Palais Royal: Paris' New Shopping Mecca

Palais Royal is not big, but some of the capital’s chicest names are squashed into its few square meters, making it a buzzing and exquisite address for brands who prize discrete and attentive service. No where else can you find the perfect vintage little black dress, a hip-hugging pair of jeans, a pair of pink, limited edition sunglasses and have your initials engraved on your own bottle of scintillating perfume under one roof, followed by a stroll through one of Paris’ most beautiful gardens.

And yet, despite its central location, the shopping arcade’s hidden entrance doors, exclusive gallery spaces and leisure garden appeal, make it a quiet refuge that feels like a well-kept secret. We’ve been keeping a keen eye on Palais Royal as it attracts select luxury brands into its limited space, while steadily building a loyal and growing number of chic city shoppers. The shopping haven even recently welcomed Stella McCartney’s first Paris store and Mary Beyer’s made-to-measure glove boutique.

Originally built for Cardinal Richelieu, the Palais Royal has a long political and social history. It is the place where the royal family once fled for safety during one of France’s many civil wars, where lavish parties and court gatherings were held in the 1600′s, where French high society came to see and be seen. The carefully trimmed tree alleys, green painted benches, lavish flower gardens and old bronze sculptures still evoke this long and storied history. Laid out around a central fountain, the huge square garden is lined by two gallery arcades, Galerie Montpensier and Galerie Valois, which house posh restaurants, historic cafes, a handful of galleries and select fashion stores.

Pierre Hardy’s sleek and shiny black store displays his killer heels and bags like pieces of art in front of white light-boxes, while Shiseido’s Salon du Palais Royal invited you to dip into Serge Lutens’ cosy and intimate world of perfumes. Next door, shades of grey, simple furnishings and a life-size doll of Rick Owens himself welcome you to the designer’s warm and natural space. Known by international jetsetters and famous actors for its fine selection of sought-after vintage pieces, Didier Ludot’s legendary vintage couture boutique is a vintage haven, featuring original Christian Dior fur coats, Hermès scarves, Chanel Tailleurs, chic embroidered Manolos and chocolate brown Alaïa lace-ups. On the opposite side of the gallery, La Petite Robe Noire is a boutique solely dedicated to every woman’s favorite wardrobe staple. Marc Jacobs peddles his serene world of quilted bags, snug coats and wonderful shoes, while neigboring Shu Uemura’s space perfectly demonstrates the Palais Royal style with its discreet exterior and seductive wares.

Stella McCartney has chosen to set up her first Paris boutique just next to the much talked about Acne store. The space has an intimate atmosphere and architectural aesthetic, housing her entire range of collections: ready-to-wear, shoes, bags, fragrances, eyewear, lingerie and the label’s organic skin care range Care. The walls are covered in a sweeping curved maple veneer with lacquer tray inserts and pull-out shelves.

“People are loving the combination of sharp and feminine materials, the wood, the marble and, of course, the three brass rain unit sculptures, that look like they’re falling from the sky,” gushed one of the shop assistants when we stopped by last week. The use of quality materials and decor only accentuate the brand’s inherent sense of luxury. McCartney’s signature heels and faux-leather bags stand on golden shelf boards beside folded turtle-necks and soft cardigans. Two large dressing rooms are clad with card board scenes of galloping horses and hidden love messages. The store is an all around chic and trendy shopping pleasure that’s spread out over 150-square-meters and has eight windows facing out onto the tree-lined gardens.

On the other side of the park, Mary Beyer—a former model for Yves Saint Laurent, Guy Laroche and Courrèges in the ’70s—has just opened her very own haute couture glove paradise. In a luxurious and intimate setting, Mary Beyer offers made-to-measure gloves composed of mink, ostrich and crocodile skins. Apart from supplying her savoir-faire and artisan craftsmanship to some of the world’s greatest couture houses, Beyer now presents an haute couture collection for men and women twice a year, while offering a unique and exclusive service to individuals.

At Palais Royal nothing stays constant for too long, however. We just learned that Robert Normand, who set up shop in April 2008, will soon close his boutique, while hip handbag brand Corto Moltedo will open its first flagship store in January 2009. The latter’s 65-square-meter location will feature men’s and women’s lines as well as installations from contemporary artists. In addition to more than 60 different styles of handbags and small leather goods, the brand will also offer custom made-to-order pieces.

Shop addresses:
Stella McCartney, 114-121 Galerie de Valois
Mary Beyer, 32-33, Galerie Montpensier
Corto Moltedo to open in Galerie de Valois

—Nora Baldenweg

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