Paris is officially the capital of luxury. No Nation beats France when it comes to top-market luxury retailing. It is in the French business DNA. Les francais have managed to find the perfect mix of elegant chic, intriguing design, innovative technology and retail presentation. Add good quality raw material and amazing marketing skills et voilà!
Naturally a stroll down Avenue Montaigne is not in everybody's budget but there is an alternative... sometimes!
Les ventes privées (private sales) were invented a few years back by the big brands in order to diminish left-over stock at super discounted prices. Nowadays it seems to be a National sport practiced to perfect coordination by the Parisiennes who wish to look their absolute best without taking up a morgage. Private sales are a little world of luxury at the fingertips of the privileged and usually reserved for customers of the brand.
Now, the luxury brands and their devoted clients might not like the idea because after all luxury SHOULD remain exclusive by definition. However, world financial situation, shopping habits and people's attitude towards fashion has changed and everybody is trying to keep up with the ever faster changing trends. One well-invested purchase a year used to take you a long way. Today fashion houses present four collections a year introducing new tendencies, designs and colours. These collections are then copied and reproduced by mainstream fashion multinational chains within a week.
But you just can't beat the qualiy of a proper brand article. The solution therefore are les ventes privées which are held during spring and fall throughout Paris.
A good connection to a person working in the world of fashion will get you the famous invitations to access to the holy grails of fashion. Once you're in the loop newsletters should keep you updated.
My friends know that I am by no means a "fashionista". I have been to these personal sales and have come out empty handed something une parisienne would never even dream of. However, once in a while I will find the perfect piece - usually a pair of shoes.
Half the fun of this kind of shopping is the places I discover. From La Grande Arche de la Defense to remodeled paper factories. From downtown showrooms to halls in the suburbs.
Next week I am off to browse John Galliano's vente privée. I am wondering if there will be millions of people to catch a last bit of his glory or will I be the only shopper of a designer who fell into disgrace?!?
In any case: Paris without shopping wouldn't be Paris!