A Trip Back in Time Through Fashion History in Nice, France
Text and photography by Katie Beck
The words “Côte d'Azur” instantly conjures images of vintage glamour and style, and the past is everywhere here. The beautiful, crumbling Belle Époque architecture, and the steep cliffs tumbling into the deep blue as they have for centuries, will carry you back in time.
A hundred years ago the French Riviera was a sought after vacation spot for European aristocrats. Soon enough artists and writers like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald discovered the sublime golden Provençal sun, and by the 1960s the fashionable streets of Nice, studded with starlets and millionaires, were just as glittering as the Mediterranean below.
Although no longer quite the exclusive locale it once was, the vintage fashion worn back then is still alive and kicking here today… if you know where to look.
Whether you are partial to fanciful frocks from the 1940s, flashy 1980s style, or anything in between, there is something for every vintage lover amidst the sun, sand and sea. Recently, a handful of new vintage shops have opened their doors. Here is a guide to the crème de la crème:
Down a narrow cobblestone road, tucked away in Vieux Nice - Nice’s old town - behind a tiny shop front, you will find the most beautifully curated of vintage shops: Caprice. It is run by an energetic Audrey Hepburn look-alike named Karine.
Opened three years ago, the shop feels like an old Hollywood dressing room, positively dripping with delightful clothing, shoes, jewelry, and accessories. Although small, the two-story space manages not to feel overcrowded, with artfully arranged racks and cases.
The selection ranges from the 1930s – 1980s and there is everything from pristine blue silk Yves Saint Laurent sling backs and edgy leather jackets, to oversized sunglasses, and all manner of designer pieces. Prices start at around €30 for dresses.
Karine, whose love affair with vintage fabrics and fashion started when she was just a girl, says she wanted to open the shop to share her passion.
She stocks almost exclusively French designer clothes, all of which come from individual estates or markets within Provence. And if you are looking for silk ties, pockets squares or vintage suiting for men, her husband runs a gentlemen’s vintage shop called Le Cheri de Caprice, a few streets over.
For more trendy vintage items, head straight to the centre of town to Rue Jean Medecin, where you will see the newly opened Hippy Market. Just three months old, this is part of a quickly growing French chain - with four shops in Paris - specialising in vintage men’s and women’s clothes and shoes, mostly from the 1970s onwards.
What this shop lacks in organisation, it makes up for in pure volume. The cramped space is bursting with leather boots and purses, jeans, bright retro dresses, and checked shirts. They also feature some reworked vintage items, like silk blouses made into mini skirts.
The items come from all over the world, with the store employing buyers to travel the globe to keep the racks stocked. All of the alterations are done in France and prices start around €25 - €30 for dresses.
Away from the hubbub in the middle of Nice, up past the train station, is Vintage Avenue. Owned by Lea Morin, a designer who has lived in Nice for 20 years, the shop showcases women’s vintage formalwear mostly from the 1940s and 1950s with some menswear thrown in as well.
Lea also sells her own line of dresses inspired by, and made from, repurposed vintage designs as well as some home decor. Vintage dresses start at €20 and original designs at around €90.
If designer labels are what you crave, look no further than Mademoiselle. One street over from the famous Promenade Des Anglais, this shop is the place to go for vintage Louis Vuitton luggage, Chanel blazers, and all of the other big French names in designer fashion.
Sephora Luis, opened the shop two years ago, and she says there is huge demand for high-end vintage in Nice. Jewelry and accessories are her favourite items and the large glass case in the centre of the shop is full of beautiful baubles to show it.
A Gucci scarf or Yves Saint Laurent leather jacket here will set you back €110 and €700 respectively, and other designers start at around €70. The shop also buys upscale designer vintage pieces.
If markets are more your style, Nice has you covered. Each Monday in the Cours Saleya square at the base of the old town, you will find the Marché à la Brocante - or antiques market.
The varied stalls are overflowing with everything from art deco silver tea sets and mid century lamps, to mint condition 1950s party dresses, and rainbow hued Bakelite jewelry. The prices here range from mind-boggling to bargain, so it is definitely worth some careful perusing.
If you aren’t in town on a Monday don’t fret, a short walk along the sea front will take you to the port where the Puces de Nice – Nice’s flea market – is open every day until 6:00pm. The neat stalls here are full of all manner of antique books, art, jewelry and curios, and the wizened shopkeepers are always up for a chat.