Paris Shopping Tip: Designer clothing for less at “Sympa”

Posted in: Paris Shopping


Find high-end undergarments for cheapo prices at Sympa in Paris.
Find high-end undergarments for cheapo prices at Sympa in Paris.

I see London, I see France… I see Cheapo underpants!

I’m still giddy with excitement. You see, I’ve just discovered Paris’ route de la soie (“Silk Road”). It’s a road through the less-traveled bargain clothing stores of Montmartre. Follow my lead and you, too, can find high-end clothing at bargain-bin prices.

The Panty Raid low-down

Our search takes place at Les Magasins Sympa Grandes Marques Griffées, or just “Sympa” for short.  Sympa is a bargain clothing store with several outlets in Montmartre. Here you can find lingerie, dresses, blouses, skirts, and coats–all designer seconds from previous collections. These shops are just a stone’s throw from the steps of the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur at Metro Anvers.

Crowds comb through the merchandise.

Save the more popular shopping districts (rues Rivoli, Hausmann, St. Honoré and de Rennes) for window shopping (or, lèche-vitrine, “window licking” in French). On the racks, shelves, and bins of the Sympa shops, you’ll find the same trendy brands, like Kookai, Jennyfer, Naf-Naf, Pimkie, Printemps, Sinéquanone, and Sandro, but for a fraction of their original cost.

Fancy Pants

The Sympa stores are located along the rue de Steinkerque, a street once notorious for its prostitutes and dance halls. Today, you can rummage through the bargains in these same buildings–under new management, of course!

Imagine the surreal charm of shopping for your “unmentionables” inside the former brothel that Pablo Picasso frequented during his “blue period”! Another Sympa now occupies part of “le bal de l’Elysée Montmartre,” where the famed Can Can star (and famorite muse of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) La Goulue made her racy debut before defecting to the nearby Moulin Rouge. You can nab your own knickers in the very room where she once flashed hers so fetchingly at the absinthe-quaffing crowds.

If only these walls could speak.

Ah, but at Sympa maybe they do. I recently purchased armfuls of Etam’s exquisite delicacies, trimmed with yards of lace and bows, and each possessing a provocative name like “Extravagante,” “Hypnotique,” “Promesse,” “Malicieuse,” “Offrande,” “Merveilles,” “Amourette,” “Faveur,” “Tentation,” and finally, “Bliss.”

As I sauntered home along the cobblestone streets, still under the spell of my panty raid, I could swear that I spotted Aristide Bruant drift by, whistling at me and looking rather dapper in his black cape and long red scarf. Or was that Monsieur Dalí, perchance?

Lots of underwear.Tips for Lingerie Shopping

1. First, get fortified with un café or, better yet, une bière.

2. Leave handbag at home. Carry cash in pocket.

3. Don’t forget sense of humor.

4. Hang tough. Own your corner of the bargain bin!

5. There are no dressing rooms. Know your European size numbers.

6. The best deals are always in the exterior bins on the sidewalks.

7. Hate crowds? Shop weekday mornings.

8. Saturday mornings are usually delivery day, but every day is a drastic sale day at Sympa.

Practical Info

Sympa locations:
62, blvd. De Rochechouart, corner of Steinkerque
1 bis, rue de Steinkerque
18, rue d’Orsel, corner of Steinkerque

Days and Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 AM—7 PM

Metro: at Anvers (Pigalle and Abbesses are nearby, too)

While you’re in the neighborhood…

In the mood for art after your panty raid? Four museums in the quartier de Montmartre:

Espace Dalí (Dive into the convoluted imagination of the surrealist master!)
Days and Hours: Monday through Sunday, 10 AM—6:30 PM
Metros: Anvers, Abbesses
Discounts: children under 8 free

Le Halle Saint Pierre
(Visionaries, naives and outsiders—and a cozy café!)
2, rue Ronsard
Days and Hours: Monday through Sunday, 10 AM—6 PM
(Special August Days and Hours: Monday through Friday, 12 Noon—6 PM)
Metros: Anvers, Abbesses

Musée de Montmartre (Where Impressionism began!)
12 rue Cortot
Days and Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11 AM—6 PM
Métros: Abbesses
Discounts: children under 12 free

Musée de l’érotisme (Ooh la lah!)
72, boulevard de Clichy
Métros: Blanche, Pigalle
Days and Hours: Monday through Sunday, 10 AM—2 AM
Don’t miss the
permanent exhibition on Montmartre’s famous brothels!


About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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13 thoughts on “Paris Shopping Tip: Designer clothing for less at “Sympa””

  1. Me encantó encontrar en Paris estas fabulosas tiendas, nunca me imaginé que podía encontrar unos sacos preciosos y a un muy buen precio, creía que Paris era carísimo, nada de eso.
    El bellísimo paseo por Montmartre de ese dia lo cerré con unas muy buenas compras,
    Seguro estaré ahí en mi siguientes vacaciones por el inigualable Paris.

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  4. I would like to mention about the Montmartre chain of Sympa stores.
    There’s about five or six little shops scattered in the fabric neighborhood right below the Sacre Coeur hill. There you can find bargains – it’s where things go after they didn’t sell during the soldes, or simply they’re things that weren’t picked up by retailers. There are two or three shops next to the Anvers metro shop that typically carry one euro Petit Bateau stuff. I would like to buy these things but I’m looking for places where I could buy it.

    I will be very pleased if you can tell me where these retailers get so cheap Petit Bateau things from? Is in Paris any Petit Bateau warehouse store?

    They also have tons of Natalys, Sergent Major, DPAM and other French brands (kids brands) that typically sell for 2 or 3 euros a piece. I wonder where they find these clothes, because I think the prices must be cheaper then even 2-3 euros?

    I will be grateful for any information.

    Best Regards!

  5. How perfect! I will be staying in the Montmatre and was hoping to find bargin French Knickers (Really! I mean, it’s the single girls ultimate souvie!) Thanks for the tip!

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  9. This is perfect! I hate to shop for clothes but you make it sound exciting . . . with the promise of a museum reward at the end.

  10. Theadora, I adore-a your approach to keeping your head (and wallet!) above water– shopping can be a bore-a unless I keep in mind your panty one-liners! Victoria’s secrets barely cover the the basics; Theodora rewards all the senses– a taste for a café, hearing walls tell stories, visual exploration of museums nearby… thank you!

  11. You’re pretty funny! Accurate, too. I went there and checked it out and got some great goodies for my girlfriend for almost nothing (though of course I won’t tell HER that!!!!). I had to take along a pair of her old undies that I had swiped to hold up next to the new ones for comparison since I didn’t know her size and was too embarassed to ask her, but at Sympa nobody really cares. That “silk road” you mentioned continues around the corner from there, too, where all these great fabric stores are, a little closer to Sacre Coere. It’s always amazing to me how Europeans often tend to clump things together in “districts” so that within a few blocks you’ll see nothing but stores selling leather stuff or in the “glass district” you find almost nothing but stores selling glassware, etc. But it sure makes it easy to do comparison shopping! I hope you’ll write about some of the other shopping districts sometime, too, since I don’t think any of the guidebooks say where they are. Anyway, keep up the great work–I’m looking forward to the next Theodara Brack piece!

  12. Theodora — Thank you for the sympa tip!
    Your recently acquired fan, Wendy, loves clothes shopping. So, keep the shopping tips coming! I love them! I want more!

  13. diane megargel

    Theadora Brack- merci !!! Your panty raid tips were witty and informative. I will treasure the article and hide it in my unmentionables when next I go to Paris and window lick and then hit the silk road!! Dare I try the can-can after I buy those panties with bows ?/ Cant wait!!From someone wearing really ugly Fruit Of The looms.


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