THE HOT BLOCKS FOR FASHION

Byline: Katherine Weisman

PARIS — Everyone knows about premier shopping streets such as Avenue Montaigne, the Faubourg Saint Honore and Boulevard Haussmann. But the hot blocks for fashion here now are on Rue de Passy.
Once a market street filled with vegetable and fruit stores, butchers and bakers in the chic and residential 16th arrondissement on Paris’s western side, Passy is now principally a street for clothes, perfume and accessories.
People from the 16th, where there is a high density of high-income households, do most of the buying. But there are plenty of shoppers from all over western Paris and adjacent suburbs, such as Neuilly sur Seine, rubbing shoulders with increasing numbers of foreign tourists.
“Commercial streets have value based on their history,” observes Philippe deBeauvoir, chairman of Au Bon Marche, which now owns the legendary Franck & Fils specialty store on Rue de Passy’s western end. “This street has had commerce for the last 50 to 60 years and is the spine of a neighborhood that boasts high buying power.”
Freestanding fashion shops on the street include Kenzo, Joseph, Philippe Adec, Burberry’s, Oshkosh, Zara, Agatha, Rodier and the venerable multibrand stores Victoire and Meredith.
There are also some low to mid-end stores such as the discounter Eurodif, which features fashion and home accessories, the inexpensive Promod women’s ready-to-wear shop and the middle-end Celio, a casual and sporty men’s shop. “What I love about Rue de Passy is that you can find everything you want, but it has stayed small, like in a provincial town,” observes Christine Macella, the director of Kenzo stores worldwide. “All the stores, from Guerlain to Burberry’s, have a human scale to them. Customers are not intimidated to come inside.”
Almost smack in the middle of the street lies Passy Plaza, an elegant city shopping mall developed by Kaufman & Broad that opened last year and is home to The Gap’s first freestanding store here. Other stores in Passy Plaza are the John & Jane shop and the L’Occitane boutique, featuring the company’s beauty and skin care products from Provence. The Kenzo shop, across the street from Franck & Fils, opened in December 1990 and originally carried only Kenzo’s women’s collections. Macella said soon after the store added men’s wear because of strong customer demand. Macella said women who shop the Passy store are going for “more typically Kenzo” looks than the more classic customers of the Kenzo shop on the Rive Gauche.
“They want more fantasy here,” she noted, pointing to the irony in the popular perception that the 16th arrondissement is filled with Parisian preppies. “The women here are much more diversified in their tastes.”
Up the street, on the same side as Franck & Fils, is the Osh Kosh store opened by the company’s Paris-based European subsidiary a year ago. “Rue de Passy boasts some of the best-known brands at a great location that gets a lot of traffic,” said a spokeswoman.
At the other end of Passy is Meredith, a multibrand shop that opened in 1961. Labels here this season include Jean Paul Gaultier’s top line, Atsuro Tayama, and new younger designers such as Japan’s David Szeto and Korea’s Jin Teock. Meredith owner Anne Marie Chwast says one reason Passy is such a strong shopping street is its commercial past.
“When we opened, Passy was like a little village,” she says. “All the small food shops made it seem like it was from the last century. But the street has developed extremely quickly for fashion over the last 10 years.”
The diversity of the fashion offerings on the street reflects today’s consumer habits. “The Passy shopper will buy a Gaultier jacket and pair it with a T-shirt from Promod,” Chwast observes. Chwast and Au Bon Marche’s de Beauvoir said Passy used to be more of a luxury shopping street than it is today. Some have said the street’s diversification to the lower end came with the declining luster of Franck & Fils in the past 10 years. But de Beauvoir hopes he can start to turn things around. “Franck & Fils is no longer the locomotive it used to be,” he says, “but we are going to invest to make it more luxurious and creative.” “For the street to continue to move, Franck & Fils has to move,” says Chwast. “They [Au Bon Marche] are professionals, and I think they will bring a big plus to Franck & Fils. Passy will only get better and better.” — Fairchild News Service