Shopping trips to designer stores and trendy boutiques
Although Paris is renowned as the capital of fashion, many of France's regional towns and cities are also home to talented designers in the world of fashion and interior design. Each city has its trendy districts, where "fashionistas" will be in their element, and where they can also sample gourmet food and admire the beautiful work of artists and artisans.
Attractive café terraces add a touch of life to sunlit squares and smart pedestrianised streets. Elegance and originality are evident wherever you look, whether your preference is for classical, vintage, trendy or ethnic fashions.
LyonA pleasant place to live, with its typical bistros known as "bouchons" in the Saint-Jean district, and magnificent urban architecture (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), this historical city has been the capital of the French silk industry for five centuries. Lyon's markets and old streets have a lively atmosphere, as do the workshops of fashion designers located on the city's main squares. Situated in the Passage Thiaffait (a picturesque covered arcade on the Croix-Rousse hill), the Village des Créateurs comprises around thirty boutiques run by young designers from the region, as well as ten other shops run by talented designers from elsewhere. As a result, the area, which also organises events such as fashion shows, has an interesting mix of styles. This fashion hub is enhanced by the Université de la Mode (University of Fashion) and by the city's traditional silk industry companies, which are still highly active and which include Atelier des Canuts, Atelier de Soierie, Soierie Saint-Georges, Sophie Guyot-objets en textiles, André Claude Canova etc. Also of interest to fashion enthusiasts is the "Shop & Design" guide created by the Chamber of Commerce.The Presqu'île district of Lyon is home to the area known as the "Carré d'Or" or "Golden Square" (70 luxury stores situated between Place Bellecour, Place des Cordeliers and Place des Terreaux), the Auguste Comte quarter (antique shops) and the new up-and-coming "Confluence" area (formerly known as Perrache). This wide choice of shopping opportunities is complemented by the shopping malls in the Part-Dieu district.
MarseilleMarseille is a vibrant city, with a multicultural heritage and creative atmosphere. Near the famous avenue de la Canebière, the discreet rue de la Tour is often referred to as the "rue de la mode" or "fashion street", with brand names such as Zenana, Casablanca, Manon Martin and Diable Noir. Meanwhile, local designers from Marseille, such as Mme Zaza of Marseille, Fille de Lune, Floh, les Fées Bizar(t) and Inar, have shops around the lively, working-class area of Cours Julien. Other brand names, such as Sessun, Kulte, Pain de Sucre, Fuego, Didier Parakian, Le Temps des Cerises, Sugar and Héléna Sorel can also be found around the city. This blossoming of talent is partly as a result of the Espace Mode Méditerranée, which was created 15 years ago and which brings together in a single site in the city centre (on the Canebière), a fashion museum, documentation centre and various other professional organisations. Antique dealers and art galleries can be found near the Opera House and Préfecture, while the vast esplanade of the cours d'Estienne d'Orves is known for its restaurant terraces. This avenue is also home to the chic, elegant bookshop-cum-restaurant Les Arcenaulx. In other parts of the city there are shops which have been in existence for over a century, many of which perpetuate very specialised, almost unique skills. Examples include the religious goldsmith's, Mouret; the herbalist's, Père Blaize; the dairy and delicatessen's, Marrou; the printer's, Maison Trabus, which still sells wax seals (!); and Carbonnel, which creates the hand-made clay figurines known as "santons".Another important part of the city centre is found near the Vieux Port, between rue de la République, rue du Paradis, rue de Saint-Férréol and rue Grignan. This area is soon to be extended and developed as part of the ambitious Les Terrasses du Port project (a shopping and leisure centre), which is itself part of the Euroméditerranée project. Meanwhile, the Le Panier district - the oldest part of the city with its steep narrow streets - is home to numerous workshops belonging to artists (painters and sculptors) and artisans (ceramicists, "santon"-makers and woodworkers), as well as galleries and shops where you can taste local specialities such as chocolates and olive oil. In this area you'll also find regional products which have prospered thanks to the city's maritime trade, such as Marseille soap made with imported palm oil, and Boutis fabrics, made with imported cloth known in French as "Indiennes". "Boutis" is a type of embroidery and quilting which uses stuffing (the technical word in French for this type of work is "emboutissage"). Finally, Marseille has a number of colourful markets, including the fruit and vegetable markets at Les Capucins and Cours Julien, the flower market in Place Monthyon and the famous early-morning fish stalls on the quayside of the Vieux Port. A truly unique atmosphere!
Nantes The city of the Dukes of Brittany and capital of the Pays de Loire region extends between the river and the estuary and is home to both traditional districts and new cultural areas. The main shopping areas include rue Crébillon (for brand names) and the Passage Pommeray, a superb neo-Classical glass arcade which dates from 1843. The "Rues de Nantes" organisation provides information on the Internet, including an interactive map and routes grouped according to themes such as well-being, interior design, food etc.
BordeauxThe Grands Hommes district is a kind of "Golden Triangle" between the Cours de l'Intendance, Allées de Tourny and Cours Clémenceau, providing the perfect backdrop for an delightful stroll. Other areas of interest in this wine capital, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, include the district around rue Sainte-Catherine and rue Porte-Dijeaux in the old heart of the city, and the quayside area by the river.
LilleIn the recently regenerated Lille Sud area, the rue du Faubourg des Postes has been transformed into a "Faubourg de la Mode" or "Fashion District", with a dozen boutique-workshops run by young fashion designers. However, the historic city centre, known as Vieux Lille, also offers plenty of interesting shops in rue de la Grande Chaussée, rue Basse, rue de la Monnaie, rue de la Clef or in the Esquermoise district. Many other picturesque shops can be visited in the city, such as the Pâtisserie Meert, which occupies an 18th century building, or the famous bookshop, Le Furet du Nord. Also worth a visit are the many lively bistrots which serve the traditional "moules-frites" (mussels and chips), or the fascinating Grande Braderie festival held on the first weekend in September. An information guide can be downloaded from the tourist office's website. Roubaix, a neighbouring town and capital of the mail-order industry, is also developing a specialised reputation for fashion, with a designers' show room, boutiques and workshops (known as the Petit Bassin or the "Vestiaire") grouped around the famous Musée de la Piscine (an old Art Deco-style swimming pool which now houses an art and industry museum).
A few more fashionable brand names in the world of interior designFranchised networks offer a new approach for city dwellers keen to embrace new decorative ideas and floral designs. These shops are also great places to browse and find the perfect gift.
Alice DéliceThis chain with around ten shops (e.g. in Rouen, Lille, Amiens and Strasbourg) is an interesting cross between a grocery shop, tableware store, specialised bookshop and cookery workshop. The shop even sells "molecular cookery" kits (cost: 40€) so that you can try this new style of cooking at home!
Du bruit dans la cuisine This chain has a similar theme and also has around ten stores located in cities such as Rennes, Nantes, Toulouse and Lyon.
Flowerbox galleryThe "flowerbox" idea consists of hanging a simple flower display on a wall, in so doing providing an unusual and attractive floral decoration with a "box" replacing the traditional flowerpot!
Brand name "villages" and designer brand shopping centres
The concept of designer label boutiques and factory outlets has been widely developed in recent years. A pioneer in this type of shopping is the delightful historical city of Troyes in the Champagne region, which is now a popular shopping destination, with three specialist shopping centres.