Paris, Cartier Latin and the difference between shopping and collecting

I mostly collect. The shopper yet, an anti-shopper. The buy it forever because you need it and want to keep it, truly, not the buy it for the right price or the right sale. I don’t judge and don’t care what others do. Except when they are my clients, in which case, I strive to learn them, so I can best advise them. Is my system good? Is the opposite good? It really does not matter. What matters is that knowing which camp you belong to determines your approach.

Collectors seek a meaningful experience in acquisition and the permanence that the enjoyment of ownership enthrals.

Everyone else is less consistent or homogenized in what they look for in the experience of shopping.

Photography by Jordan Plihal via Unsplash

“Experience?” You ask.

“Yes, experience.”

I tend to buy extremely selectively. The place where I buy an object, or why I acquire it, has an add-on meaning that increases its personal value.

Ever since I was a student, I have bought some of my favourite clothes during my travels. One year I spent four weeks in Paris. Two on my way to Rome, where I shortly studied, two on my way back to Canada. The flight was a stand-by stopover. It costed me roughly $300 more than flying direct. Stand-by was easy those days and I certainly banked on it every chance I got. For $15 a night and the bonus of the subway directly connected to the airport, Paris was bursting with cheap hostels full of enthusiastic youth toting exciting stories and backpacks smaller than their smiles. My first time there, I chose to stay in the 5th arr. close to Parc de Luxembourg. That turned out to be love at first sight. With each return, the area became my home away from home, a cherished neighbourhood that I would not give up for any other. The hostel was modest but clean and on a quiet street. I stayed there  five or six times over the course of four years. A total of three months of Paris living.

Photography by Charles Loyer via Unsplash

Le Depart is a staple in Cartier Latin, a scenic brasserie with a perfect people-watching terrace facing La Seine and the hustle and bustle of the Rive Gauche bridge crossing. Every day I would take the long route to the Metro down on Bd. Saint-Michel and, just before crossing the Pont Saint-Michel, I would stop at this neighbourhood’s fave to sip my cafe au lait, read Le Parisien and glance at the morning rush whisking past me. It was the one extravagance I could afford since coffee was delicious, affordable and anchored me to the city. Perhaps this is the reason for which my mornings are, even now, inviolable.

That neighbourhood is still my favourite, although it is difficult to discern if my nostalgic memories elevate it to that or some other, less personal reasons. On my way back from the daily sightseeing and urban exploring, I shopped at the local stores, strolled the same boulevard back and forth, lived like a Parisian minus the work routine. Instead, surveying the city was my job; I was an architecture student after all, and learning was what my work was.

Photography by Alexander via Unsplash

Subways were cheap and distances felt short since all walking was basically entertainment in itself. The beauty of being an architecture student there was that in Europe, anything and everything related to art and culture was free and part of the mandatory education. The state policies encouraged that and not just for their own. I got my international student card before leaving Canada, and with it, the Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Beaubourg, L’institut du Monde Arabe, and so many monuments, art and buildings in this great city were at my feet, open, showing me what they are, teaching me how to do it.

Between admiration and learning, eating crepes galore at every stand in town and having cafe au lait but not so many restaurant dinners, my money went on the latest fashion on sale, end of season Paris-style. One year at La Samaritaine, a department store occupying a beautiful architectural gem with gigantic skylights and impressive stairways, I bought myself a top that was exactly like one worn by Audrey Tatou in that beautiful movie, Amelie. I had it for over a decade.

La Samaritaine department store in Paris, France | Image via Creative Commons

Always a bargain, always months ahead fashion-wise from the trends at home. Guess who was fashionable and trendy-hot when back in Toronto?

Twenty-something years later, I still have some of those pieces and cherish every memory they bring of my shopping strolls on Saint-Michel. And not to brag… some still fit!

This article first appeared in My 2 cents on design
how to curate a better lifestyle through design
part of  EXPLORATION \\ a DOCHIA FOCUS monthly lifestyle series

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