Unless you’re after a space suit or a pair of parabolic skis, you’ll find pretty much everything worth looking for at BHV MARAIS: fashion, beds, sneakers, door knobs, pressure cookers, vintage dresses, Campbell’s soup, oil paint, suitcases, cushions, gluten-free waffles, earrings, toys, hats, laptops, foie gras. (Breathe.) Detergent, foreign novels, coffee, candy, washing machines, gourmet pâtisseries, postcards, craft beer, lipstick, designer chairs, wrist-watches, sake, perfume or the last issue of Monocle. (Aaand breathe again.) Since its major renovation in 2014, Paris’s six-storey department store has even made room for cooking classes provided by three-star chef Alain Ducasse’s staff and a Kure Bazaar « nail bar » in case madame suddenly endures an acute manicure attack.
In other words, gone are the days when Parisians only set foot in the old and dusty Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville to grab a light bulb or get their annual fill of DIY equipment. Although BHV MARAIS still boasts an impressive range of tools, hardware, kitchenware and arts & crafts material, there is a totally new (and more fancy) feel to the century-old haussmannian « grand magasin », set bang in the historical centre of Paris. Womenswear here now has little to envy the gargantuan Galeries Lafayette, Printemps Haussmann or Bon Marché, with brands ranging from top-notch high-street stuff like ba&sh, Berenice, The Kooples, Sandro, Maje, Kookaï or Princesse Tam-Tam, to swanky Armani and Ted Baker apparel and understated classics such as Dhery or Gérard Darel. It’s also the only place in the country where you’ll come across Anthropologie in the flesh, and one of the lucky few Topshop and Urban Outfitters retailers of Paris. Damsels overwhelmed by the abundance of bib and tucker (and for whom les euros aren’t a problem) can even refer to a personal shopping service (approximately 90 euros an hour), which comes with tips from professional stylists and a cosy VIP lounge.
That being said, it’s with menswear that BHV MARAIS has really climbed upwards, in an effort to conquer the hearts and wallets of the fashionista gay(-friendly) Marais crowd – and to dig deep into the pockets of tourists with a taste for Parisian elegance. Not only can messieurs now spend hours skimming through their own BHV store on rue de la Verrerie (street wear, footwear, accessories, high-street fashion and a relaxing courtyard complete with sofas and nibbles), four spanking new boutiques have also recently sprouted on rue des Archives, housing Gucci, Givenchy, Fendi and Moncler. All the more reason to pop back into the main building on rue de Rivoli and scavenge for free goodies (Paris maps equipped with 10% discount cards for foreigners), stop by the Tax Refund counter (for non-Europeans), fill up on tarte au citron at Pâtisserie des rêves, swallow a sushi or two at Le Paris Tokyo, treat your hands to a pinch of Aésop moisturizer and head up to the rooftop terrace bar, to enjoy a glass of rosé afterhours and a view on Hôtel de Ville, the Seine, the Eiffel Tower and Tour Saint-Jacques. Whether you’re just looking for an umbrella as you stroll through the Marais, or whether you’re set on buying a whole new wardrobe, there’s enough here to keep everyone happy. Everyone except your banker.