I only walked up to the Marais yesterday to do a little work in a cafe.
When I saw the stalls along the rue de Bretagne...
I wasn't impressed. I was there to work, not shop, and the last brocante I went to was dissapointing (and freezing) in February I was annoyed to see the road closed, to have to step over pile of watch-chains, dolls' arms, retro-modern table lamps...
I think it was the shirts that got me, ranks of them: men's, women's, new shruken, faded, all check.(I have a bit of a thing for check).
Unlike the surrounding designer stores of the Marais, where a single shoe, a sole necklace has the luxury of an empty vitrine, in the brocante objects and clothes are piled in heaps, themed or unthemed. It reminded me of Zola's Ladies' Paradise and how Octave Mouret's shopping revolution included the use of loss leaders; price-undercutting and a radical approach to shop windows:
Pieces of cream-colored paper were piled like strangely-shaped pamphlets. Littering the counters were the fancy silks - watered silks, satins, velvets looking like beds of mown flowers, a whole harvest of delicate and precious materials.
Now that scarcity rather than profusion adds value, the 19th Century approach to marketing is something that survives only in street markets.
With one difference.
Everything on sale here once belonged to somebody else.
And their ghosts are still hanging around in the way the heel of a shoe is worn down, the creases made in an old pair of jeans, the wear in a second-hand ring. Disembodied bodies are everywhere.
Others will go back into their in boxes to wait for the next brocante...
If you'd like to come and hear me talk about window shopping, amongst other aspects of reinventing tourism, come along to Shakespeare and Company,Paris, tonight; the Idler Academy on Wednesday, or Foyles Bookshop on Saturday.