Not the Cheapest Bargins I've Seen

shop: AG Stock
A typical discount shop in the rue d'Alésia.

Non-Discount Items May Be Better Value

Paris:- Friday, 3. April 1998:- Besides Paris having 12 million people who need clothes on their backs, why is this place garment city; a textile paradise? I suppose there are four hundred official or historical reasons, but I can't lay my hands on any of them.

Paris makes clothes. Everybody knows this, but I doubt if there is anybody - other than one or two institutions - who knows the exact scope of this activity in the city. The high-fashion houses, the chic boutiques, the name-brand chain stores and the department stores are only a tiny fraction of the industry involved.

'Rotten chic' has its price and it is a date-stamp. As regularly as the world turns, new fashion seasons arrive, overlapping the ones preceding. Some production is classic, but sooner or later it too 'expires' and gets bumped down the price ladder. Nobody can afford to keep stock on scarce shelves forever, so if it doesn't sell, out it goes.

Over-production is chronic and 'date-expired' clothing gets recycled with new price-tickets - to ever lower levels. In Paris, this is handled in several ways.

The highest level is custom-made high-fashion clothing, and it costs a fortune. This clothing may actually be fair value for the money, except that it also acts as an advertisement for its creator.

The creator who can profit from the above, actually makes money with a lower-level high-end, in which clothes are made in limited series, possibly partly by hand, and their ticket-prices reflect the handworkcacharel stock and the 'value' of the name on the label. If the highest-level is represented by very very old cognac, this is the 'champagne' area of clothing - expensive but affordable, fizzy but drinkable; uniform enough to attract a wide clientele.

This is a brand-name discount outlet, with clothes for women, men and children.

Below this level, the creator rents, sells, sub-lets, his or her name for labels in mass-produced clothing, and a great many people wear these somewhat over-priced threads. These are also the textiles which suffer most from short shelf-life and are the most likely to get recycled to lower price levels.

Paris has, therefore, its 'recycling' shops. A very few of these handle the well-tailored high-end - not the highest - because there are even rich citizens who have limited closet space, and an unlimited need to buy new clothes.

For these people, the not-very-old may have to make way for the new. This kind of clothing usually benefits from a big discount, but it moves fast because it can resist 'seasons' and at its lower price is very good value. There is more demand in this market than there are offers.

Then come the shops with the mass-produced 'name'-label clothing, and some of the 'names' run their own shops for this. Generally, these shops do not offer big discounts - normal is 20 percent off - and if you are swift, you can do better than this at the biannual winter and summer 'sales.' In recent times, discounts have been 30, 40, or 50 percent - but this will change if prosperity returns.

But if you are caught between the biannual 'sales,' and you cannot afford the 'used' high-end, then there are these 'name'-label shops which run all year, in all seasons.

For some reason, a number of them have chosen to cluster themselves a good way down in the 14th arrondissement, starting at the métro Alésia, and running for a few blocks west along the rue d'Alésia.

The métro exit is on a big 'place,' at the centre of six mid-to-major streets. If you face the big church, the rue d'Alésia is a 90 degree turn to the left - or to the right, if you are facing away from the church. The six streets make it a bit complicated; and going east on Alésia, gets you nothing.

In addition to a few brand-name shops, most of the shops along this stretch of Alésia have 'stocks' in their names. I suppose the sense is more 'de-stock' than anything else. Thesenina ricci-givenchy shops, if they are not 'brand-name,' usually feature a list of brand-names, painted on their windows. If you want the 'label,' you shop in these.

There are other shops here too, with no brand-name 'labels.' Their prices aren't much different from those with the 'names,' but you have to remember that you won't get the 'name.' These shops are here because the other shops draw traffic.

This discount 'stock' shop carries brand- names.

Slightly different again, are a few shops which do have 'names,' but are not 'de-stockers' or discounters at all. One is Rondissimo - 'La Modes des Rondes' - which has interesting and well-made clothing for comfortable ladies, and it has about six other boutiques in Paris.

'La City' is a shop, also a chain, which has clothes for younger ladies; and there is 'Sinéquanone' which has about the same kind of clothing - but I do not know if it is a chain or not. The clothing featured in both of these two is of simple cuts, simple colors - and can presumably be worn for years. I forgot to look at the prices, but I assume they are in the 'range' of the street.

'La City' has métro poster campaigns sometimes which are slightly provocative, with slogans like, 'La City dresses nude women.' It is very true when you think of it, but the posters are not quite right and I can't figure out why not. Theun amour de linge shop looks fine and so does the brochure I got from it.

The dress on this issue's contents page is from Sinéquanone, but could just as easily come from La City.

I have seen shopping on Alésia mentioned in the papers and a couple of salesladies told me they have a number of non-resident customers, so I guess none of this is much of a secret.

In the gloom, this one looks like Easter.

This shopping area is mentioned in an old Gault-Millau guide I have, but not in a two-year old edition of 'Paris, Pas Cher,' although many of the shops had its sticker in their windows.

Baby and enfant clothes are usually over-priced; and there are about three shops featuring this kind of clothing - and I didn't notice whether they were discount outlets or not. Men's clothing and shoes are also available, but I did not see the brands I would chose if I were in the market for clothes right now.

I think I'll wait until two-button jackets come back. It may be a long wait, because I see they are going for four after having got all the turnover they can out of three.

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