Just before Paris Spring ’09 fashion week, last Sunday’s flea market hosted a vintage fashion show in the Marche Dauphine. It was one of those serendipitous moments when the lucky visitor simply stumbles into an event.
I like fashion shows -especially when the models might be someone resembling your next door neighbor rather than a sliver of a woman in totally abnormal proportions.
Of course, the famed ‘Marche aux Puces’ or Porte de Clignancourt flea market (also called the St. Ouen market consists of much more than vintage clothing. It’s open on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 7 am to 7:30 pm.
Started in the 19th century (1885 is the official date), but even earlier, when shopkeepers were driven out of Paris during the war of 1870, the vast flea market is actually a collection of mini-markets – specializing in antique furniture, ranging from baroque to Art Deco and Fifties, dishware, perfume bottles, clocks, bronzes, toys, books, antique lace, linens, military collectibles, old tools, beads, and even ‘feves’, the little prizes found in ‘gateaux au roi’ or Epiphany cakes. etc.
Covering more than seven hectars, what first started as four markets: Vernaison, Malik, Biron, and Jules Valles in the 1930s, now has added a dozen more mini-markets such as Dauphine, Malassis, Paul Bert, Cambo, Rue de Rosiers, Michelet, Moreau Machenin, Antica, Serpette, L’Entrepot, Le Passage and L’Usine et Lecuyer (these last two are only open to professionals).
How do I get to the St. Ouen Flea Market?
Technically speaking, the flea market or ‘Marche aux Puces’ is located just outside Paris city limits in the northern town of St. Ouen. However, you can easily take the #4 line of the Paris Metro system, the Porte d’Orleans, Porte de Clignancourt line which will bring you right to the start of the flea market. Take the #4 line to the Porte de Clignancourt terminal. When you exit the Metro, you’ll see signs directing you toward the flea market (marche aux puces). However it’s important to keep in mind that you need to walk through the underpass (which takes you under the peripherique). That brings you into the actual flea market. Tons of offshoot stands pepper the empty lots between the Metro stop and St. Ouen, so don’t get sidetracked.
For first timers, I would definitely suggest coming to the flea market with your Plan de Paris in hand (the handy pocket book map which includes Parisian suburbs such as St. Ouen). You will find the various markets and streets clearly mapped. (I would recommend heading directly to Rue de Rosiers and the Vernaison market which has a varied selection of antiques, beads, and vintage clothing.
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The Dauphine market (where the vintage fashion show was staged) is located right off of Rue de Rosiers.
Another thing to keep in mind about the flea market: Be aware of your surroundings. Alongside those looking for a good deal are those looking for a good steal. And you may be the unlucky victim if you don’t keep your valuables close to you. My suggestion is to arrive early in the day and leave long before night fall (especially in winter months). You’ll find that once you’re in the furniture and antiques markets, the crowd becomes less and less dodgy.
Some of the stands have been here for ages and have their owners are well-known. Depending on the price, perhaps you can try to ask for a reduction, however, don’t expect a great deal of bargaining to be carried on.
It is certainly possible to have furniture shipped – I have friends who’ve done so. However, be prepared that the shipping costs may well equal the entire price of the item you’ve purchased. It all depends on how badly you want that Art Deco commode. Count on paying double before you’re finished.
Shopping for Vintage Clothing?
Pick up a copy of Paris Vintage by Sarah de Haro (FNAC bookstores)
(written in French and English)
Published by Parigramme/Paris est a Nous
This is a very handy book for zeroing in on some of the most well known vintage shops at the Flea market.
What might you expect to find? Several years ago, I bought a Chanel evening dress and a Kenzo 1980s peplum suit in malachite green (and I’m still looking for the right pair of shoes! but that’s another blog).
Happy treasure hunting!
More about the History of the St. Ouen Flea Market