Spending a morning with French designer Vincent Darré is like trying to catch a hummingbird while balancing on a tripod stool: always a bit off balance, but delightful, fun, and amusing. Darré, who seems to have had many lives and moves with ease through the worlds of fashion and interior design, is a fixture on the Parisian social scene, known to everyone from the local café waiter on up.
Always experimenting and dashing from one place to another, the kinetic Darré combines an aesthetic somewhere between the baroque, surrealism, and the just plain fabulous, no matter what the epoch. He’s currently set up shop, actually a laboratory for living, on the tony Rue Royale in Paris, where he fills a large apartment with all of his vintage finds, current creations, and works of art.
On the eve of the Paris Flea Market’s celebration, called Puces Mon Trésor (Flea Market My Treasure) and the Fête des Puces (Flea Market Party), AD spent a day with Darré to hear the ins and outs of flea market shopping and his favorite spots and tips.
“Okay, I am going to tell you everything!” says Darré when asked what he tells first-time visitors to the flea market. “First of all, tell your taxi driver to drop you off at the beginning of the Rue des Rosiers—don’t let them drop you off at the freeway—get off at the very beginning, where you will see the Vernaison Market, which is really the old flea market.” (Keep in mind: There are markets covering some 17 acres within this area, located at the Porte de Clignancourt, in the north of Paris, so it’s best to have a plan.)
“Vernaison is a very nice market and the best stall inside is run by Madame Giovannoni, who has been there forever and sells the most beautiful table linens at the best prices. One can also find some clothes,” Darré explains. “It’s where I buy baptism gowns to give as gifts. Picture-postcard stand!” After visiting Giovannoni, Darré directs one to the stand of Hélène Sofer, who specializes in textiles, and it’s where all the Paris designers go for inspiration and fabrics. “She just has everything,” he says.
According to Darré, the next best stop is at Chez Louisette for a bite to eat. “This is the real place of the flea market,” he says. “It looks like it hasn’t changed since the 1950s.” (And it probably hasn’t.) Then you can leave this market and head to the Marché Dauphine, which is a covered market in a modern building. “Go to Daniel et Lili for costume jewelry and the largest selection of Bakelite jewelry anywhere—all the stylists go here for accessories.”
Continue on to Marché Biron: This is the more expensive and chic part of the flea market. “No bargains here, but authentic and the right price,” Darré explains. Keep walking and you will hit Paul Bert, “the most poetic market and where everyone always goes. Here is my favorite, Arthur Bruet, a mix of Baroque and 20th-century things and a man of incredible taste. There is also Catherine Deneuve’s favorite stand, Monsieur Merlin.”
After Paul Bert is the Serpette Market, another covered space worth visiting. “The must of this market is Nicolas Giovannoni for the table arts; he is the son of [Madame Giovannoni], the linen vendor, and everyone gets their table services there.”
These suggested stops notwithstanding, there are so many more stands and markets worth one’s time. “There is Chez Sarah for clothes; she has a whole aisle to herself. And my favorite bookstore, Librairie de L’Avenue.” Darré likes to go to the flea market on Sundays and plans to spend all day there. ”The flea market is my country house; I go there all year round, rain or shine, walk around, have lunch and buy things,” he says. “The people are funny and so great—they really have the real culture of the object. I love it!”
Herewith, Darré’s list of must-visit vendors:
Janne Giovannoni, Marché Vernaison, 99 Rue des Rosiers, allée 7, stand 14.
Chez Louisette, 130 Avenue Michelet, Saint Ouen.
Daniel et Lili, Marché Dauphine, 140 Rue des Rosiers, stand 128.
Jean-Michel Merlin, Marché Paul Bert, 110 Rue des Rosiers, allée 6, stand 81.
Nicolas Govannoni, Marché Serpette, 110 Rue des Rosiers, allée 6, stands 8 & 10.
Chez Sarah, 18 Rue Jules Vallés.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest