Doing your part for the planet by reducing, recycling and reusing while vintage shopping in Paris isn’t just a good-for-the-planet activity — it’s an art, and one that demands a fair amount of trial and error. You can spend hours crawling around a loft full of scarves in search of that elusive Hermes logo, or you can stroll into a high-end shop where it’s already been hand-picked for you — for a price, of course.
Luckily, there’s a wide range of vintage options in Paris, from kilo shops (where, yes, you load up on heaps of clothes sold by the kilo — think knockoff-Harley Davidson T-shirts and denim cut-offs) to fripperies (thrift stores) which abound in Paris; the most ubiquitous being the playfully-named Free’P’Star, with stores studded around the city where you can treasure hunt for hours — which is often what you’ll end up doing, as there’s plenty of rubble to sift through for the rubies. But for those looking for a more curated experience, the gems below offer a range of luxury vintage shopping — and in some cases, a hefty price tag along with it. But if you’re on the hunt for something specific, or just love the thrill of discovering the Givenchy blazer of your dreams for the price of a formule, read on.
Sous Les Pavés Vintage
Tucked away in the ultra-chic Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood is perhaps the most aesthetically-appealing vintage store in Paris, Emma Moatti’s Sous Les Pavés (meaning ‘Under the Cobblestones’) Vintage shop, cleverly named for the store’s literally profound depth — it spirals four floors down, with vibrant Pucci tops, Céline coats, and sequin Missoni tops ripe for the picking. Originally an online boutique where she sold her own line of made-in-Paris clothes and a vintage capsule collection, she took her store to brick-and-mortar in 2020, where she wallpapered the space herself in a funky ‘60s pattern. The store features a dazzling mosaic entranceway by the artist Stephanie Lechevallier, hand-painted murals and other colorful curiosities. “Vintage is important to me because it’s a fashion legacy from past eras, it’s eco-friendly, and most of the time, unique,” Moatti told vintage blog and retailer Coulte in a November 2021 interview. “The fact that vintage is very fashionable these days makes people dress differently — they have independent-minded looks, and that’s terrific,” she added.
Les Merveilles de Babellou
True to its name, this boutique inside the Marché Paul Bert (the largest of the Saint-Ouen flea markets) is a marvel of jaw-dropping couture pieces from every high-end designer you can think of. Mannequins model slinky Paco Rabbane chainmail dresses, chunky Chanel jewelry, creamsicle-colored Chantal Thomas sets; the experience is as much a runway show or museum retrospective as it is window shopping (lèche-vitrine, as the French say — “window licking”). The extensive Paco Rabbane collection is particularly notable, with dozens of see-through chainmail, beaded and bedazzled dresses around the bright and airy space (which is decorated with a vintage jukebox, pink chaise lounge, Picasso-style side table and other eclectic goodies). While a good number of the pieces skew more old-fashioned — think oversized ‘80s YSL jewelry and navy blue Dior pumps — there’s plenty here to catch your eye. Just mind the price tags while shopping — most pieces here are rare finds and all are curated to an incredibly high standard, and the prices reflect it.
Making your way down the long, fluorescently-lit hall of Chez Sarah is as close to a time machine as you can get. You pass through the decades: running your hand along beaded flapper-style sheaths of the ‘20s, ruched nightgowns and smart mink-sleeved coats of the ‘50s, the shoulder-padded, brightly-colored dresses of the ‘80s and everything in between, many of them wrapped in protective plastic. While there wasn’t a single piece whose price tag didn’t make my jaw drop (and I heard similarly disappointed gasps from everyone else in the store), this Marché Paul Bert boutique is a veritable mecca of funky finds and high-end vintage pieces. Thinking of it like a tactile museum made the experience more enjoyable, since the prices were out of my range. One thing I would consider splurging on, though, is their delightful selection of vintage bathing suits — there’s a wide range of one and two-pieces that are sure to bring out your inner pin-up. And, all the way down, at the back, there are endless drawers of vintage ribbon, lace, buttons, bras, and, as a bonus, there are some fabulous Dior collector’s Barbies in the display case.
Vintage Inspiration Paris
A flash of lime green in the shop window at Vintage Inspiration Paris caught my eye. Upon closer inspection of the statement piece: a lucite handle and the word ‘Lagerfeld’ in small silver letters embossed on the nylon purse. Thinking I’d pop in just to see how much it was (185 euro, which was out of my budget but felt reasonable enough for such a unique designer piece), I soon found myself pulling heaps of things to try on in the makeshift dressing room, chatting eagerly with Nadia, the exuberant owner and unabashed lover of luxury with a contagious enthusiasm for her pieces and for the transformative properties of la mode. With over thirty years in the business under her belt and five years helming her store in Batignolles, Paris’ hip 17th arrondissement, Nadia’s enthusiasm for every customer who walked in shone with megawatt brightness. In English and in French she insisted that everyone try things on, waltzing around the shop and flinging pieces our way while sifting through her reasonably-priced collection of famous French and Italian designers: butter yellow Courrèges sets, oversized YSL menswear coats and blazers, paper thin Mugler dresses in pink and green hues that screamed of summer, Céline bags and more. Nadia’s motto, “Vintage, but fashion,” is inscribed above the door of the shop, and gets at the heart of her vibe: her collection is never vintage for vintage’s sake, but rather a selection of timeless designer pieces that are toujours stylish and unique, much like herself.
Dubbed Paris’ most “babetastic” vintage store by Vogue, Nuovo dishes up Jean Paul Gaultier and Versace dresses, label-less mesh tops, metallic pink Gucci bags, upcycled clothes made in-house and more, all priced affordably or reasonably. The pieces are modeled by the incredibly stylish shopgirls who are all friends of the owner, Lisa Lingenti, who picks out new pieces for the shop with her staffs’ individual styles in mind. “Nuovo is first and foremost a women’s affair,” Lingenti told Vogue of her 1½-year-old shop’s origin story, noting that the shop “represents all women: Chic, sexy, classy, sometimes extravagant, but always free and independent.” The shop, located in the vintage epicenter of the Marais, is refreshingly laid out like a typical boutique, with a few racks of clothes spaced out around the room, making the browsing experience a bit less chaotic without taking away any of the thrill of the hunt.
If you’re in the market for a Louis Vuitton suitcase, you’ve come to the right place. Another Paul Bert market find located a stone’s throw from Les Merveilles de Babellou, Des Voyages is your one-stop-shop for vintage luggage, with towers of LV luggage nestled beside other vintage trunks and handbags. Fashion and function combine in this luxury luggage and travel accessories shop, which has been operating for 25 years out of one of the many interior aisles of the labyrinthine market (allee 3, stand 110, to be precise). Bags from Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, ultra-chic French luggage giant Goyard and more await — bon voyage!
Sophie Dodd is a staff writer for Frenchly who covers all things Paris, travel, wine and lifestyle. She also writes for Travel + Leisure and PEOPLE. You can follow her adventures in Brooklyn, Paris and beyond on Instagram.