By  on June 15, 2006

PARIS — Rue Saint-Honoré is doing a 360 on style.

The swanky Parisian shopping street, which boasts boutiques such as John Galliano, Gucci and Colette, is becoming home to streetwear and skate specialists who are setting up shop and bringing some youthful adrenaline.

Take Vans, which recently opened at 93 Rue Saint-Honoré. "It is the ideal location for Vans as we are part of the luxury brand business, a developing high-end streetwear and skate business," said Arnaud Jeangirard, marketing manager for Vans France. The 590-square-foot shop, which sells an ubercool mix of shoes and accessories, targets trendsetting 12- to 25-year-olds on the hunt for streetwear with a premium appeal.

The new Saint-Honoré location brings Vans' European store count to five, with three stores in the U.K. and an outlet shop outside of Paris. Barcelona and Berlin locations are in the works. "The neighborhood is gaining recognition in the high-end streetwear category. It is filled with trendsetting shops and early style adopters," added Jeangirard.

Directly across the street at 68 Rue Saint-Honoré is Starcow, which showcases Vans and other skater staples such as Stüssy, Married to the Mob and MHI for men and women.

"Rue Saint-Honoré is developing very quickly for young brands. It appeals to a very plugged-in underground scene," said Starcow store manager and avid skater Fred Jolly. "We want to encourage more streetwear brands to settle here in order to help draw in the young trendsetting customers."

And how. Carhartt, one of Europe's streetwear success stories, will take the space next to Starcow this fall, while around the corner, a pint-sized shop dubbed Aimecube at 7 Rue Vauvilliers, targets cool girls in search of a streetwear fix. "Our customers take their style tips from the street," said Morgane L'Hoste, 26, who owns Aimecube, which showcases budding streetwear brands such as D Dikate and Moto 777. The shop boasts a gallery that displays works by street artists such as Tilt, Der and Yaze and organizes concerts with DJs from across Europe. "We organized concerts in the basement until we were told it was illegal, so we had to stop," confessed L'Hoste. "We detect a huge demand for streetwear lifestyle shops."In fact, according to the European Surf Industry Manufacturers Association, France ranks third after Germany and Britain in the European skate and streetwear industry, which generated revenues in excess of $377.2 million in 2004.

Meanwhile, homegrown talent is adding to the skate phenomenon here. Take Hardcore Session, a fashion label for women and men that combines the essentials of streetwear fashion: graphic art, music and street sports. Founded by Belka Boucha in 1993, today the label is distributed at more than 200 retailers in Europe and Japan. "French streetwear has been around for a while, but we are feeling a new wave of consumers, especially women, who are getting very involved in the lifestyle," said Boucha, who will open a private Hardcore Session shop for die-hard street fans in the fall at 8 Rue Dussoubs, a five-minute walk from Saint-Honoré. "The shop will be by appointment only. We want to sell to those who really know the product to keep an exclusive appeal," he said.

Kult, the Marseille, France-based streetwear brand, also picked the district for its Paris store at 24 Rue Tiquetonne where it sells colorful streetwear and lifestyle fashion for young women and men. Kult is only one door down from the Royal Cheese store that sells a selection of lifestyle fashions.

Meanwhile, in the historical Passage du Grand Cerf, Le Bouclard sells chic streetwear labels such as Japan's Final Home, Switzerland's +41 and Denmark's Louise Walghreen as well as its own in-house brand, Artysm. "It's a chic streetwear brand for alternative crowds such as fashion designers, graphic designers and DJs that are no longer teenagers," said Cécile Audouin, Artysm's designer and co-owner of Le Bouclard.

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