Paris is hands down the shopping capital of the world, but with the Euro still at daunting highs and profligate shopping at all-time lows, how does one get that mythical Parisian chic without beggaring oneself in the process? As every stylish French woman knows, resourcefulness and a handful of ‘secret’ addresses are her best weapons for maintaining chic with her legendary ease. An instinctive sense for a few well-chosen pieces bought at seriously reduced prices is the key to appearing soignée in every circumstance and on any budget.
Armed with your own sense of style and these Paris addresses, you can strut your Parisian stuff and make your next car payment. We needn’t remind you that nothing rolls quite so trippingly off the tongue as “Oh, that? I got it in Paris.”
Vallée Village 
Paris’s only designer outlet complex is not exactly unknown, but it is unrivalled for gathering more high-end French and international luxury brands in one place, saving you the hassle of rooting through bins or engaging in combat sport at the famous Paris soldes (semi-annual sales). Being outside Paris has not dampened Parisian appetites for this très rafinée outdoor mall, since for variety and value it’s hard to beat.
There are no seconds or budget labels at Vallée Village– the merchandise comes directly from the brand store and is either last season, showroom samples or straight off the catwalk. Merchandise revolves constantly, so you are always assured of fresh stock not picked-over leavings. Prices are an assured 33 per cent-off retail price, but if you sign up for the free newsletter (via the website ), then you’ll be in on special sales and offers which can net you a discount of 80 per cent or more.
The top-notch designers for women and men include Céline, Marni, Carven, Vanessa Bruno, Givenchy, Versace, Max Mara, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Diane von Fürstenberg and Michel Kors, plus shoes and accessories by Jimmy Choo, Robert Clergerie, Lancel, Longchamps and many more. There’s also a slew of chic French chain boutiques, such as The Kooples, Gerard Darel, Maje, Bash and Berenice, and luxury French housewares from Anne de Solène (sheets and linens), crystal and porcelain by Baccarat and Lalique. Not to mention jewellery, lingerie and high-end children’s wear (Bonpoint, Aigle, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren). All merchandise is eligible for a 12 per cent duty-free rebate, on a spend of more than €175.01 at a single boutique.
The Village’s perks include personal shoppers in English and ‘hands-free’ shopping (€10) – meaning that your purchases are picked up at each boutique, kept safely while you shop and then delivered to your valet-parked car – parking is free, by the way. Handily, you can also use Vallée Village’s ‘Shopping Express’ Paris shuttle (€22 return) or chauffeured mini-van (price on request).
For visitors with kids, the Village offers a children’s park to run off steam. Alternatively, the hourly shuttle service to and from Disneyland Paris, just five minutes away, makes a convenient distraction for dad and the kids while mum shops.
If time is of the essence, a new GPS-configured app allows for surgical strikes on your favourite boutiques, which you can choose beforehand with your app or online. And if you’re feeling guilty about all that Paris culture you’re missing, the spiffy Vallée Village art gallery’s revolving exhibitions on the themes of fashion and French art de vivre – such as the recent show concerning British fashion photographer Norman Parkinson – will satisfy those cravings.
Back in Paris…
If Vallée Village can’t tempt you to travel beyond Paris’s borders, no worries, there’s still plenty of designer booty to be had at significant year-round discounts, compliments of the following Parisian stock shops and dépôts-ventes, which have been hand-picked for discriminating shoppers.
Paris ‘stock shops’ are the best way to find exclusive designer and high-end ready-to-wear that’s hard to find in single-brand shops eliminate wading through racks of stuff. Here are a few of the best designer stock shops, where you’ll find last season items and gently worn samples from showrooms and the catwalk.
Haute Ready-to-Wear Designers
Clare Waight Keller’s modern-yet-feminine silhouettes in flowing fabrics and sophisticated colours have made Chloé one of the hottest tickets in town. Chloé’s gorgeous new Rue Saint Honoré boutique is a must-visit, but to avoid ‘sticker shock’, the brand’s ‘stock shop’ at Espace Twin 7 is where you’ll find her timeless separates for at least a third off retail price. Spotted: unstructured blazers and trousers in silk-blend gabardine. (8 Rue Jean Pierre Timbaud, 11th, no phone)
The legendary Azzedine Alaïa re-took Paris by storm last autumn, as the opening of his dazzling Rue Marignan boutique  coincided with a retrospective of his work at the Palais Galliera.  One of Alaïa’s museum-worthy dresses runs well into the thousands, but the the stock shop in the designer’s Marais HQ offers 50 per cent off his creations. Spotted: a superb floor-length velvet gown, originally €2,875, now €1,437. (18 Rue de la Verrerie, 4th, +33 1 42 72 83 19)
Since skyrocketing to fame with her first collection in the late 1960s, the bold mix-and-match separates, voluminous leathers and iconic knitwear in eye-candy colours by pioneering Paris designer Sonia Rykiel have earned her a place in every stylish Parisian’s wardrobe, whether she’s 22 or 62. Spotted: a wool-lined leather vest, €195. (64 & 110-112 Rue d’Alésia, 14th, +33 1 43 95 06 13)
Owning a Jamin Puech bag is like investing in a work of art. Whether a large reptile-patchwork carry-all or a diminutive evening bag featuring beads, shells, feathers or sequins, you won’t see these sculptural bags on anyone else. At upwards of €600 at the Paris boutiques, why not pay a third to half here for something that will never go out of style? (61 Rue d’Hauteville, 10th, +33 1 40 22 08 32)
French High-Fashion Stock Shops
Maje is the Paris cool girl’s go-to boutique, whether dressing up or down, for its classic separates, which range from leather cigarette pants to black poncho jackets. (9 Rue du Cherch-Midi, 6th, +33 1 45 44 21 20).
Women of all ages swear by Repetto, where you will find stylish booties, mid-heel pumps and – of course – the label’s classic ballet flats, all at steep discounts. (24 Rue de Châteaudun, 9th, +33 1 53 32 84 84)
Ultrachic, minimalist separates have made APC a favourite for quality, supercool looks with staying power. Seek out the famously well-cut pants, peacoats and chic ankle boots. (20 Rue André del Sarte, 18th, +33 1 42 62 10 88)
Sandro is the place for bourgeois-bohemian basics in wear-with-anything neutrals, punctuated by splashes of colour. Look for boy-cut trousers and blazers, lace-inset tops and sleek leather jackets. (26 Rue de Sevigné, 4th, +33 1 42 71 91 59)
Rock-star glam at its best, Zadig et Voltaire is great for sexy cashmeres, heavy wrap cardigans, cropped leather jackets, patterned jeans and stylish t-shirts. (22 Rue Bourg-Tibourg, 4th, +33 1 44 59 39 62)
Gérard Darel’s elegantly structured styles go easily from office to evening. Look for fluid silk dresses, leather jeans and wool pencil skirts. (19 Rue du Sentier, 2nd, +33 1 42 33 38 39)
The hugely popular Comptoir des Cotonniers offers quality fabrics, classic lines and beautiful colours for comfortable daywear and sportswear. Look for all-natural basics in silk, cashmere and cotton. (10 Rue du Jour, 1st, +33899967483)
Maje, Claudie Perlot and Les Petits are three Paris mainstays for ultrachic ensembles, and you’ll find them all in one spot. (4 rue de Marseille, 10th, +33 1 40 18 16 13)
Bonpoint Fin de Séries is the French mainstay for classic, silver-spoon kids, from birth to age 12. Anything a fashionista mom or dad would wear, you’ll find here in miniature. (42 Rue de l’Université, 6th, +33 1 40 20 10 55)
Not to be confused with vintage shops, dépôts-ventes (consignment stores), offering gently worn designer clothes from last or recent seasons at 30-70 per cent off ticket prices, have surged in popularity. You can consider them a one-stop wardrobe refresher and these three boutiques were chosen for their exceptional quality and selection.
With two boutiques, Le Dépôt-Vente de Passy  is treasure trove of choice couture and designer togs, including Vuitton, Hermès, Louboutin, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel. Many new items have been spotted at these stores, including a Chanel crocodile handbag at a third off retail price. Rue de Courcelles is on two floors and has menswear, while Rue de la Tour boasts select items and a cache of Chanel. You can also buy online with international shipping. (109 Rue de Courcelles, 17th, +33 1 40 53 80 82; 14 Rue de la Tour, 16th, + 33 1 45 20 95 21)
Violet et Léonie is situated in the Marais and runs toward the trendy. It has plenty to wade through – look for Isabel Marant, Paul & Joe, Issey Miyake, Louis Vuitton and lots of secondary labels. Jewellery, accessories, the works. (1 Rue de Saintonge, 3rd, +33 1 44 78 92 18)
The mothership of all dépôts-ventes is Réciproque, with 7,500 square-feet of couture and designer duds over six locations on a single street, and styles ranging from last season to vintage. The Rue de la Pompe boutiques are separated into: gifts and jewellery (No 89); menswear (No 92); eveningwear, cocktail dresses and lingerie (No 93 ); couture daywear, furs, sportswear, shoes and hats (No 95); consignment drop-off (No 97), and leather goods, scarves, gloves and hats (No 101). (89, 92, 93, 95, 97 & 101 Rue de la Pompe, 16th, +33 1 47 04 30 28)
Multi-Brand Discount Boutiques
These three discount boutiques carry a range of new couture, designer and high-end labels from last season.
L’Habilleur is a Marais stalwart which stocks lots of fabulous Italian designers you’ve never heard of. So what? The clothes are top-notch and superb finds can be had. (44 Rue de Poitu, 3rd, +33 1 48 87 77 12)
It may be small but Annex des Creatures is stocked to the gills with new couture and designer clothes from the likes of Galliano, Gautier, Mugler, Prada and Miu-Miu, all at 30-70 per cent off. (19 Rue Godot de Mauroy, 9th, +33 1 42 65 46 40)
Within spitting distance of the Luxembourg Gardens, Moda is your one-stop shop for yummy designer shoes: Chloé, Sonia Rykiel, Clergerie, Marc Jacobs and oodles more. (45 Rue St Placide, 6th, +33 0 1 45 49 32 60)
The Paris soldes last for five weeks and begin on the first Wednesday of January and the last Wednesday of June. Be warned: the first few days are a feeding frenzy, but after the first week or so you’ll be left with lean pickings. On the first day, the big department stores open at 8am.
And after you’ve shopped…
? Galeries Lafayette’s Bar Le Premier, situated on the iconic department store’s first floor, tips luxury refreshments toward decadence with its new ‘Pause Kaspia Menu’ (€35), which features 10 grams of Kaspia caviar and a flute of Moët et Chandon’s Brut Impérial, all topped off with a sinful treat from pâtissier Pierre Hermé. The menu is also available with a premium vodka of your choice, instead of Champagne (€30).
? Galerie des Galeries, meanwhile, is one of the department store’s best kept secrets, and offers an excellent post-shop opportunity for a culture break. Located on the first floor of the Lafayette Coupole, this sleek gallery space hosts four exhibitions a year, featuring young French and international artists from different disciplines, including photography, design and fashion. The current show, Till We Drop, sees fashion designer-photographer Jean-Paul Lespagnard taking the audience on a romp through Mexico’s luxury resorts.
Originally published in the February-March 2014 issue of France Today