Les Soldes 2011

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When shopping the soldes in Paris, the trick is to stay focused on what suits you and what you can wear throughout the seasons.

The year 2011 has arrived. Excited? Me, too. All I can think about is shopping, shopping, shopping! On January 12, staff will be up extra early to open their shops at 8 a.m., an ungodly hour for a city that doesn’t usually get started until 10 a.m., to reveal some amazing discounts. Choose your area well: if high-end boutiques are your thing, head to one of the most exclusive streets in Paris: the avenue Montaigne, which is just off the stunning avenue des Champs Elysées, to enjoy discounts from the likes of Chloé, Louis Vuitton, Max Mara and Fendi.

If, like me, you enjoy doing all your shopping under one roof, think about visiting the beautiful Opéra district and shop at one of the lovely department stores, like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, which will be offering discounts of up to 70 percent on pretty much everything. That’s right—70 percent off! Both these department stores are very well known not only for their beautiful display windows but also for the quality of customer service and the English-speaking staff, so fear not! Another benefit is that the department stores stock less well known French brands as well as high-street products. The upside of shopping in a department store is that when exhaustion hits, and you know it will, you can pop upstairs for a much-needed café au lait.

When shopping the soldes in Paris, it helps to bring a light tote bag from the Pliage line by Longchamp

Whenever I visit the department stores during the sales, I always carry one of my light tote bags from the Pliage line by Longchamp. With all the walking and hundreds of people, I usually fold my jacket up and carry it in the bag, along with my winter accessories, the second I get in the store. Galeries Lafayette is by far my favorite, but the ground floor can be pretty stressful. In addition to hundreds upon hundreds of shoppers queuing for a chance to pick up a Gucci bag, you also have to navigate your way through the ridiculously gorgeous beauty department, where tourists simply stand, heads up, staring at the stained-glass dome (which is worth the trip even without shopping). Now I’m not going to lie: I have been one of those tourists, but I’ve learned my lesson.

Top finds during the soldes in Paris are ballerina flats by Repetto

If you’re anything like me, seeing a 50 percent off price tag can basically destroy all common sense and have you reaching for a psychedelic dress three sizes too big that you know you’ll never wear. The trick is to stay focused on what suits you and what you can wear throughout the seasons; and when in Paris, buy French! This is the time to stock up on those items that will serve the test of time and never go out of style. Think about the classic French look: well-cut neutrals from Carven, ballerinas from Repetto, sunglasses by Yves Saint Laurent and maybe even a Céline handbag.

An essential for the classic French look, a handbag from Céline is a great buy during the soldes in Paris

It’s a well-known fact that not only are the French a dab hand at choosing the chicest of ensembles, they put extra effort into choosing their lingerie as well. Granted that not everybody can afford to spend €300 on a lingerie set, les soldes are the perfect time to get shopping. Brands such as Simone Pérèle, Aubade, Chantelle and, my personal favorite, Lejaby ooze French quality, sensuality and detail, and for a limited time, will be half price.

If you’re in Paris for a holiday, why not also pick up some presents. If you’re feeling particularly generous, how about a beautiful silk scarf by Kenzo for your mother, or pick out some goodies for your niece or nephew from Tartine et Chocolat, which is arguably the most amazing children’s shop in Paris.

Kenzo is a great stop for gifts during the soldes in Paris

If you are in Paris with a baby or children, I’d advise you to skip the main shopping areas and visit the Marais for a more relaxed experience, and considerably more unique items. Also, the area is home to many family-friendly cafés and restaurants, so when you need to bribe your teenager for another hour of shopping, a mug of chocolat chaud awaits! Whenever I visit this district, I feel as though I’m discovering something new. Crea Concept is a lovely French brand that specializes in neutral, well-cut women’s wear. Christophe Lemaire is also another store to look out for: both men’s and women’s wear in high-tech Japanese fabrics. Curious? Me, too! Marie Louise de Monterey is a store stocking vintage women’s wear as well as other items that suit today’s trends. If vintage is your thing, this shop is a must.

Sunglasses by Yves Saint Laurent are a classic buy during the soldes in Paris

For those of you with non-EU passports, don’t forget to claim your tax refund after you shop. All you need are the receipts and your passport. So sale shopping and a tax refund, huh?  Not bad at all! Whatever you buy, ladies, don’t forget to wear flats! Serious shopping calls for comfortable shoes.

NB: Many smaller shops and restaurants do not open on Mondays, and pretty much all shops, including department stores, are closed on Sundays.

Editor’s note: For an easy, portable do-it-yourself tour, download our walk-and-shop-the-Marais e-tour.

Milla Msa grew up in London and found her way to Paris in 2009 by way of New York and Tokyo. Constantly mesmerized by the beauty of this amazing city, Milla often finds herself wandering “aimlessly” only to arrive on the beauty floor of Galeries Lafayette… Milla spends her time keeping up-to-date with the Paris fashion world, baking and trying to navigate the beautiful, heel-hating cobblestones, which she chronicles in her lifestyle blog notjustanothermilla.com.

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