Shortly after graduating from college, my (now) husband and I moved to Paris. Young and living on very modest incomes, we enjoyed long walks along the Seine, dinner parties with friends that went into the wee hours of the morning, and the occasional window shopping trip. It was one of the most incredible years of our lives.
When we left Paris and returned to California so I could attend graduate school, it was with very mixed emotions. We didn't know where the coming years would take us, but we were relatively certain we would never be able to recreate the magic that was our first year living together, surrounded by friends in one of the most enchanting cities on earth, young and worry free, in Paris.
My trips to Paris are now both a trip down memory lane and a mad race to visit friends, take in the latest art exhibition, sample pastries from the newest award-winning patisserie and get a bit of shopping in. Since having our daughter four years ago, I have found myself increasingly drawn to Parisian children's shops which are typically both beautifully curated and whimsically decorated.
On my most recent trip, I asked my close friend Vanessa, a particularly savvy Parisian, for a list of her favorite Parisian kids stores. Having recently developed our line of Wanderlust Playmats, I am increasingly interested in well-designed children's products and spaces. The Parisian children's stores did not disappoint. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Bonton: One of the most well-known children's shops in Paris with a number of themed shops throughout the city, Bonton is an absolute pleasure to visit - a true French concept store. The store was opened by the same family that founded both Bonpoint, the synonymous French children's clothing line, and Merci, the world-renowned Parisian concept store. The Bonton flagship shop features a children's coiffeur (hair stylist), cooking classes for kids, and themed "rooms" throughout the shop for tots to teens.
2. Bon Marché: It is ironic that the French meaning of the phrase "bon marchè" is "inexpensive" or a "good deal" because the department store Bon Marche is anything but cheap. Widely cited as the first department store in the world, Bon Marchè is a feast for the senses. Although the children's department is not as great as it was pre-renovation, it still features a beautiful selection of children's clothing, shoes, books, and dishes. The toys, on the other hand, are similar to what you would find at many large French retailers.
3. Centre Commercial Kids: A short walk from Canal Saint Martin, Centre Commercial Kids is a beautifully curated kids shop featuring a wonderful selection of locally-made children's clothing, toys, accessories, and furniture.
4. Le Petit Bazaar: A charming little children's shop nestled in a neighborhood near the Eiffel Tower, this shop has a wonderful selection of small European brands I did not see elsewhere. The focus a Le Petit Bazaar is on children's decor items and DIY activities including charming little DIY kits made in-house. An added plus, the owners are extremely warm and helpful.
In general, French children's stores are more expensive than American children's stores. While this may be perceived by Americans to be because the French favor luxury items, the reality is that the French tend to live by the fewer, better things mentality and this extends to products for children as well. Of course, there are large, inexpensive retailers as well (Monoprix, the French equivalent of Target, has some gorgeous, very reasonably priced children's wear as well), but the French have a unique way of mixing mass-market and small, local brands to achieve a elegant look without breaking the bank.
Do you enjoy shopping when visiting a new city? Do you prefer to shop for yourself or your children (or both)? What are your favorite shops in Paris and beyond?
P.s. A brief interview with the founders of Bonton.
P.p.s. I really enjoyed this interview (in English!) with a Parisian mum.
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After spending the last few days in New Orleans I came home with plenty of inspiration. Yesterday as we were walking home from brunch I realized that it would be great fun to plan future Ella Lou collections after cities I have visited and found particularly inspiring. New Orleans home are some of the most beautiful and vibrant homes I have ever come across in the United States. I'm mulling over how to translate the inspiration they provided me into an Ella Lou collection.
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