I’m with my beau in the very traditional luxury boutique Hartwood, on the rue du Bac. We’ve come in to have a closer look at a simply gorgeous Loro Piana cashmere coat that hangs in the window. The fabric is so soft and rich and lustrous I feel like I am wearing butter. But the cut is all wrong and, considering the 3,000 euro tag, I hesitate. “I don’t like the cut, I find it rests poorly on my hips and it is extremely classic for me,” I remark.
“Yes, but,” replies the sedate salesman, with his eccentric mustache and the distinct smell of Bordeaux on his breath. “Not everyone desires to be a fashion victim like Madame.” My body jolts at the audacity of the accusation, but I leave the store appreciating his complete and utter honesty. It is something money can’t buy and a shopping experience unique to Paris.
Hartwood is the jewel in a collection of traditional, high-quality boutiques on the rue du Bac in the 7th Arrondissement. As you walk down from the Seine, the first temptation is Abercrombie, with its solid collection of European brands in 100 percent cotton, linen, wool or cashmere, depending on the season. Right next door, at the same address (38, rue du Bac), you stumble upon Curling, immediately followed by Hartwood, at number 40. An exhausting stroll of another 20 yards and you are at number 44, Arthur et Fox, where locals flock for their tailored style. Keeping with the rhythm, you’ll soon be at number 46, which houses the prestigious French cashmere boutique Eric Bompard.
With all the dressing and undressing, you may have built up an appetite, which is perfect, as you are mere steps from Joël Robuchon’s l’Atelier and Pierre Gagnaire’s Gaya. Both of these restaurants, owned by Michelin-starred chefs, are favorite haunts of the local ladies who lunch.
After lunch, continue down the rue du Bac, crossing the boulevard St.-Germain, and head to Fairmount for perfectly crafted, beautifully designed shoes and handbags to match your new wardrobe. The staff here is friendly and speaks beautiful English.
All you are missing now is a touch of something shiny, and Ted Alexander, farther up the street, has the perfect solution with his collection of necklaces, earrings and bracelets. He even has tiny gold or silver charms of the Eiffel Tower and medallions from the neighboring pilgrimage site, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.*
As you follow this itinerary, you will be tempted by countless other boutiques and specialty stores, most of them family owned, some of them centuries old and all of them offering incredibly professional, uniquely Parisian service.
40, rue du Bac, in the 7th. 01 45 48 81 21.
38, rue du Bac. 01 45 48 48 85.
Arthur et Fox
44, rue du Bac. 01 42 22 10 20.
109, rue du Bac. 01 45 44 42 24.
*Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (Notre Dame de la Médaille Miraculeuse), at 140 rue du Bac, is the number-two pilgrimage site in France, just after Lourdes. Legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared at this very site in 1830, advising the nun Catherine Labouré to create a medal. Two years later there was a cholera outbreak in the city, and many of those cured attributed their health to the miraculous effects of the medals the sisters had distributed.