While the French Riviera is known as a luxury shopping destination boasting shops from every designer label imaginable, it is also emerging as a hotspot for the discerning shopper looking to uncover more unusual designers and concept-style stores. Boutiques such as Stylejunky, Apalone, Fashion IT, Le Grand Bazar and Le Shop in Cannes and Antic Boutik and Désert in Nice have quickly become favourites among the young, fashion-savvy set, and are making the Riviera more than just a capital of conspicuous consumption, but also a centre of hip street style.
‘Having spent many years living in fashion cities, I’d say the Côte d’Azur look is the most difficult to decode,’ says designer, illustrator and blogger Michele Corty, who often models looks from these shops on her blog, Une Americaine in Nice. ‘There is such a mix of different cultures and people from different cities that the Riviera look has somewhat become a melting pot of English, Italian and Parisian style – a bit edgy, sometimes sexy and often laid-back. I love that I can walk out the door in jeans and a T-shirt or sequins,’ Corty explains.
Unlike most other shopping locales, the Riviera is dormant for half the year. High season falls in the summer, from March to October, when celebrities and mere mortals alike invade the Côte d’Azur for festivals and holidays. The mix of nationalities and the touristy population flocking to the Riviera contributes to the sense of flexible dressing, with head-to-toe designer as commonplace as shorts and flip-flops.
‘The fashion scene is at the same time a scene without a big fashion culture but very show-off-y, with luxury products that can be seen by everybody,’ says Jean-Christophe Serra, owner of Antic Boutik in Nice. ‘For several years the street style looked quite similar because of shops like Zara and H&M. The choice is much more limited here in the Riviera because of the number of shops and the brands available.’
For individuals looking for something unique, these street-style boutiques are the answer. Until the emergence of these funky stores, there was no middle ground between the high-end shops and mass retailers for those wanting to stand out.
In Cannes, five-year-old Apalone is the go-to shop for individuals looking to uncover local talent and young designers. Fabienne Barville, owner of the market-style shop, explains: ‘For those with creative taste, who look for something different, not common, Apalone is one of those shops that brings something different and elegant with lots of fun. It’s about the luxury of the rareness.’ Barville stocks dresses and swimwear from her own Apalone label, as well as clothing, jewellery and accessories from designers such as Briton Laura Lees, French brand Eye Doll and American jeweller Jessica Kagan Cushman, alongside vintage pieces, with prices starting at €60.
Those wanting more recognisable international brands converge on Stylejunky, a shop born a decade ago when Danish couple Nicolai Suhr and his long-term partner Julie Budik holidayed in Cannes and felt there was something missing. ‘We decided to sell everything and move to Cannes and open Stylejunky. It took a couple of years to find our own style, which is a little edgy but stylish, a little rock ’n’ roll but classic,’ explains Suhr. ‘I think when people come to us, they come because they want a more trendy style, things they have seen in the magazines. They know we have things they can’t get anywhere else in France.’
Stylejunky is one of the trendiest shops along the Riviera and, indeed, in France. ‘It’s the kind of store where Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and Cleménce Poésy would be found grabbing off the racks,’ according to Corty. Prices run from €70 for a T-shirt to €4,000 for a fur coat, and you can find designers including Rika, Golden Goose, Stine Goya, Pamela Love, Bess, Bllack Noir and Munthe plus Simonsen. The designer line-up changes from season to season.
For those who prefer understated simplicity, Le Grand Bazar in Cannes has a similarly prestigious clientele. The glitterati of the Côte d’Azur are wooed by around 50 brands from fashionable favourites such as Proenza Schouler and Martin Margiela alongside less well-known labels including Hanii Y and Thomas Wylde.
Nice also boasts its share of hip ‘micro-boutiques’ as these concept-style stores have come to be known. While Désert sells must-have Parisian labels such as Isabel Marant and Vanessa Bruno, the aforementioned Antic Boutik has an eclectic mix of labels including Surface to Air, Opening Ceremony, Acne Jeans, APC, Kitsuné and Band of Outsiders. When Serra opened the shop 13 years ago, he explains, ‘I was a DJ and designer and I just wanted to bring a new vision of fashion – mine. Antic Boutik brought new brands into town never sold anywhere here and took risks introducing unknown brands that are now famous.’
Le Shop in Cannes has invented its own kind of concept store, combining two of the key tenets of life on the French Riviera: fashion and music. Alongside a diverse mix of contemporary brands including Libertie is My Religion you’ll find a host of iconic designers – Jean Paul Gaultier being one such name. The store also holds evenings of live music and Champagne, perfect for whiling away a long summer night.
Even those not based along the Riviera can now get in on the action. Apalone launched its new website in February, and will be dressing and making up starlets during the next Cannes Film Festival, and both Stylejunky and Antic Boutik have launched online stores as well as having larger-scale projects planned this year. ‘We’re going to work on our shirt brand in collaboration with a little Italian tailor and create Antic Boutik candles,’ says Serra.
As for Stylejunky, it may soon be more than just a hip boutique dictating the fashion choices of chic French men and women and those descending on Cannes for the summer. ‘We are thinking about doing our own label in about a year; it's going to be called “by Stylejunky” and will be a small collection with only 10 must-have pieces,’ says Suhr. ‘So maybe in a couple of years, you will be able to get “by Stylejunky” all over the world.’