Wrap up a little cultural cachet from Paris, London

Special to The Times

WANT to add a touch of culture to your shopping in Europe? Try the shops of Paris' and London's best museums and galleries. Because they already collaborate regularly with contemporary artists and product and fashion designers, the museums are wonderful resources for exclusive creations.



BlackBlock: The shop in the Palais de Tokyo, Paris' ultimate contemporary art-house museum, is itself a design phenomenon, created by one of the city's uberdesigners, the graffiti artist-turned-hotelier Andre. He acts as shop curator, so the items you'll find follow his Japanese-esque Pop Art aesthetic. But people from the art, fashion and music worlds also are invited to re-create their own universes in the shop. This is zeitgeist heaven: Obscure books on Japanese graffiti and Belgian photography line walls of one corner of the shop; products from well-known contemporary pop artists and fashion designers are displayed in another. There is a big selection of collectible playthings, including Twiggy and Basquiat dolls, and pins, cushions and toys by artist Takashi Murakami. A select array of clothes also fills the racks, with pieces from designers such as Moritz Rogosky, vintage shoes and hard-to-find sneakers. (13 Ave. du President Wilson; 011-33-1-47-23-38-86, www.palaisdetokyo.com.)

107 Rivoli: For the slightly more refined of tastes, 107 Rivoli, the adjoining store to the newly reopened Musee des Art Decoratifs, is Paris' prime spot. It has a vast catalog of high-end design and fashion tomes here, and a section dedicated to products created by today's artisans: Lalique statues or Baccarat black crystal glasses designed by Philippe Starck; pieces from esoteric young jewelers hailing from Tokyo, Belgium and Paris; and products by more established designers such as bags from Martin Margiela. (107 Rue de Rivoli; 011-33-1-42-60-64-94, www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr.)

Printemps Design Boutique: A trip to Paris' design pioneer, the Pompidou Centre, should also not be missed. The focus of its Printemps shop is more quirky, experimental product design. It features the work of 12 designers that has been created exclusively for the shop, including beer by Philippe Starck and bags by Issey Miyake. Abstract, beautiful sculptures from designers Ora Ito and Atypyk are among the pieces in the shop, as is the recto-verso glass, an ingenious product with two separate spaces in it: one for your toothbrush and the other to drink liquids out of. (Place Georges Pompidou; 011-33-1-44-78-15-78, www.centrepompidou.fr.)



V&A;: If you want to splash out on high-fashion originals, the first port of call should be the V&A; shop at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum, home to many of London's biggest and best fashion-related exhibitions, has lured cutting-edge talent from the city's fashion and art worlds to design its limited-edition collection -- Cherry on the Cake. Some of these pieces are unexpected and more high-end than usual: for example, a Cozmo Jenks hat for $1,955. A plethora of slightly more affordable things can be found here too. For example, Bill Amberg has created an exquisite leather belt for $235. The shop also sells a fine bone china cup and saucer by illustrator Julie Verhoeven and a Swarovski chandelier necklace designed by Tatty Devine. (Cromwell Road, London; 011-44-20-7942-2000, www.vandashop.com.)

Tate Britain and Tate Modern: Their products live up to the discerning eye apparent in the galleries. Renowned designers, such as Orla Kiely and Ally Capellino, have created affordable collections exclusively for the Tate shops. They hold Bauhaus-inspired sketchbooks, wallets, shoulder bags and even laptop cases from Kiely; a line including pencil cases, aprons and bags by Ally Capellino in her distinctive durable, utilitarian yet beautiful style; and jewelry inspired by the work of British painter Terry Frost. (Tate Britain, Millbank, and Tate Modern, Bankside; 011-44-20-7887-8888, www.tate.org.uk.)

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