When it comes to accessorizing, fashion-conscious Parisians are placing their best foot forward. Shoes are a fashion statement, with the City of Light’s hundreds of shoe shops offering a variety of fancy and functional footwear.
Styles range from conservative pumps and loafers to art shoes resembling feathered birds and face masks, or bare feet sculpted out of leather. Fine, beautifully tinted calfs or exotic leathers, lightweight rubber or see-through plastic are used on shoes that tie, zip or button.
Rue de Grenelle (on the Left Bank, in the 6th Arrondissement) is a great place to shop, with some boutiques belonging to well-known labels that are sold in the United States.
However, the advantage of buying in Paris is that you’ll find styles that may not reach the United States until months or a year later and, with retail prices about 10% to 20% less, plus frequent sales, savings can be considerable.
Rue de Grenelle shoe sellers include Maud Frizon (7 Rue de Grenelle, with a men’s shop nearby at 81-83 Rue des Saints Peres, and Miss Maud at 21 Rue de Grenelle), whose shoes, designed in France and manufactured in Italy, range from the super-sophisticated to the charmingly eccentric.
Styles often combine various leathers, including suedes, plus calf, lizard and snake skins. Detailed boots are a specialty, always popular with the avant-garde. Frizon men’s shoes are super-chic, with exotic leathers and inventive details. Prices begin at about $200, then skyrocket.
Stephane Kelian (13 bis Rue de Grenelle, with an additional shop nearby at 62 Rue des Saints Peres) is one of Paris’ most interesting and imaginative shoe movers and shapers. Kelian’s styles include boots that convert to chic loafers because their tops simply zip off.
Other zipper-topped shoes convert to ruffle-edged dancing slippers. For more conservative patrons, Kelian’s models include finely fashioned pumps in all the latest colors and heel heights, all with Kelian’s special attention to quality and detail. Shoes cost about $140 and up.
Charles Kammer (14 Rue de Grenelle) is not well-known in the United States but is very highly thought of in Paris. Kammer’s shoes emphasize comfort while maintaining chic. Dress pumps with a variety of heel heights are simple, elegant and beautifully dyed in vibrant or muted colors. Other styles include suede loafers and impressive oxfords made from snake skins in standard or the latest fashion colors. Prices from about $160 to $225.
Tokio Kumagai (32 Rue de Grenelle), a footwear trend-setter, makes shoes that are shaped with humor and full of surprise: Heels join shoes at odd angles, ankle boots have uneven tops, and pairs of shoe tongues are decorated with eyes, one open and one winking. Boots range from punk to haute couture styles. Prices about $140 and up.
Charles Jourdan (39 Rue de Grenelle). Another nearby boutique is at 60-62 Rue de Rennes and at other locations in town. One of France’s best-known labels, it offers a more complete line of elegant, refined shoes than is available in the United States at prices about 10% to 15% lower.
Nearby, Robert Clergerie (5 Rue du Cherche Midi) is a favorite with Parisians because of its exquisite design and high quality. Styles from stunningly detailed flats and pumps, with accents of unusual leather, metallics, lace or bows, to fabulous leather boots. Clergerie’s chic, black-suede, rubber-soled slippers, with Paris embroidered in silver thread across the top of each shoe, is an ideal souvenir. Prices about $180 and up.
Seducta (28 Rue du Cherche-Midi) is filled with unusual shoes featuring architectural heels, oddly shaped inserts of leather in contrasting colors or colored leather balloons that create fantastic shoe shapes. Inventive and exciting color combinations are always part of the design. Shoes are about $90 and up.
Two of Paris’ most unusual shoe designers have shops in the 1st Arrondissement on the Right Bank. Philippe Model’s (33 Place du Marche Saint-Honore) fascinating footwear looks as if it walked in from the 18th Century. Styles are baroque inventions with ornate heels and jewelled clips. Or there are strangely up-to-date, twisted, gold-lined heels that seem barely attached to shoe bodies.
Leathers, suedes and brocades in stunning colors add to the effect. Model also makes matching felt hats that are shaped like pyramids or saucers and displayed with wild scarfs and large earrings. Shoes are priced from about $200.
Jean-Charles Brosseau (38 Galerie Vero-Dodat, 2 Rue du Bouloi) makes shoes as well as hats, gloves, belts and other accessories to complement his line of clothing.
Interesting combinations of leather and fabrics, including velvets and fake furs, distinguish Brosseau’s designs, because some of the fake fur is from animals that have sprung from Brosseau’s imagination. Shoes about $125 and up.
Nearby, the more traditional Bally (156 Rue de Rivoli, with a discount shop at 1 Rue du Louvre) sells classically styled quality shoes for men, women and children, made by Bally of Switzerland and Bally France. Styles from conservative pumps for women and loafers for men, to sporty boots.
The children’s selection includes patent-leather flats and leather loafers. Prices about 20% less than in the United States. Bally has 16 shops in Paris. The discount shop has great buys in men’s, women’s and children’s shoes, with prices 20% to 50% off. Tags show original prices.
Around the corner, Arche (13 Rue des Innocents) sells the colorful, durable and fashionable leather boots and casual shoes in a rich variety of colors that are popular in the United States. There is a continuous clearance sale of older stock, with prices discounted about 50%.
Arcus (15 Rue des Innocents and 10 Rue de la Ferronnerie) has excellent boots, walking shoes and moccasins, similar in style to the better-known Arche label but less expensive. Sale items go for $20 a pair.
Several exceptionally fine and very expensive shoemakers are in the posh 8th Arrondissement. Michel (12 Ave. Montaigne) makes men’s and women’s shoes to measure in 80 handsome and conservative styles. Michel also will copy your favorite pair of shoes. Only the finest leathers in a rich palette of colors are used. Made-to-order shoes about $900 and up. Orders take about three weeks. Ready-made shoes about $400 and up.
Harel Maitre Chaussurier (64 Rue Francois 1er) offers handmade shoes in just a few models, all variations on the basic pump, with several different heels. The shop’s leather selection is extraordinary. There are shoes of ostrich, crocodile and other uncommon hides dyed in natural and earth tones. About $400 and up.