I enjoy comparing retail in the different fashion capitals of the world. Subtle and blatant differences often emerge between the continents because lifestyles, cultures, aesthetic preferences and weather patterns vary. So while in Paris I traipsed to all sorts of retailers. From world renowned exclusive department stores like Galleries Lafayette and Printemps, to Euro chain stores like Zara, H&M, Promod, Etam, Morgan, BGN, Caroll and Zappa. I also put my nose into several upmarket and wholesale boutiques.

Here is what Parisian retail had to offer at the height of its Spring 2008 season:

  • Colour, colour and more colour: French stores displayed a sea of colour. Yellow, citron, red, coral, cobalt, lime, orange and emerald green reigned supreme with loads of ‘80’s shocking pink on the way. White, cream and dove grey were next on the list and very little black. Haute couture windows were full of lilac and turquoise merchandise which makes me think those colours are big for mainstream fashion next season.
  • Jeans: 70% of all denim was skinny or straight-legged. 30% was boot cut and wide-legged. Wide-legged jeans remain an American fashion trend. Most washes were dark blue, stonewashed or white and no signs of acid wash. All rise lengths were represented, from super low to just above under-bust-point. Denim was very plain. No tears, whiskers, excessive bleaching or embellishment. Just how I like it.
  • Pants: All silhouettes were equally represented. Again, styling was plain. No bells and whistles, but instead an emphasis on interesting fabrication and loads of cream and white bottom options. Micro-check pants in gingham, baby hounds tooth and subtle plaids surface every Euro season and stores were once again full of this look.
  • Cropped pants: Clamdiggers and bermuda walk shorts were extremely popular, in denim, cotton twill and wool crepe.
  • Skirts: There were few around. No denim and if anything, above the knee pencil silhouettes were the “it” skirt style.
  • Dresses: Printed fit-and-flare dress were everywhere. From mini to maxi and everything in-between. Shirt dresses and sack dresses were still around but took a back seat.
  • Tops: The voluminous trend continues. Bright, printed, drapey, billowing tunic blouses were plentiful and knitted top styles with front yoke detailing were the order of the day. Very few baby dolls, empire cuts and back-tie silhouettes. Generally a lot more availability of woven tops than in America. I adore woven blousy tops, tunics and interesting shirt silhouettes which made this aspect of Parisian fashion heavenly.
  • Knitwear: It’s all about the short-sleeved, cropped cardigan layered over just about anything.
  • Jackets: Very few trapeze styles, but plenty of trenches, short bolero jackets and classic blazer styles.
  • Linen: A European Summer is not the same without a linen epidemic. Linen pants, skirts, tops, tunics, dresses and jackets swamped stores. I’m not fond of linen unless it’s on my dining room table, but it continues to be a hit in France, along with silk, cotton and wool blends. Beige, cream and white remain popular colours for Euro linen product.
  • Prints: Floral and global tribal designs were the order of the day, along with polka dots and stripes. No animal prints and virtually no geometrics. Thank goodness there is superior print variety in the US. If I see another loud Sanderson floral maxi dress I’m going to faint.
  • Patent: I have never seen so much shine in one season. Real, faux, plain or cracked, you name it and the patent product was there in the colour of your choice. Jackets, coats, belts, bags, shoes, wallets, key rings, pendants, watch straps, headbands, hairclips, hats, luggage and doggie collars. Don’t shop in Paris if you’re not into patent.
  • Necklaces: Huge chunky link necklaces (I’m talking links the size of your wrist), and plastic jewelry occupied all accessory departments and jewelry boutiques. Very few chandelier earrings. It’s all about the chunky statement necklace.
  • Handbags: You’ll find all handbag styles in Paris. It’s impossible to generalize about silhouettes, but bright colours, white, cream, bone, beige and grey handbags prevailed. Metallics took a back seat.
  • Belts: waist cinching belts in all widths and designs are still strong.
  • Shoes: Stay tuned. This topic gets its own blog posting.

All in all, there is similarity between American and European fashion right now. Are there any Euro retail trends this season that you miss in America?

Left: the best thing I saw in Paris was this cream patent tote from Sequoia. I already have one, so I had to walk past quickly. Right: the neutral linen look that surfaces in France every season.


Ditsy florals, like those worn by the mannequin on the right, were everywhere. Not my cup of tea.