After spending a few days in Paris, you start to wonder how in the world these French women can look so effortlessly chic at all times. Either there is a tax break for trendiness that they are excluded from, or there’s another Paris shopping secret these women are hiding. Most of us want that high-fashion look, but our budgets shove us in the direction of bargain shops. Luckily for us, H&M started a new fashion line to fill that gap, and perhaps expose the hidden secret of Parisians. COS, short for Collection of Style, is a men’s, women’s and accessories collection that boasts high-quality styles with shockingly affordable prices.
I unknowingly walked into a COS in the 6th Arrondissement and began browsing the racks. A warm-blue silky blouse caught my eye, so I glided my hand along its fabric toward the price tag. Expecting to see it marked with a number that was at least three digits, I was shocked to see that the top I had been coveting was a mere 50 euros! Assured that this must be a fluke, a sale item of sorts, I examined the inside of several other items only to learn that every piece was similarly affordable. There were some basic tees around 19 euros, blouses averaging around 40 euros and dresses anywhere from 50 to 80 euros. It seemed like the much-feared three-digit price tag I had feared was a rarity here at COS.
Like most other women, I have neither the budget to pay 150 euros for a blouse nor the patience to pay 20 euros for something that won’t last more than a season. Rebekka Bay, design director for women’s wear at COS, noticed this common problem and hopes that this line will resolve it: “There seems to be a changing mood in fashion. I think we all feel annoyed paying so much for designer names. On the other hand, the high street is delivering great fast fashion at low prices, but I cry when something I buy wears out. We’re trying to create that sweet spot in between.”
It seems to me that Bay and her colleagues have succeeded in finding that spot. Items remain high in quality even with low prices. Style-wise, COS portrays the image of high fashion, and each piece is delicate and detailed. In general, the look is sleek and timeless; you’ll find an array of functional items here. But COS stylizes the ready-to-wear basics so that their subtle details, rather than their practicality, shine. For instance, you might find a daily dress jazzed up in a low-key neon color, or a skirt whose zipper is just a touch off center. The styles teeter on the line between simplicity and intricacy, never falling too far on either side.
Yet another bonus: COS features a broad selection of styles that suit several age groups. Much of the collection, about half, I’d say, is made up of casual wear. The other half is split between evening wear and business attire, and of course accessories on the side. So if you’re perusing the streets of Paris with your mother or daughter, both of you can scour the racks rather than enlisting the other to hold the bags and wait by the register. Sleek, high-quality clothing at affordable prices—what’s not to like?
Editor’s note: If you’d like someone to help you shop more intelligently in Paris, try these partners: Fashion Week Tour, Eva Eriksson Events or H&B@Yours. Each can create a wonderful day or two of shopping in Paris that will not only make the most of your time but will get you into ateliers to meet designers, and each offers Girls’ Guide members a special deal.