Let’s face it, all of us would love to jet off to Paris for a vintage shopping trip, where we can peruse the storied wares that France has to offer. While not all of us have this luxury, we’re bringing you the next best thing. Marianne, Chairish seller and the eye behind vintage curiosities shop The Savoy Flea, went to Paris with the sole purpose of finding some amazing flea market finds for those who can’t shop there themselves. Can you say “best job ever?”
Practically a native of Paris herself, Marianne is sharing everything from how The Savoy Flea started, her insider tips and tricks for shopping vintage in Paris, and how to go about finding Parisian treasures stateside. Trust us, you’re going to wanna read this!
How did you ended up starting The Savoy Flea and spending your days shopping vintage in Paris?
It’s something I’ve always done. I’m a natural born treasure hunter. When I was little, my grandfather used to babysit me at his business. He’d give me $5 to get me out of his hair and I’d go across the street to the thrift store. It was the 1970’s, kids were “free range” and could go anywhere by themselves. I’d spend hours in there, fascinated by everything. Needless to say, I was hooked, and since then it’s always been a part of my life. Whether it’s selling plates to antique dealers in college for extra cash or furnishing my house on a budget, it’s all I’ve ever loved to do. I went to college for Classical Archaeology and Latin to be a full-time treasure hunter, but soon realized I’d be stuck sifting through sand for years and maybe not even finding anything. So, off I went to work the usual 9-5 jobs, but the pull of treasure hunting lingered. After years of unfulfilling jobs and selling on the side, I took the plunge and started The Savoy Flea.
What’s the story behind the name, The Savoy Flea?
People ask about my business name a lot. I used Savoy from France’s Savoy region that was originally Italian. I’m Italian and my husband is French, which made sense. Savoy also makes everything sound so much more elegant.
Did you head to Paris just for the vintage or did you have other ties there?
Oddly enough, shopping in Paris became a natural thing. I’m grateful and lucky to have a French professor for a father-in-law, who bought a tiny apartment in Paris’s Bastille neighborhood and passed it down to us. Paris is so filled with history that even the foundation of our building was built with stones from the Bastille, adorned with 18th century prison graffiti. The city is just amazing that way. Our apartment is a five minute walk to one of my favorite markets, Marché d’Aligre. I love it because they’re open six days a week. It’s a smaller flea market, but if you go often, you’ll see the same vendors, strike up a rapport and find great affordable, small decor pieces that fit into your suitcase. Added bonus! There’s also an amazing food market, which pretty much makes Marché d’Aligre heaven on earth. Fresh oysters plucked from the ocean that day, with a side of rosé and Parisian vintage shopping all on one small street… YES PLEASE!
What makes vintage shopping in Paris so singular?
First off…the history! You can frequently find really, really, really old items, at least to Americans. On this trip I found a set of books from 1824. 1824! That’s only 31 years after Marie Antoinette was sent to the guillotine. You just don’t find goods that old at a flea market in the States. Because you’re in a major European city, you’re also more likely to find a lot of unique continental finds from Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Algeria, Morocco, and others. Finally, manners are of utmost importance in Paris, even at a flea market.
What are your tips for finding the best flea markets in Paris?
Everyone hears about the famed Marche aux Puces St Ouen and Clignancourt. Just search Paris flea markets and that’s what you’ll see! Every blogger and shopper goes there. It’s a great market and they know it, which makes it more expensive. It’s like going to a museum that goes on for miles. Everyone should experience it at least once but the truth is, Parisians love their flea markets. They’re EVERYWHERE!! They love them so much they have several different flea market finder websites. So wherever go, just type in the last 2 digits of the “code postale” (zip code) et voila! Check out https://vide-greniers.org. Also, most Parisian neighborhoods have weekend markets and you’ll see posters for them. This trip, I stumbled across one in the Oberkampf neighborhood by accident and it turned out to be pretty amazing!
What’s your advise for dealing with vendors and using less than perfect French?
I have French speaking performance anxiety, where I just want to nod yes, grab the baguette, pay and run. Even if you don’t know French, learn the basics. More French people speak English now, so if you make a mistake it’s okay. I also can’t emphasize enough how important manners are to the French. Parisians have manners ingrained in their blood. Centuries of it. Always say “please, thank you, hello, goodbye, goodnight, etc.” When you don’t, it’s like the equivalent of walking into someone’s house and not saying a word. This applies to the flea market too. Even if you stumble, say the wrong thing or can’t get the words out… It’s ok!
Any other insider tips?
Most items won’t have prices on them, so DON’T dress like a rich American! We all want to look super chic on our Paris vacation but leave your Birkin bag at the hotel. They’ll just quadruple the price on you.
One barrier is figuring out how to get your haul from the market to your hotel. And advice there?
Buy a cheap panier rolling cart in Paris for your trip and give it away when you leave. Trust me on this one! It’s so much easier to haul your treasure around Paris. There’s no way I could have carried a bronze and marble desk set, piles of books and brass goods all over the market, on the metro and the walk home without one. You can find them everywhere for under $40.00. Check out Monoprix (French grocery store chain that’s a way cooler version of Target), BHV (like an upscale old school Sears but way better). BHV also has mailing tubes and packing material or most streets have a local mom and pop dollar store where you can purchase packing material.
What is your favorite vintage piece that you’ve ever purchased in Paris?
I have a thing for hats. This last trip I scored a top hat from The Exposition Universelle of 1889. It was the world’s fair that debuted the Eiffel Tower! Which means some fabulous Monsieur went to the fair to see the Eiffel Tower for the first time and picked up this hat as a souvenir. How cool is that?!? Life is good!
What about your flea market shopping tips in the US?
Same applies for the US. Leave your Birkin bag at home for lower prices, be kind to the vendor and don’t haggle them to death. Remember they found this treasure for you. Who knows what they had to dig through to find it! Kindness goes a long way and will help in your negotiations. Be swift! If you like it, grab it before it’s gone.
What is your vintage shopping motto?
Be kind, move like a ninja and buy what you love.
Marianne’s Favorite Paris Flea Markets
Going to a large flea market is an all day affair. I prefer the small neighborhood ones that I can squeeze into my day and don’t eat up all my time in Paris.
Marché aux Puces de Vanves is the farthest but worth the trip because of the sheer volume of goods they have. It’s incredibly large and has everything—furniture, art, decor and more. It’s less expensive then St. Ouen but it’s becoming more touristy. Be prepared to take a long metro/cab ride. You really need your rolling panier at this market!
Marché d’Aligre is a great small, no-frills neighborhood market with amazing food. There’s not a lot of furniture, but is full of small decor pieces. Weekends are best since there are more vintage vendors and goods. It’s a little rough around the edges, so be prepared to dig. An added bonus is that they have a hurdy gurdy player accompanying you while you shop.
Marche Village St. Paul is a small hidden market where antique stores are trucked into little courtyards along the Rue St. Paul. Markets are once a month on the weekend but if you miss it, there’s plenty of antique shops and cafes. It’s only two blocks away from the Seine to make it an even better day. Be sure to stop in one of my favorite shops if you’re an ephemera junky, Au Petit Bonheur de Chance.
Huge thank you to Marianne, and be sure to check out The Savoy Flea!