I can’t help myself—every time I see the word “depot,” I think of trains and hillbillies and the 1950s TV show Petticoat Junction. It is something that happens fairly often while shopping in Paris, where the term “depot vente” means “consignment shop.” Consignment shopping is a popular option that is getting more and more popular as budgets tighten and people try to do the right thing by the environment. Which is great news for a girl who still wears the 1940s coat she bought at a depot vente when she was a starving student here in the 1980s. There are consignment shops throughout the city, but here are a few of my favorites.
Chercheminippes is actually one store that has taken over six addresses along the rue du Cherche-Midi. This is the only well-known depot vente to have a children’s section, and it is a very good one, with much that is brand new. They also have a housewares shop where I once uncovered an antique Indonesian ikat that was selling for one-tenth its value. There are separate boutiques for menswear, accessories and women’s apparel.
Reciproque is another depot vente grown wild, with its own spread of six boutiques along the rue de la Pompe in the tony 16th Arrondissement. I am convinced that the owner, Nicole Morel, has created the best women’s collection in town. I fell in love with a black crepe dress she once had on the wall. It was from the 1973 Yves Saint Laurent collection and made its way into my closet for $250. Upstairs there is a room for evening wear, semiformal wear and haute couture. Downstairs you will find designers, plus sizes and shoes. Her jewelry collection is first rate, probably because this is the favorite address of many of the city’s mistresses who come to convert generous gifts into cash. Stylists also love to come here, offloading leftover goods from fashion shoots and sample sales. Accessories get their own boutique, with a large range of Hermès scarves and designer handbags on offer.
Maison de Fanfan is a postage stamp–size boutique that boasts big value. The Japanese owners have an in with many of the local Japanese saleswomen, who come here with brand-new treasures from their jobs with some of the haute couturiers, especially Louis Vuitton and Hermès. This is especially great if you want new shoes at consignment prices. The clothing sizes tend to run petite, for the Japanese clientele, but the shoes and accessories are one size fits all.
Another favorite address for new shoes is the Depot Vente du 17ème. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the shoes worn on the catwalk make their way into this shop—they have a lot of options in very large sizes. And you can now go directly to their website and see what they have in the store, organized by brand name, price or size. Très pratique.
Last but not least, for the mother lode in Chanel and Hermès handbags, there is one destination that surpasses them all: Les 3 Marches de Catherine B. You are sure to find “the” little black quilted bag with a gold chain and double Cs, as well as dozens upon dozens of Kelly bags and Birkin bags, not to mention enough silk scarves to quilt a ship’s main sail. To be honest, I once worried that these guys were selling counterfeit bags, but they have developed a partnership with LVMH and enjoy a large Internet presence, so you can be sure that whatever you purchase in this boutique is real.
And that, for me, is what consignment shopping is all about—keeping it real.