PARIS — They were here long before Zara and H&M, but they’re definitely sprucing up in the face of the invading fast-fashion Goliaths. This WWDWalkthrough of four of France’s top cheap-chic chains on two main shopping strips —the Champs-Elysees and the Rue de Rennes near Montparnasse —revealed distinct personalities and lots of trendy, Dior-esque merch. Here’s the lowdown. Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at current exchange.
Morgan, Champs Elysées
Ambience: Very “Star Search:” White walls, sleek TV screens and blaring house music that can be heard from the street.
Target customer: Girly girls — and sexy girls — are welcome. The jeans are tight, the skirts are short and the tops are meant for baring it.
Customer service: The store manager runs a tight ship. Fitting room and register lines are short, items are well presented and the staff is helpful.
Special attraction: Custom tote bags. A stand allows shoppers to design their own prints and apply them to white totes for about $23 to $35.
Price check: White linen pants run about $70 and green military skirts are $62.
Verdict: The music is booming — and so is the business.
Etam, Rue de Rennes
Ambience: Very PG-13. Neat presentation, tame styles, bubblegum-pink walls and dance music at a sensible volume.
Target customer: Fashion for all, from budding teenagers all the way up.
Special attraction: A gargantuan lingerie selection and a junior line named Tammy.
Price check: A black summer dress is $44 and linen pants are $50.
Verdict: Mother-daughter shopping recommended.
Naf Naf, Champs Elysees
Ambience: Think nightclub: crowded, hot and a bit messy at last call.
Target customer: Britney Spears wannabes and teens hunting for cheap fashion thrills.
Customer service: The wait for the fitting rooms is bearable, but bottlenecks at the cash registers are common during rush hour.
Price check: Linen pants run around $50, a cargo military skirt and floral sundress are marked at $54 each.
Verdict: Could be mistaken for Top Shop’s French cousin.
Kookai, Rue de Rennes
Ambience: Fashion zen. Shoppers listening to the latest house tunes drift into a large white room and up the grand staircase to a mezzanine.
Target customer: Sophisticated teens and young working girls in search of weekend wear and business attire.
Price check: Linen pants at $65, a floral print sundress for $80, and $178 for a tweed minisuit à la Chanel.
Customer service: The store is so impeccably groomed, one might think twice before unfolding a T-shirt.
Verdict: More chic than cheap.