I came to Paris to, you know, live," exclaims Audrey Hepburn in Paris When It Sizzles. A noble aspiration, to be sure, but many of us flock to the City of Light for a less complicated reason: to, you know, shop. For certain objects of our desire we make a pilgrimage to a respected purveyor every time we visit: La Grande Epicerie (for food), Marie Mercié (for outrageous hats), and Legrand Filles et Fils (for rare vintages). Some new boutiques, however, manage to capture both the timeless elegance and the fickle zeitgeist of Paris today.
Roodolhe Menudier Architect Christophe Pillet describes shoe designer Menudier's first boutique, near Place Vendôme and arguably Paris' trendiest new shop, as "a merging of James Bond and Helmut Newton." Black-lacquer furniture and high ceilings provide the perfect backdrop for Menudier's haute-couture creations. (Before launching his own line in 1994, he designed for Chloé, Chanel, and Balenciaga.) My own recent favorites were the white-patent-leather ballet flats decorated with one perfect black rose ($365). For something spectacular, though, I would be happy ever after with Menudier's shiny red-lacquer stilettos, asymmetrically tied with leather laces ($350). At 14 Rue Castiglione, 1st arrondissement; 33-1-42-60-86-27.
Taschen This is Taschen's first boutique outside Germany, and it delivers everything that it should: authority, style, and the most beautifully produced art books in the world. Located in St.-Germain-des-Près and designed by Philippe Starck, the shop, with its long, rectangular facade of glass framed by a thick bronze border, looks like an enormous photograph come to life. Inside, glass- enclosed shelves are stacked with Taschen's irresistible titles on art, design, photography, and architecture. Look for the two-volume limited edition of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser ($500), printed on black paper. Hours are utterly un-French: Taschen is open until midnight on Friday and Saturday. At 2 Rue de Buci, 6th arrondissement; 33-1-40-51-79-22.
Lora Lune Rough-cut soaps, candy-colored bath salts, and dreamy oils, gels, and creams fill the shelves in this wood-paneled temple to modern beauty. The products (most based on vegetable oils) are selected by the gram and milliliter according to personal preference, then poured into frosted-glass bottles. The shop is terribly in vogue with those who travel frequently, because its offerings seem to be the perfect antidote to the drying effects of plane air. Particularly recommended are the vitamin-rich Eclat Miel face mask, made with honey and apricots; the silky Jour de Lune hand lotion; and the deeply moisturizing Huile d'Argan for emergency rehydration at any altitude. At 199 Rue St.-Honoré, 1st arrondissement; 33-1-44-55-36-06. Also at 22 Rue du Bourg-Tibourg, 4th arrondissement; 33-1-48-04-00-30.
Vis à Vis From floor to ceiling, this shop near the Madeleine beautifully displays sublime linens for bed and table. Designed by Dany Postel-Vinay (who until recently was known to only a few fortunate insiders), these fabrics are made entirely by hand from the lightest silk, sateen, muslin, and luxurious 400-count Egyptian cotton. Expertly done embroidery showcases such delicate visions as a dragonfly hovering at the corner of a pillowcase, a trail of pansies running along the edge of a sheet, pink-purple rose petals spilling across another. Nothing is rushed; it takes six months, for instance, to handweave the lace-bordered linen sheet called Brocéliande ($4,400 for a flat sheet and two pillowcases). Vis à Vis also carries fetching accessories, such as tiny square bags (meant to hold just the essentials) of brightly colored silk adorned with clover blossoms. Carry off your purchases in the store's smart voile bags. Made-to-measure sheets take about eight weeks. Village Royale, 25 Rue Royale, 8th arrondissement (moving to 18 Avenue Montaigne, 8th arrondissement, in September); 33-1-43-12-55-40.
Pierre Herme Fourth-generation pâtissier Hermé recently opened his first boutique, a sweet treat gracing the Left Bank fashion scene of Place St.-Sulpice. Born in Alsace, Hermé learned his trade from the legendary Gaston Lenôtre before taking over Fauchon's pastry kitchen at age 24. This long-overdue shop (followed quickly by a second) is the perfect showcase for France's premier pastry chef. A dark-wood counter holds artfully decorated cakes and tasty chocolates à la maison. But most devotees come for the macaroons—serious competition to the more famous ones at Ladurée. (The rivalry is no coincidence: Hermé ran Ladurée's high-end tea salon for two years.) These colorful confections, displayed as if they were fashion's latest must-have accessories, come in the classic flavors—pistachio, raspberry, coffee—as well as the more exotique: passionfruit-chocolate, lemon-hazelnut, rose. Sold by the kilo ($55), they are packaged in dramatic bright-red boxes—always accompanied by a chic little napkin for those who can't make it home without just a taste. At 72 Rue Bonaparte, 6th arrondissement; 33-1-43-54-47-77. Also at 33 Rue Marbeus, 8th arrondissement; 33-1-53-89-93-95.
Jacques Genin "Of course, I could easily open a boutique—but everyone has a boutique," says Genin, who sends his creations in chocolate off to Alain Ducasse's restaurants, hotels like the George V and Crillon, and luxury-food purveyor Hédiard. Rather than open a traditional shop, Genin recently began welcoming customers into his tiny workshop on a quiet residential street. Standing among marble counters, pastry racks, and open sacks of sugar, the self-taught Genin achieves the seemingly impossible: smooth dark chocolate, intensely minted ganache, caramel pralines, and dried fruits coated in the silkiest milk chocolate. Fresh every day, they're lined up with military precision on large, handsome trays. $ At 18 Rue St.-Charles, 15th arrondissement; 33-1-45-77-29-01.
Herve Gambs Made entirely of silk, Gambs' colorful orchids, calla lilies, and cosmos bloom indefinitely in this spacious boutique on a scenic side street of the Marais. The flowers appear so extraordinarily natural that one almost inevitably bends to smell them. Surprisingly, they are fragranced, thanks to vaporizers with a selection of 16 scents such as jasmine, lilac, and orange blossom. Gambs' floral arrangements look superb in his slender Vase Ronde, which is handmade in a Salernes faience workshop. At 9 bis Rue des Blancs Manteaux, 4th arrondissement; 33-1-44-59-88-88.
Resonances This shop, which is devoted to every aspect of the home, epitomizes the up-to-date Paris boutique: modern, accessible, and infused with an unmistakable savoir-vivre. For devotees of authentic French cooking, it has a splendid collection of kitchen tools, gadgets, and arcana based on antique Gallic originals but tweaked to suit contemporary needs. The porcelain chocolatière, a tall pot with a long wooden stirrer protruding through its lid, recalls 17th-century France, when hot chocolate was society's chicest commodity. A 14-inch corkscrew that attaches to the wall was inspired by the ancient wine traditions of the Basque region. The sweet, licorice-flavored liqueur called Antésite—sold in tiny, exquisite bottles with old-fashioned labels—has perhaps less historic associations: warm summer afternoons on the Côte d'Azur. At 3 Place de la Madeleine, Boulevard Malesherbes, 8th arrondissement; 33-1-44-51-63-70. Also at 9 Cour St.-Emilion, 12th arrondissement; 33-1-44-73-82-82.
Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle In an age of the beauty-chain boutique, Frédéric Malle's small perfumerie is a rarity indeed. Malle calls himself an "editor," and so he is, with a choice collection of scents created exclusively for him by nine European parfumeurs. Designed by Andrée Putman and Olivier Lempereur, the shop blends high-end boutique with high-tech lab: antique books and contemporary photographs on the walls, sleek refrigerators with see-through doors for the perfumes, and glass columns (used for testing the scents) that turn the back of the shop into a sci-fi movie set. Malle insists that he can match a customer to a specific scent the minute he or she enters the store. Three to keep in mind are Musc Ravageur (subtle but spicy), Fleur de Cassie (very floral), and Cologne Bigarade (lightish, with a hint of orange). At 37 Rue de Grenelle, 7th arrondissement; 33-1-42-22-77-22.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.