of artisans, leather bars and underground nightspots. More recently, artists, designers, chic boutiques and a sprinkling of Paris’s best gastro-bistros have moved in, but the street still retains its neighbourhood feel and scruffy charm.
The Rue de Charonne crosses the entire 11th arrondissement, from near the Bastille to Père Lachaise cemetery, but the best area for shopping starts at the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine end and extends to Avenue Ledru-Rollin. Heading east, across Ledru-Rollin, you’ll find antiques and a few choice dining spots for a quick bite or a splendid lunch.
Here’s my list of the standout boutiques and a handful of worthy notables. Note that just off the Rue de Charonne, Rue Keller is also full of boutiques featuring young and established designers. Worth a detour, Alain Ducasse’s chocolate factory, at 40 rue de la Roquette, is a quick walk from the top of Rue Keller.
Repetto’s elegant décor and crystal chandeliers seem a bit incongruous tucked among Charonne’s graffitied storefronts, but somehow this legendary purveyor of all things ballet – and creator of the original ballet flat – fits right in. Tucked among a sea of pink tights, tutus and satin toe shoes you’ll find the full range of famously comfortable ballet flats in rainbow hues, as well as handsome Oxfords, loafers, Mary Janes, T-strap heels and boots. Although this branch does not carry the women’s ready-to-wear line, they have everything else, including leather goods (totes, bags, clutches, wallets, etc.), perfume and, of course, ballet gear for dancers of every age.
20 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 70 79 89 48. Website: www.repetto.fr
K-Way is so chic you’d think it was born yesterday, but the Paris-based rainwear company was actually founded in 1965, after Léon-Claude Duhamel got tired of getting drenched in Paris’s temperamental squalls. Made in every colour of the rainbow, and for men, women and kids, these durable, lightweight and stylish jackets are meant to be squished into a tiny ball and stuffed into a corner of a satchel. K-Way has expanded their line with longer raincoats (some with linings), lightweight quilted jackets for cold weather and even a superb silvery faux-fur cropped jacket perfect for the slopes.
35 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 47 00 04 92. Website: www.k-way.fr
Fashion chain Sessùn’s success in France has a lot to do with its versatility and originality. The label’s designer, Emma François, studied to be an anthropologist and says her travels are her biggest influence. The forms and textures of her designs recall the traditional costumes of places like Guatemala and Morocco, and indigenous influences are also evident in her chunky knits and colourful basics in deep forest green, burnished gold, teal and brilliant orange.
François’ adventurous streak also shows up in fabrics she’s boldly resurrected from another era: wide wale corduroy overalls or an oversized plaid shirt that could have been pinched from grandpa’s closet. A well-priced line of shoes, adorable booties, scarves and accessories round out the collection.
The Rue de Charonne shop, her second in Paris, is François’ ‘concept store’, with an attached gallery where artisans and artists can exhibit a selection of handmade artworks, small housewares, lighting and jewellery. Like Bellerose, Sessùn is found only in France and a handful of European countries.
34 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 48 06 55 66. Website: sessun.com
La Botte Gardiane
A family enterprise since 1957, La Botte Gardiane bootmakers offers that rare combination of handmade excellence and casual style that won’t wreck your budget. The company – which won the coveted status of Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (living heritage company) in 2007 – is based in the Camargue, a wild area of Provence where the gardianes, the model for the American cowboy, need sturdy boots to ride wild Camargue horses. Aside from some chic cowboy-esque models, you’ll find stylish and durable full-length fashion boots and booties, suede and leather chukka boots, super-soft espadrilles and strappy sandals, all made from supple vegetable-tanned calf from the same tanner that supplies Hermès. Slouchy ankle boots come in calf, suede, shearling, metallic leather and python (€295), and high boots range from everyday casual to elegant riding boots and a fabulous over-the-knee version. The Maurice espadrille (€190) is one of those shoes you’ll wear incessantly and the sandals (from €120-€140) are irresistible. It has styles for women, men and kids.
25 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)9 51 11 05 15. Website: www.labottegardiane.com
You won’t find this superb Belgian label in the US or the UK – at least not yet – so here’s your chance to stock up on the kinds of yummy separates that make anyone feel instantly chic. I first discovered the label in a Barcelona boutique known for carrying Europe’s best mid-priced designers and came away with a lightweight knee-length overcoat I wore morning, noon and night.
Irresistibly stylish, the clothes also combine comfort and originality; everything you need for a well-rounded wardrobe, from pencil skirts and cropped baggy pants to diaphanous silk tunics and jaunty faux-fur coats or an embroidered satin bomber jacket. Beautiful, well-crafted knits that work for women of any age (as do most of the clothes) are a Bellerose hallmark. The Charonne shop carries accessories, jewellery and some men’s styles, too, as well as a handful of other European labels. The label also has a kids’ line.
24 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 55 28 73 09. Website: www.bellerose.be
Paris’s darling of Bohemian style, after more than 25 years on the scene and huge international success, Marant’s clothes still have the feel of a hip niche label. Chalk this up to her knack for channelling the essence of Parisian chic in a vintage-inspired mix of animal prints, cropped leather jackets, cigarette jeans, voluminous peasant shirts, wispy silk dresses and lingerie-inspired silhouettes. These are the kinds of clothes tousle-haired femme fatales throw on for a night on the town – or after one. Lately, Marant has flirted with more elegant looks, adding some long, lean lines and cinched waists among her lurex catsuits, oversized fur jackets and Navaho-inspired ponchos. Colours are mainly subdued, with lots of black, cream and neutrals, but punctuated with just enough scarlet, blue, florals and metallics to keep it all good feminine fun. With a quick change from suede booties to strappy stilettos (you’ll find those here too) and a smear of lipstick, the clothes go perfectly from day to night.
16 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 49 29 71 55. Website: www.isabelmarant.com
Paris’s only sustainable department store, Altermundi has four Paris branches and this one stocks a nice selection of women’s and menswear, including striped organic cotton fisherman’s shirts, anoraks and chunky caps from the Scandinavian company Happy Sheep Wool, and a nice selection of fashionable faux-leather bags from the French label Enveloppe.
There’s also a selection of pretty necklaces, rings and bracelets in gold with semi-precious stones, colourful dishes and housewares, toys, adorable baby clothes and chic scarves.
39 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 48 05 11 81. Website: www.altermundi.com
The tiny Charonne shop is the original branch of this fabulous boutique (already reviewed in these pages), featuring a hand-picked selection of the best French and European brands for women and men. Here you’ll find beautiful leather gloves with metallic piping and chic bags (from Jérôme Dreyfuss, husband of Isabel Marant, among others), a small selection of French lingerie and ready-to-wear, plus jewelry and luscious eau de parfum and scented candles by Byredo in dusky fragrances with names like Baudelaire, Rose Noir, La Tulipe and M/Mink.
30 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 47 00 84 35. Website: www.frenchtrotters.fr
Antiques and secondhand
L’Art du Temps
Like the more stylised stalls at les puces, L’Art du Temps offers a hand-picked, artfully displayed selection of antique and vintage furniture, mirrors, artwork and bric-a-brac meant to stir your inner decorator. A four-foot 18th-century gilt mirror probably won’t be travelling home with you (although international shipping is available), but a box of butterflies or twisted candleholder make a nice memento indeed.
63 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 47 00 29 30
Where L’Art du Temps is spare, Victoria is stuffed to the gills, and this is great news for visitors with limited suitcase capacity. What better than a pair of antique champagne flutes, a vintage picture frame or a French café carafe to commemorate your stay in Paris?
80 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)6 17 85 00 64
France’s version of the Goodwill store, is it any surprise that Emmaüs seems so much chicer? On any given day you’re liable to find designer labels mixed up among the jumble of leather and fur jackets, clothes, accessories, jewellery and house wares.
54 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 48 07 02 28
Where to eat
One of Paris’s top gastro-bistros, Septime chef Bertrand Grébaut (a veteran of Arpège) is regularly voted Paris’s most promising young chef. Lively, popular and always full, reserve in advance for a stellar meal accompanied by natural wines.
80 rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 43 67 38 29. Website: www.septime-charonne.fr
Right next door, this is Grébaut’s wildly popular seafood shack. Feast on marinated salmon, oysters, crab fritters and the catch of the day in a pared-down vintage atmosphere.
80 Rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: (0)1 43 72 74 53
Les Demoiselles café
Stop in for an organic vegetarian (or non-vegetarian) meal, with a range of fresh juices, natural wines and yummy desserts.
76 Rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris. Tel: (0)1 47 00 53 03
From France Today magazine