On Location: Paris

Paris_main by Cassi Bryn Michalik
Quartier: Le Marais
Covering the 3rd & 4th arrondissements on the Right Bank (La Rive Droite) of Paris, the Marais (translation: swamp) is an historic quarter known for its crammed streets and clandestine courtyards. The city's oldest square, Place des Vosges, can be found here, and design wizards Azzedine Alaia and John Galliano both call it home. A mix of 17th-century town mansions such as L'Hôtel de Sully and modern avant-garde constructions like the Georges Pompidou Center, make this neighborhood a visual feast (some additional spice comes courtesy of the increasingly noticeable graffiti-covered facades of nearby buildings).
The old Jewish area of rue des Rosiers and rue des Ecouffes boasts the best falafel and pickled herring in Paris, and just around the corner is the city's favorite gelato at Amorino. Adjacent is the city's gay community, which includes several of the trendiest bars and cafés in Paris, including Open Cafe and Coffee Shop. To the north of the 3rd arrondissement are a handful of cutting-edge art galleries and independent fashion boutiques mixed in with a few tacky bag and belt wholesalers stretching from the museums Pompidou to Picasso. A notable point of interest is that everything is open here on Sunday when the rest of Paris takes the day off.
Our Favorite Shops of Le Marais:
Shine, 15, rue de Poitou, 75003 Paris, +33 (0)1 48 05 80 10
Shine may have recently changed its address, but the growing roster of designers remains along with its spirit of feminine rock-chic. Owner Vinci D'Elia relocated the shop in late September from its 5-year stomping ground on rue de Charonne to its new outpost in the Marais. Before opening Shine, Vinci dreamed of a shop as a global universe, an open scene for aspiring talents like those embraced in New York and London.
Originally a pharmacy dating from the late 19th century, Shine's interior overseen by the architects Federico Masotto and Regis Larroque is subtle, preserving the building's historic beatuy. The collections are perfectly aligned on a steel railing suspended from the ceiling, where projectors wash the pearly grey walls with soft cinematic light. Shine's wide selection includes Marc by Marc Jacobs (they were one of the first shops in Paris to cover the cult label), as well as Repetto, Preen, See by Chloé, Golden Goose, Rohan, Edun, Cheap Monday, True Religion, and the list goes on.
Yukiko 97, rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris, +33 (0)1 42 71 13 41, www.yukiko-paris.com
Originally from Japan but a "Parisienne" for the last 10 years, Yukiko decided to set up her exquisite shop in the Marais because, as she puts it, "this is where people from all the other neighborhoods of Paris come to find something special."
The tiny but alluringly romantic space is filled with just that, varied and unique treasures ranging from several pairs of sexy vintage '50s heels to a monogrammed Louis Vuitton Trunk to Yukiko's new self-titled line of silky biased-cut dresses and sexy schoolmarm blouses in a rosy palette. The vintage comes from all of "les belles époques," but what it has in common is hand selection by Yukiko herself.
Free ‘P’ Star, 8 Ste-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie, 75004 Paris, +33 (0)1 42 76 03 72
If you're looking for one-of-a-kind pieces that appeal to the Parisian trendsetters, look no further. One of the neighborhood's better-kept secrets, Free 'P' Star, is a veritable gem of Marais vintage shopping. Not for the claustrophobic, the boutique is cluttered with a broad selection of good pieces. And the prices make this fashionable hideaway more than worth the trek. While the shop might not be as organized as some other vintage spots, Free 'P' Star makes up for it in classic Parisian charm.
No single era defines the shop, but one can't help but notice how "now" the selection is with their perfectly worn leather boots and varied collection of Sedgwick-sixties dresses. For those who take fashion cues from Hollywood, Kirsten Dunst is a regular. It should also be noted that the shop is opened until 11pm every night of the week, a rarity anywhere in the world, not to mention in this city.
Xuan-Thu Nguyen, 1, rue Ferdinand Duval, 75004 Paris, +33 (0)1 42 77 08 60, www.x-tn.nl
Traipsing through the cobbled streets and secret courtyards of the Marais, one expects to find something undiscovered. Coming upon Xuan-Thu Nguyen's discreet shop on the corner of la rue Ferdinand Duval, those expectations are more than satisfied. A stark white minimalist space is the perfect backdrop to Nguyen's modern elegant and geometrically pleated designs, which have the feeling of original works of art.
Her designs are created out of all-natural fabrics such as cotton, silk, and wool, and utilize her unique way of finishing allowing for an invisible cut. According to Xuan-Thu, "the cuts are not only this season but the next one as well...they are timeless," with intricate handcrafted embellishments, such as hand-made flowers. And the music sets the perfect mood for some relaxed perusing. Martijn Ratsma is always on the playlist, as Xuan-Thu says, "The music is a translation of the collection in rhythm and sound."
Other Staples in Le Marais:
Shops—Les Classiques:
1. Zadig & Voltaire, 42, rue des Francs Bourgeois, 01 44 54 00 60
2. Zadig & Voltaire, Homme, 16, rue Pavee; 01 44 59 39 06
3. A.P.C., (Homme, Femme, Magasin General), 112, rue Vieille du Temple,
01 42 78 18 02
4. Vanessa Bruno, 100, rue Vieille du Temple
5. A-POC Space Paris, (Issey Miyake), 47, rue des Francs Bourgeois,
01 44 54 07 05
Where to stay:
Hotel Bourg-Tibourg: 19, rue du Bourg-Tibourg 75004, 01 4278 4739.
Owned by the fashionable Costes brothers, this boutique hotel's lavish decor and central locale make it the ideal touch-stone for your stay in Paris.
Where to eat:
1. Au Petit Fer a Cheval, (for lunch), 30, rue Vieille du Temple, 01 42 72 47 47
2. Chez Janou (for dinner), 2, rue Roger-Verlomme; 01 42 72 28 41
Both restaurants serve satisfying French cuisine in equally lively settings (read: the people-watching is as good as the fare).
Best Café
Les Philosophes: 28, rue Vieille du Temple, 01 48 87 49 64
A classic Parisian terrace smack in the middle of the Marais action.
Best Traditional Bistro:
(Open late!) La Chaise au Plafond, 10, rue de Tresor, 01 42 76 03 22
For traditional French fare at inexpensive prices!
In this first installment of a new series, Refinery29 jets off to the City of Light to explore Paris's coolest fashion and shopping thoroughfares—one neighborhood at a time.
By Cassi Bryn Michalik