Saturday, August 28, 2010

Look no further: the Beacon's Closet of Paris

I suspect I can't be the first grad student to have wondered where the Beacon's Closet of Paris might be located. Given the number of beautiful things in even the more low-key Paris shops in the 100-euros-and-up price range, and the tendency of the annual "soldes" to mean 20% discounts, the notion that somewhere, there might be a cheaper, last-season version of it all was so appealing that I just sort of assumed an equivalent had to exist.

But I hadn't found it. I'd come across the opposite ends of the used-clothing spectrum - the rag store home to Paris's most intense BO (an impressive achievement) and the used-Dior shops of Passy - and nothing mid-range.

Then today, as I was headed to the train, I passed Chercheminippes. It was just... wow. Every store I'd looked at and thought, too bad even with the sales I can't afford anything, was represented. Agnes b., Zadig et Voltaire, Barbara Bui - it was like a mini-Marais where just about everything cost - and they really do seem to like this price - 28.50. Unlike Beacon's Closet, the atmosphere is less hipster and more middle-aged bourgeoise in search of a bargain. This is probably what keeps prices down.

(Still not convinced? See also this account from an equally stunned Australian.)

I was torn between a Claudie Pierlot sweater-dress and a Comptoir des Cotonniers sweater-scarf set. The latter was, I think, the very sweater I'd coveted but not been able to afford while on study abroad, and, well, it came with that matching scarf. The dress was heather-gray and gorgeous. Both were that same price, and fit perfectly. Both, however, were incredibly itchy, which meant another run through the store, which led to a camel-colored cashmere cardigan (no avoiding alliteration with that one!) that was the absolute right shade of tan, but that fit all wrong. What a disappointment (First World Problems disclaimer), I thought, that I'd finally found my dream shopping experience, a store on one of Paris's most lovely streets filled with clothes I could actually afford, and I'd have nothing to show for it.

Then I noticed that what I'd thought was a reflexion in a mirror from the dressing-room area was in fact another whole room beyond the dressing room. This one was less designery (H&M, GAP, and Zara were all represented), but no less delightful. It was in this room that I found It. Something along the lines of an army-green Barbour coat, but with brightly-colored, quilted madras lining. The price? 28.50 of course. A good price for a winter coat, but was a bargain? It's the same make - Bensimon - as the sneakers that are the French answer to Keds or Converse, and I suspect I got a good deal, although I haven't found quite the same jacket online, and some (granted ones that look more like thick button-down shirts than like lined jackets) are going for less. I know, this is crucial, but I can't seem to turn off the research mindset even on breaks from my actual research, which is not, alas, on where to find the best Barbour-inspired army jacket in Paris.

And then! I heard something about other locations, and noticed the shopping bags listed other Chercheminippes locations all down that street. It seems I'd picked the right location for what I was looking for, but in case anyone's curious, there's also a real designer shop, a shop for accessories, one for men, one for children, and a surprisingly unexciting one for housewares.

Anyhow, apparently this store has its enemies as well. Not only do I love a good comments section/online forum, but it's interesting if unsurprising to see that trying to resell clothes in Paris is just as aggravating and insulting as it is in NY.


Britta said...

If you can travel much I would suggest Milan. It might have changed (I visited in 2003), but I found lots of incredibly cheap sales on last season's clothes and shoes when I visited, because I guess no Milanese would be caught dead in last year's styles.
I bought a pair of knee-high brown leather boots for 25 euros (down from 100+ euros), a tan corduroy skirt for 5 euros, and a pair of cork wedge sandals with red leather straps for about 15-20 euros, all with similarly high mark downs. Seven years later I still wear all three, and get tons of compliments on how stylish they look.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


What season are these sales? Or were they in special stores, like consignment shops? I was in Milan for a couple days last summer and found some cheap heels that were, I suspect, cheap originally. But my goodness were the people walking around gorgeously dressed. Paris doesn't compare.

What you say about the Milanese take on "last season" could be right. I get the sense in Paris that whatever ecological or hipster ideals have made used clothes almost superior to new ones in some circles in the States are not really a thing, and that there's still a stigma to wearing used clothes, however lightly used, however brand-name, and however stylish. With the exception of one store in the Marais that was obviously catering to tourists who wished they were in the East Village, my sense is that "used" means a much greater price-drop here than back home.