Kiliwatch is like you walked into an NYC streetwear boutique.
Story and Photos by Kathleen Gasperini and Tom Wallace
The secondary market scene in fashion is growing at an exponential rate, as we’ve quantified in our Summer and Fall Youth Culture Studies from the United States. However it is by no means a trend in America alone, growing fast in other fashion capitals, particularly Paris.
As the economy continues to effect spending patterns globally, the rise in vintage/thrift is a booming industry. It’s also influencing trends as more young people seek out “finds” in retro, iconic pieces, then mixing them together with their own versions of modern fashion, particularly fast-fashion, to create altogether new styles that generally cross a mix of eras. It’s very DIY with the cost coming more from the amount of creative energy spent than the amount of money.
Interestingly, in Paris, many of the top vintage/thrift stores and boutiques carry very American fashion and footwear, right down to retro Boy Scout shirts, military jackets, and a mix of often 70’s-inspired Americana. In Kiliwatch in the Marais for example, you’d think you’d walked into a vintage store in the East Village of NYC rather than the heart of Paris, it’s so full of Americana. From denim selections ranging from Lee, Wrangler, and Levi’s to 70’s and 80’s style dresses, Doc Martin’s, belts, camo, and an assortment of T-shirts, the store draws an ethnically diverse crowd looking for the latest in what seems straight off a cargo container from the Big Apple. The disadvantage is that it’s incredibly over-priced to those of us from the United States who know the true value of such items back in the %u2018hood.
Free P Star–there are 4 in the heart of Paris and are open late, attracting hordes of young people looking for a bargain and retro styles.
Bang-for-the-Euro can be found in one of several Free “P” Star stores if you can stand the cramped quarters and crazy shopping patterns of the throngs of vintage-seekers. Every time we went into a Free “P” Star, they were packed to the gills. That’s because the prices are cheap. Bins of retro scarves for 1 Euro, stacks of bags from by-gone eras, and rows and rows of jackets, retro glitzy dresses, denim, hats, and men’s and women’s selections pretty much thrown in together make it an interesting challenge, but they all are open late and have become beacons for young people across the city.
Come on Eileen in the Bastille.
Come on Eileen in the Bastille used to be one of our favorite haunts but has become less attractive in the past two years due mainly to a less interesting selection, but it is worth a look. It’s here that the ex-army vibe is not found, and instead, old-school Euro vintage can be found. Somewhat pricey, there are also various mixes of designer collections hidden within the packed boutique, which also has a huge basement with more finds. The area around this store is also an up-and-coming location with artists, musicians, and lots of inexpensive cafes and bars. It’s also near a cool bookstore/concept store called Lazy Dog that has the best magazine selection -almost as good as the magazine store in Palace du Tokyo.
For those seeking out the left-overs of Paris designers, along with top European designers in general, Thank God I’m a VIP in the up-and-coming 10th arrondissement near the Canal St. Martin is a true find. Pricey if you compare it to Free “P” Star, but not if you consider the real costs of a Chanel jacket at regular retail. This store has some men’s apparel, but it is mostly stocked with women’s collections, ranging from evening dresses to jackets, skirts, blouses, and vintage jewelry. You won’t find cool denim here like you may at Come on Eileen or Free P” Star or the Hippy Markets, but those who go to Thank God I’m a VIP are, like the name suggests, VIP wannabes.
Hippy Market is a fun shopping experience that yes, has hippy apparel, but also lots of mod styles to choose from as well.
Another favorite vintage/thrift store series are the Hippy Markets. Yes, as the name implies, they have a heavy dose of hippy-inspired apparel. But most also have a unique selection of mod clothing -some that is vintage and some that’s made specifically for these stores. They have a very Austin Powers feel to them and free spirited people work at each one we went into. Prices were reasonable and the selection was excellent for men and women, as well as kids.
The motherload of vintage/thrift is the weekend Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen. Called “the Puces” for short, this is considered the largest flea market in the world with more than 3,000 vendors each weekend. The area started as shanty towns outside the ring of the city in 1885, complete with fleas, which is how the term “flea market” started. Today, the fleas have gone, but the little village-like set-ups clustered into themes depending on what one is selling, remains. The Puces include furniture, kitchenware, and collectibles of all kinds, but it also has an enormous array of fashion, footwear, and accessories, plus one-of-a-kind pieces handcrafted by a number of skilled people who showcase their talents at this massive flea market.
Vintage/thrift stores are popping up all over the city and are becoming important locations not just for consumers, but also designers, artists, and musicians looking for unique, inexpensive alternatives to traditional retail. Because of this, the so-called secondary market scene is fast becoming the “first” market scene especially to a whole new generation of shoppers seeking vintage/thrift over new.
Deep inside a Free “P Star store. Packed to the gills with crazy shoppers.