Most of us visiting France aren’t looking for the haute couture runway garments of Paris, but rather for those beautiful gems that can only be found in vintage and casual boutiques of Southern France.
For the casual shopper, you’ll want to pick up items and fashion statements that are unique to the region and boutiques are a great place to start. Some of the best can be found lining the streets of St. Remy, Aix en Provence and Marseille. These towns are all very close to each other, so you don’t have to look far for the best shops.
Provence Fashion Staples
These must have Provencal items shouldn’t be too hard to find, since pretty much every boutique will carry them. Light cardigans, ultra light scarves, and sunglasses are a summer must. Any shop with the word boutique in the name is a good place to look.
Boutique 31 and Boutique C’est Ainsi are favorites among visitors to the region and both can be found in St. Remy along with a number of other adorable shops.
Another important look to check out are the high-color fabrics that are so famously popular in Provence. The style was originally imported, but for the last 600 years, the Southern French have taken pride in creating the look for themselves. For a lovely contemporary take on the traditional style, you can find dresses and other women’s clothing and accessories at Souleiado in Aix en Provence.
For Classic French Clothing and Accessories
Marseille is known for their luxury boutiques featuring classical French tailoring. I’d recommend picking up a couple of choice pieces, such as a designer handbag, or expertly tailored trousers that can go with any outfit. Just don’t go overboard here, as there’s still so much shopping to explore! Visitors should also take note that the local Provencals tend not to wear jewelry, so avoid the heavy bling.
Gérard Darel and Gago in Aix en Provence also carry luxe clothing and chic accessories.
Of course, there’s so much more to be discovered in Provence. Popular items to shop for and bring home are decorative items, such as home decor, art and antiques. It’s also wise to buy satchels of herbs, as the region is well known for its fields of lavender and other flowers, and of course perfume. There’s even an International Museum of Perfumery if you’re not sure where to start. Be sure to get the soft soap while you’re at it.
Now we get to the best part. Antique shops all over the region will likely carry some clothing, but the best vintage discoveries can only be found in St. Remy de Provence and Isle sur la Sorgue.
When on the hunt, two words to be on the lookout for are brocantes and vide greniers. At a brocante you’ll find more antiques and more dealers selling, whereas a vide grenier--literally, “empty attic”--is more of a rummage sale with more individuals selling. Another word to keep in mind is Troc (not the French department store though).
The village of Isle sur la Sorgue is the epicenter...a major antiques center for all of Europe. In addition to the items sold at the huge weekly Sunday morning market, there are as many as 250 antique shops and malls (with multiple vendors) spread out around the village. Keep in mind that many shops and stalls/malls are open on weekends only; others are Thursday through Sunday.
You’ll also have good luck at the smaller brocantes organized by Jean-Marie Dropsy, who does at least one brocante a month, with nearly 200 dealers. These move around quite a bit, so you never know where these will pop up, but if you see one, definitely stop by!
The Wednesday market in Saint Remy always has at least a couple of fantastic vendors. The town also has a set particular day out of the year when they gather up a huge collection of the best vintage finds in Provence. Keep your eye out for signs.
Most markets and many brocantes and vide greniers finish up around 1 pm...but if sales are strong, the vendors stay on longer. Some go all day so make sure to check.
Need help planning your stay in Provence? Find out more HERE.