Style secrets of the French by Casilda Grigg
Before boarding the Eurostar to London, laden with cheese and charcuterie and creams from La Roche Posay, Parisian mamans do one thing – they pay a visit to Monoprix, the French supermarket. They might snap up a pair of ballet pumps or a Bourgeois mascara while they’re about it, but that’s not why they’re there. The bigger Monoprix stores sell wonderful children’s clothes. For this very reason alone le tout Paris shops there.
You’ll have to queue for just about everything as the ratio of customers to shop staff is generally dismal, but it’s all worth it for the children’s clothes (sadly the adult clothes are not in the same league). Twenty euros will buy you a pair of Bermuda shorts for a boy or a linen dress for a little girl (see photo gallery, below). This season the Bout’Chou range of babywear is adorable with red striped tops for 12.90 euros, long-sleeved cotton blouses for 11.90 euros and pale pink cotton/wool mix cardigans for 21.90 euros. The prices aren’t rock bottom but they’re good value given the quality and design.
For girls, neon is le dernier cri this season, just as it is at Bonpoint, the eyewateringly expensive French children’s clothes label, but this kind of statement look is a rare departure from the norm. Most of the children’s clothes at Monoprix are subtle and quietly elegant. ‘I can always spot the British on holiday in Provence,’ says one French mother. ‘The children are in colours that are too strong and often in stripes and spots. It makes me tired just looking at them.’
There are branches of Monoprix all over Paris but not all of them have children’s departments. I went to the very busy one on the Avenue de L’Opéra (between the Opera Garnier and the Louvre) and subsequently spotted a less busy branch on the rue de Rennes in the 6th.
Monoprix also has excellent – and often horribly overcrowded – food halls, which can be soul-destroying if all you want is a chocolate bar or a can of Diet Coke.
Visit the Monoprix site for the nearest shop. Or, if money’s really tight and you have no plans to go to France, check out the online shopping at the mail order company La Redoute, which is fantastic value especially for mothers with sporty boys who run through clothes and shoes at an alarming rate.
Here’s a sneak preview of what’s on offer right now at Monoprix: