By  on August 28, 2009

PARIS — The Marais district in Paris was at one time an area of vegetable gardens cultivated by monks. Although men still inhabit the area, fashion is now the produce of choice.

“Men’s wear is certainly growing, even though in Paris it certainly advances a little slower,” said Clarent Dehlouz, owner of the multibrand store French Trotter, part of a new wave of men’s specialty stores to arrive in the historic neighborhood recently.

“Our clientele is of all ages and horizons, but what unites them is an interest in cosmopolitan culture,” said Dehlouz, who stocks contemporary brands such as Nom de Guerre and Scandinavian designers Mads Nørgaard and Won Hundred and Fillipa K.

Indeed, a range of new attractions — from eateries and chocolate shops to fashion and concept stores of all stripes — has kept the area throbbing with foot traffic, helping to insulate it from the economic downturn.

“There are two phenomena in this area: it is a huge hit with the young pop-rock crowd and the media and fashion conscious,” said French designer Christophe Lemaire, who anticipated the area’s potential by opening his flagship on Rue Poitou two years ago. “It is a really emerging area — there are also ad agencies and graphic design companies springing up.”

Taking the place of an old pharmacy, Lemaire was able to incorporate some of its original features — and yet it remains startlingly new. Lemaire, who also designs for Lacoste, recently refurbished part of the boutique. “I have redone the architecture and it will be a bit like a gym,” he explained.

The area known as the Haute-Marais, or upper Marais, is particularly hot, thanks to a steady stream of residents, tourists and Parisians from other neighborhoods who are attracted to the eclectic shopping mix — and Sunday opening hours, still atypical in Paris. Indeed Dutch men’s brand Scotch and Soda recently opened a store on the Rue Vielle du Temple, hoping the flow of pedestrians and seven days a week shopping will prove profitable.

While more established brands like APC, American Apparel and Les Prairies de Paris were among early arrivals, newcomers peddle a range of men’s wear, from conservative to street chic.

The flagship boutique of Croatian men’s designer Damir Doma opened this spring, tucked away on the Rue des Arquebusiers. The store is minimalist, a perfect foil for Doma’s androgynous silhouettes in muted hues.

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