While rue St-Honoré is renowned for its big-ticket fashion houses, the narrow blocks of the Marais—rife with chic boutiques and smart second-hand shops—is the destination of choice for shoppers looking for something different and more personal. Just north of the quarter's historical center, past the Marché du Temple, Maria Vryzakis has thrown down a silken glove and entered the fray with Marie Louise de Monterey, a charming new boutique of hand-picked vintage womenswear, and the only place on the Continent where you can find the vintage-inspired styles of New York's Lyell.
Maria came to Paris four years ago, having worked in fashion, production design, and art direction in her native Australia. Both Maria and friend Emma Fletcher—fellow Aussie and Lyell's designer—have long indulged a nostalgic aesthetic. In early 2006, Maria decided to start a boutique of her own and began shopping for space, initially considering the up-and-coming area south of Pigalle in the 9th arrondissement. In late August, however, a friend pointed out a vacant, 3-windowed storefront on rue Dupuis in the 3rd, close enough to the Marais for well-heeled foot traffic, but half as congested and twice as cute as rue Vieille du Temple. She snapped it up and started in with the contractors. The decision to bring in Lyell was a natural one: Maria had too much space, Emma had no continental salesroom, and the common threads between Maria's collection and Emma's designs lent itself to an easy collaboration. "I think Lyell goes very well with vintage," says Emma, who describes her line as delicate, highly tailored, finely detailed, '20s-'30s inspired, but simple and with a modern edge. "I think people that like vintage like my clothes."
At first Maria had planned to call the shop simply "Monterey," after her hometown, but the space had its own designs. "When we were doing the renovation we found and old sign," she says, pointing to some Art Deco capitals that spell "Marie Louise" above the window. "We decided to keep it…It really suits the shop." The store itself is a simple affair: two rooms done in creamy eggshell, with old-fashioned floor tiles, nickel-plated train luggage racks to hang the goods, and hefty cast-iron radiators. Women's vintage occupies the first room, the second is given over to Lyell, and the small passage between them offers a few racks of baby-vintage for discerning young mothers.
Maria selects clothing according to a simple yet fastidious formula. "Stylish and glamourous women from the past, that's my focus in picking really special pieces. It's all about getting dressed up again." As to the vintage, "it's a bit between the '20s and '40s," she says." Because she has such a deep closet, Maria can afford to be both selective and creative about what hangs in the store. She plans on changing stock regularly, in step with the seasons or with whatever strikes her fancy. "Every so often I'll take all the '40s stuff upstairs and bring down all '70s." In tune with a soft opening on Valentine's Day (the official opening is this Wednesday, February 28), she says her current stock—full of reds, pinks, pastels, and delicate embroidery—is "just a little bit romantic, isn't it?" Meanwhile, the Lyell side of the store will welcome the spring-summer collection in March. Although only clothing is currently available, Maria will soon be rolling out vintage accessories, and hopes to offer her own line of footwear soon. But, as it stands, the combination of exquisite vintage and exclusive Lyell stock, presents a toothsome treat for tourists and locals alike, and reminds that—even in the face of Fashion Week and its defilés of the new—classic glamour can be hard to beat.
A new Marais boutique brings NYC's Lyell to Paris.