‘Made in Paris’ labels and eclectic concept stores are shaking up the fashion-forward French capital. Jennifer Ladonne goes on a shopping spree…
Hurrying through the maze of streets at the border of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, a few steps from the Musée Picasso , a stark white oasis of a boutique stops me in my tracks. With just a few leather-topped tables and plain wooden shelves to highlight a streamlined collection of gorgeous minimalist bags and small leather accessories, it is clear at a glance this isn’t your usual accessories store.
Barcelona native Isaac Reina studied architecture and fashion before moving to Paris and joining leather goods titan Hermès, then striking out on his own in 2006. Successful collaborations with the likes of Martin Margiela and Balenciaga followed, and in 2015 Reina moved his small Paris boutique to this privileged corner in the Marais.
Made by hand in several traditional leather-making ateliers in and around Paris, Reina’s refined, modernist bags are for people who appreciate superlative quality but feel perfectly at ease letting the bag speak for itself rather than wearing its logo on their sleeve.
And they do speak for themselves: “Simple items sans prétention,” is how Reina puts it. These are chic, timeless, indestructible bags for men and women that only get better with age. With fewer than 60 designs in each, total, and just a few models – or sometimes a single edition – in his seasonal collections, these definitely fall in the luxury category. They value quality, fine materials, craftsmanship and tradition – the kind of expertise that requires several days and a dozen steps to create, say, a handsome five-pocket leather portfolio.
All the bags are knockouts, made with the kind of meticulous hand-detailing that’s extremely rare to find these days; my favourites include a rounded leather toiletries bag that, when opened, creates two perfect halves to hold cosmetics when you’re on vacation and short of shelf space.
Elegant double-handle shoulder totes maintain their sleek shape, accommodating wallets, phones, pads, a book all upright and easy to find; and supple leather backpacks are a lightweight and elegant alternative to canvas. Reina’s superb collection of small portfolios, wallets and card cases are so durable they’ll last you a lifetime.
Prices are steep, but you’ll still pay less than you would for the big names – and for this level of artisanship it’s an investment you will never regret.
12 rue de Thorigny, 75003 Paris, Tel: +33 (0) 1 42 78 81 95. Website: www.isaacreina.com 
Hats are making a big comeback in Paris, and the jaunty models at Mademoiselle Chapeaux are the only high-fashion hats in the capital still handmade on the premises in the boutique’s own atelier. Once an essential fashion staple – both Coco Chanel  and Jeanne Lanvin began their careers as milliners – hats were jettisoned in the late ‘60s, when a more casual, unencumbered style evolved. Now, as more and more women seek to stand out from the crowd, hats are enjoying something of a renaissance. They are a great way to express one’s individual style, while calling on the fashion codes of an earlier, more glamorous era. Chloé Thiéblin, the founder and designer behind Mademoiselle Chapeaux, opened her boutique-atelier in 2014 on a quiet street near the Place des Vosges; once Paris’s centre for hat-making.
The bright workshop is crammed with the tools of the trade, including the handcrafted wooden forms made by one of the few form-carvers left in France. For Thiéblin, that’s one of the challenges – and satisfactions – of hat-making. “We have three hat-makers working in the atelier, but we are about to add a fourth,” she explains. “It takes a long time to train someone up and they don’t always stick around.”
Thiéblin favours the classic, deeply French styles that hark back to the ‘20s and recall starlets like Audrey Hepburn and style icons like Jackie Onassis – the cloche, fedora and, her favourite, the canotier, a flat-topped straw boater. Made of straw, wool, rabbit felt or silk, the hats range from a breezy silk pillbox to the elegant Gardian, with a broad, flat brim that can gracefully hide or reveal a face. Mademoiselle Chapeaux hats range from about €95 for the floppy Charlene, to around €480 for the fabulous wide-brimmed Charlene in fine straw. Each hat is available in a range of colours, some two-toned, some with ribbons.
Made-to-measure hats are a booming business, but you’ll have to be patient: it can take up to three months for a bespoke model.
15 rue des Tournelles, 75004 Paris, Tel: +33 (0) 1 72 60 77 68, Website: www.mademoisellechapeaux.com 
Ladies move over: La Garçonnière concept store for men, in the newly-chic 2nd arrondissement, easily equals (or surpasses) any of Paris’s scores of concept boutiques for women.
After hugely successful pop-up shops in 2014 and ‘15, the four hip menswear labels behind the luminous new boutique decided it was time to stay put. And why not, when you have an ideal spot tucked under an iconic vegetal wall in an up-and-coming neighbourhood full of trendy cocktail bars , restaurants and shopping?
We’re glad they did, because this is a concept store both men and women will love, incorporating every fashion item for the men in your life, in a space that is a pleasure to behold. Dedicated to “the masculine art of living,” the beautiful, sky-lit space is divided into departments, with clothing being just one of its many handpicked offerings.
You’ll also find a nook for some seriously gorgeous shoes and accessories – hats, cashmere scarves, leather bags and backpacks, watches, socks and men’s fragrances, and sporting goods (like surfboards) – a bookstore, gourmet grocer with a selection of wines, stationer, old-fashioned barbershop, a gardening corner inspired by the store’s own indoor vegetal wall, convenient (and private) weigh station, café offering Paris-made craft beers, wine, fruit juices, coffee and snacks; even a foosball table.
In short, everything for the well-rounded and well-appointed man.
40 rue des Petits-Carreaux, 75002 Paris, Tel: +33 (0) 9 73 68 14 47. Website: www.la-garconniere.fr 
Though it is on a smaller scale, Sprezzatura, a superchic and totally unpretentious new concept store for women, could be the sister store to La Garçonnière. Perfectly at ease among the hip boutiques of the Haut Marais , the shop, which started as a highly-successful online store, was created as an outlet to introduce a select group of aspiring international designers who had tons of talent but were not yet well enough known for their work to be widely diffused.
That’s great news for you and me, as it offers a rare chance to find unique of-the-moment fashions that won’t be seen on everyone else.
The boutique’s byline is “effortless” style. In other words, fashion that doesn’t seem contrived or worked on – the kind of unstudied chic in which Parisians excel. Taking that concept to its extreme, Sleeper’s fabulous cotton-and-wool-blend pyjamas, a collaboration with the boutique, are made to go straight from your bed to the office and back again, a concept we just can’t argue with.
Clothes range from athletic wear to leather separates, dresses and skirts, jeans, sweaters, swimwear and T-shirts, all displayed with a description and bio of each designer. The boutique also carries a choice selection of shoes, jewellery, sunglasses, hats, candles, fashion books and magazines – and an adorable café that spills out onto the pavement in warm weather.
If you can’t get to the store in person, just download the app from the website, which gives you photos and bios of the designers, plus information on store events to introduce up-and-coming talent.
130 rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris, Tel: +33 (0) 6 44 33 86 45, Website: thesprezzatura.com 
From France Today magazine