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COLUMN: Paris’s solution to fast fashion? Tea cookies.



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Sweet cream scones and tea. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

When packing for a trip to Paris, it’s not hard to fill a suitcase or two. Okay, maybe even three.

Sadly, it isn’t until you’ve busted your carry-on’s zipper, paid the overweight luggage fee and dragged each bag along the Paris cobblestone that you’ll realize your mistake. You forgot to leave room to shop.

As Paris is one of fashion’s favorite destinations, many come to the city dreaming of bringing home a leather jacket from le Marais, a vintage blazer from the Sunday flea markets or perhaps a pair of oxfords from les Galeries Lafayette.

And as someone who loves fashion myself, I, too, came with my list of markets and brands I wanted to make room for in my suitcase. But seeing that my bags were already quite overflowing on the trip over, I’m lucky that Paris shopping isn’t actually what so many dream it to be.

For example, Sezane, a French apparel and accessories brand, has always been at the top of my When-I-Get-To-Paris-I-Will-Spend-All-My-Money-Here list.

For months I’ve pined over its dreamy editorial shoots where mustard sweaters and cherry trousers mingle on a Jardin du Luxembourg park bench. I’ve devoured its blog peaking into the Parisian woman’s comings and goings. I’ve strangely even found myself referencing its online business model to mere strangers.

So last week when I set out to make the grand mecca to its second arrondissement location, I spent the morning cursing my lack of suitcase space. Where was I going to fit that lovely mustard cashmere?

But as I rounded the store’s corner, I wasn’t met with said cashmere or cherry corduroy or any of other goodies I had envisioned for so long. Instead, what Sezane was selling wasn’t about their product at all.

Wrapping around the building, a line of about 40 shoppers waited to gain entry to the small boutique. Still, they didn’t seem to mind.

At the beginning of the line, a small sign apologized for the wait, but reminded shoppers to use the minutes they stood not for impatience but for reflection. In between their deep thoughts, they could help themselves to a small trolley of lemon water and tea cookies. Or better yet, try a fresh muffin bite from an associate who wandered the line with a patisserie tray perched on his shoulder.

If they grew tired, there was a long bench for lounging along the boutique wall. If they grew bored, there were 39 other French fashion-philes keen to exchange Instagram handles or talk the Louis Vuitton show in the Louvre last month.

For those 30 minutes, I talked, I tasted, I drank, I laughed and when I got to the front door, I didn’t even care when they had sold out of my prized sweater.

In American retail, I would have been appalled. There more is always more — more product, more discounts, more fall must haves, more transactions. We build airport-sized shopping malls. We carry all sizes and colors in the back. We ship right to your front door in two to three business days, or your money back, guaranteed.

But as the American retail system begins to crumble with its sustainability and fast fashion issues, its solution may be easier than it thinks. According to Sezane, it could just be tea cookies.

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