Photo: Elle magazine, January 2007
Back in the late '90s, the façades in the Upper Marais received a cleaning, followed by a hike in residential rents.
Next, all the streets were re-directed, creating a veritable maze of one-way streets that no one other than residents could be bothered to tackle.
But slowly, one boarded-up storefront after another (most were leather workshops in times past) gave way to chic, avant-garde boutiques, galleries, and tea shops.
Last January we reported on the rosy forecast for Paris' Marais district; since the year saw an explosion of even more development, we feel compelled to revisit the SoHo of Paris to bring you the most recent additions.
The Hotel du Petit Moulin on 29-31 rue de Poitou has acquired a devout clientele in very little time with its jewel-box rooms and suites decorated by Christian Lacroix. For the publicity-shy, it makes the perfect secret hideaway: beyond its discreet entrance, the hotel's little bar/restaurant features a strict "guest-only" policy. Nearby, at the very edge of the Upper Marais lies the , epitomizing the new breed of boutique hotel. Large by Marais standards (with 43 rooms and 9 suites all equipped with DVD & CD players and a spa) this hotel aims to please even the most high-maintenance traveler — and their pet. If you have the budget, book yourself a suite with its own private pool and a view over the quaintest rooftops in Paris.
Behind the Murano lies a gem of a new store Les Belles Images opened in July by Sandy Bontout (the former buyer for Onward on boulevard Saint-Germain) at 74 rue Charlot. Les Belles Images is stocked full of , , and ; for accessories, , Walk That Walk, and , among others, are available. The selection is based on a theme: this winter the boutique's muse is the elegant lady of the '50s, next summer the shop makes an imaginary trip to Hawaii.
Elsewhere on rue Charlot, two designers are experimenting with a new localism: announces "Romance is on the Rise" in neon lights at his new boutique just a few doors away from his atelier, while Martin Grant has kept it even more compact at 10 rue Charlot. Here, above the Fondation Mitterand — whose impressive archives he overlooks in a dramatic interior courtyard — Grant keeps his new workshop and boutique side by side and indulges his love for couture tailoring. His privileged clients (that is to say, anyone who can find the place) are able to enjoy the luxury of the old-world salons where you try on garments and can even order them in different colors and fabrics.
Shimji, around the corner on rue Verrier, has emerged as one of the best stores in Paris. Though small, its selection of insider lines such as 77 Berlin Industries, Alberto Incanuti, and Wendy & Jim among others, makes it a must-visit store.
At Hoses, 41 rue de Poitou, owner Valery Duboucheron, a fashion stylist, has made it her mission to discover the greatest young shoe designers worldwide. With brands like Walk That Walk, , Avril Gau, and she attracts clients from far and wide, by word of mouth.
Shine, several doors down from Hoses at 15 rue de Poitou, relocated in September from Bastille and carries labels such as , Edun, Preen, and Jerôme Dreyfuss, to name but a few.
Turn right from Shine and walk twelve steps and you'll find yourself at a junction facing Abou d'Abi Bazar, A.P.C., and Galérie Simone, offering up hippie-chic, French-classic, and avant-garde fashion respectively.
Further down rue Vieille du Temple lie the Vanessa Bruno boutique, CH IND, and No Collection — all opened since September 2005.
Scattered among these stores are a handful of some of the best vintage shops in Paris: L'Habilleur (an institution in the neighborhood that deserves mention) is known for well-selected pieces from seasons past, including , , , and Plein Sud.
Unlike the rebirth of SoHo and the Meatpacking District, the metamorphosis of the 3rd Arrondissment is not about luxury brands grabbing armfuls of real estate with the hope of recreating uptown downtown.
Instead, the energy comes from the new establishment: non-advertisers whose popularity spreads among fashion insiders by word of mouth. You've been updated.
Marais Building by Karina Jeffrey for JC Report
More info about Marais at excellent blog Haut Marais Paris