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Palais Royal

The Palais Royal was once renowned as a haunt of art and antique dealers, a quiet oasis of musty philately stores and numismatic shops in arcaded galleries surrounding a lovely, tree-lined garden. Vestiges of the old-fashioned charm remain: A l’Oriental, a wonderful old pipe shop dating back to 1818; La Galerie Numismatique, with its medals, coins and antique swords; the quaint little music-box shop Anna Joliet; and Noxa, purveyor of real tin soldiers and other miniature figurines, including Tour de France cyclists.

But in recent years the Palais Royal’s elegant 17th-century arcades have undergone a retail renaissance, reborn as a happening hub of luxury accessories and high-end fashion. Marc Jacobs, king of New York cool, upped the neighborhood’s style credentials when he opened his first European store stocking men’s and women’s clothing, shoes, handbags, jewelry and his quirky Bark Jacobs line for dogs. 56-62 Galerie de Montpensier

California bad boy Rick Owens swiftly followed suit, setting up shop on the opposite side of the garden. Owens’s signature fusion of glamour and grunge is clearly stamped on both the men’s and women’s collections, and his “Palais Royal” fur collection, displayed on the upper floor, is decidedly 21st-century avant-garde. 130-133 Galerie de Valois

Stella McCartney‘s arrival caused another major stir at the Palais Royal. The British designer’s first Paris store, conceived according to the same environmentally friendly principles that influence her collections, boasts an interior that mixes Japanese ash, bronze-veined marble and ceramic tiles she designed herself. Highlights of the collection currently gracing the tastefully restored vitrines include A-line denim skirts, cork-soled wedges and gorgeous silk draped dresses. 114-121 Galerie de Valois

For vintage draped dresses, Didier Ludot is a legendary dealer whose museum-quality collection of haute couture includes sumptuous gowns by Madeleine Vionnet, Cristobal Balenciaga and Paul Poiret. Ludot’s own line of more affordable little black dresses is across the garden at La Petite Robe Noire. 125 Galerie de Valois

Corto Moltedo, the trendy new flagship store showcasing the luxury bag line launched by the young American-Italian designer Gabrielecorto Moltedo, has become the latest haven of Palais Royal hip. Moltedo, who describes his aesthetic as “pop-luxe” chic, combines the best of ancestral Italian craftsmanship (his parents were former owners of Bottega Veneta) with exotic skins, sumptuous leathers and vibrant colors. Moltedo’s “Susan”—a metal-box handbag complete with rigid handle, magnetic fastening and black satin lining—has already become something of an It bag. The Moltedo men’s line has also been a hit with stylish young business types, and Madonna recently signed up for the store’s custom service. If your budget doesn’t equal the Queen of Pop’s, more reasonably priced travel accessories include funky laptop cases shaped like giant cassette tapes. 146-148 Galerie de Valois

A few doors away, Maison Fabre is a renowned gantier founded in 1924 and now run by the fourth generation of the same family. Offering a rainbow of colors and styles, from classic peccary driving gloves for men to slinky elbow-length crocheted showstoppers trimmed with leather lace for femmes fatales, Maison Fabre proudly handcrafts all its gloves in the traditional French glove-making town of Millau, in the Aveyron. 128-129 Galerie de Valois

More gloves, from former fashion model Maryvonne Moreau Beyer—Mary Beyer to those in the know—who specializes in custom-made women’s gloves produced in Millau’s historic Lavabre Cadet ateliers. Ring for admittance to Mary’s bijou of a gallery-boutique and marvel at her fantastical creations, displayed on sculpted metal hands. Working with chinchilla, crocodile, python, mink and other fancy skins, this ultra-creative gantier adorns her work with haute couture finishings of pearls, sequins, feathers and embroidery. 32-33 Galerie Montpensier

The cutting-edge designer frames at Marc Le Bihan, one of the city’s most stylish opticians, have been drawing crowds of trendsetters and urban dandies. Choose from his extensive, and often exclusive, selection of über-cool shades from Balenciaga, Lanvin, Tom Ford and Linda Farrow Luxe, among others. 37-38 Galerie Montpensier

No Palais Royal shopping trip would be complete without a stop at Pierre Hardy‘s fabulous footwear boutique. Hardy, who designed shoe collections for Hermès and Dior before launching his own line, frequently taps into art and architecture for ideas, finding inspiration in artists from Botticelli to Pol Bury and even in the stumpy striped columns by Daniel Buren at the Palais Royal’s entrance. His sought-after shoes, showcased in a conceptual vitrine, include jeweled high-heeled sandals for well-heeled women and limited-edition sneakers for men. 156 Galerie de Valois

Last-minute gift shoppers can find art jewelry by the late modernist designer Irena Borzena Ustjanowski at Ibu Gallery (166 Galerie de Valois); beautifully packaged soaps, body creams and rose-based fragrances at Les Parfums de Rosine (105 Galerie de Valois); and cult perfumes by Serge Lutens at Les Salons du Palais-Royal Shiseido—worth a visit for the opulent Art Nouveau-inspired decor alone (105 Galerie de Valois).

Originally published in the June 2010 issue of France Today.


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