Cross-body Bag, Oversized Cardigan, and Lace Tank [Plus Guide to Shopping in Paris]

Paris is a beautiful city, and especially so in the spring when all the flowers are in full bloom.  I also love the style that French women embody–it’s simple, effortless, and cool.  They also love to dress in dark neutral colors–a sales associate at the Fendi boutique in Printemps told me that the only three colors Parisian women wear are black, gray, and brown.
Eiffel Tower, Chanel woc, christian louboutin so kate black suede pumps, chanel butterfly chain sunglasses

Shoes: Christian Louboutin
Bag: Chanel Boy Wallet-on-Chain
Jeans: AG
Top: French Connection
Jewelry: Tiffany & Co.
TO CORPORATE-FY THIS LOOK: A structured jacket!

That’s what inspired me in this post–I wanted to feel like I could fit right in with the locals 😉

Chanel boy WOC fall 2016

I also wanted to share with you some tips for how to get the most out of your shopping while in Paris.  As you might know, as an U.S. Citizen you are entitled to tax free shopping, which means you get some of the sales tax that you pay refunded on purchases of €175.01 (as of 2016) or more at most stores!  You can also check out this handy refund calculator here.

Here’s an example of a purchase:
Product – Christian Louboutin So Kate Pumps
Price – US $675
Price paid: Paris €515 or so approx $576
VAT – $85.83
VAT refund (12% at Christian Louboutin) – €61.8
Final Net Price – €453.2 or $507.6 [a savings of $167.4 of US retail price, or about 25%]
So that’s how the math works out.  But I realized it’s often not as simple as you might think it is to get the most out of your shopping here in Paris.  Here are a few tips based off of my recent experience:

Where to Shop

  • Shopping French brands in France is the way to go–based on my experience you can save anywhere between 10%-50% off of U.S. pricing!  Notable luxury brands people like to shop for include: Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Saint Laurent, Dior, Cartier, Hermès, Christian Louboutin, & Givenchy.  There are also other less mainstream brands including Maje, Kenzo, and Vetements that are loved by fashion insiders and enthusiasts.
  • Paris has three awesome department stores that are worth checking out: Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, and Le Bon Marche.  All of them carry the usual luxury brands plus cool French brands and a lot of unique food selections.


Shopping Strategy

  • Do your research ahead of time and figure out which styles you want. If you do a Google search you’ll probably be directed to the US site (or whatever country you are searching from). If you want to access the products and more importantly, pricing, in France, add /fr to the end of the url.
  • Have backup options.  I had my eye on a YSL bag that came in quite a few colors but when I went to the store, an associate told me that one of the colors was only available online.  At another YSL store, they were out of quite a few colors of the bag I wanted, so I needed to visit a few other stores in search of stock.
  • Don’t settle for crappy service. We went to the YSL store on Avenue Montaigne and got terrible service.  The store associate would barely acknowledge us and didn’t have the patience to explain to me that a bag did not come in a color I originally wanted.  So we went to another YSL store on Rue Saint Honoré where we had a much better experience.  Also, consider going to the store right when it opens or shortly thereafter when there are fewer people in the store.  Sometimes when it gets busy, there can be a fairly long line just to get in the store!  Just keep in mind that a healthy dose of patience is helpful during your shopping trip because things don’t move as quickly in Paris…


Managing VAT

  • Keep in mind that the VAT refund is about 12% in France.  To double check that the percentage hasn’t changed, check out this site.
  • You have to pick up the appropriate forms to get your VAT refund-make sure you tell your sales associate that you want to do tax free shopping (though they’ll probably just assume so if you don’t speak to them in France).  They will ask you for your passport, so be sure to have it on you.
  • Keep your purchases in new condition because that’s what’s required to qualify for a VAT refund.  In other words, resist the temptation to use your stuff right away.  When you scan your tax refund, you may be asked to produce your items for inspection by customs.  I don’t think I saw this happen this time, but it’s always better safe than sorry.
  • The system for VAT has changed. It used to be that you would have to take your purchases to customs when you are leaving France to get their stamp on your tax return form before going to a tax refund office to get your refund processed. Now with the PABLO program, you just need to take your receipt with the long barcode and scan it at the automated machine. Once you get the green OK screen, you are all set!  More on this next time…

I hope this was helpful!  Let me know if you guys have any other shopping tips to share…


Jenn Signature

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