Photo: Courtesy Plastiques. All other photos: Cynthia Rose.
Here, every resident expects constant visitors and part of keeping them happy is to meet expectations. Since their trips are always special, their Paris souvenirs must be perfect.
This is why I send friends both French and foreign to Plastiques. A pair of boutiques wrapped around a corner of the rue de Rennes, they are a treasure trove of colorful and ingenious presents. As the name suggests, everything here is made out of melamine, acrylic or glittering plastic. But the rue d’Assas shop stocks something that is unique.
This is Plastiques’s own line of tablecloths, napkins and aprons. Although they look like elegant linens in a range of wonderful colors, all are actually enduit. Taken literally, this means “coated.” However, these tasty goods could not be less like loud, shiny oilcloth.
Instead, their acrylic tissu enduit looks like elegant napery. This is because the fabrication, while it keeps your table spotless, is able to fool both the eye and the touch. Technically, the heavier cloths (enduit de PVC) are made more in the manner of oilcloth. Yet they are softer, more appealing—and stay spotless.
I never thought tissu enduit could actually work. Then, finally, I gave in and bought a design I kept drooling over in the window. That was now months ago. After spilling everything from sauces to wine and vinegar on it, I am a convert.
The store’s large, luscious selection ranges from the witty to formal. You’ll find wonderful shades and patterns; everything from stripes that rival Sonia Rykiel to polka dots, antique prints and Louis Quatorze Baroque. Plastiques stocks every size, both round and rectangular. The cloths are also packaged flat, which makes them easy to slip in a suitcase. Equally good outdoors or on a special occasion, these chic numbers are the perfect Paris souvenirs. The same goes for the napkins, place mats and aprons.
If these are a shade too chers, however, just head around the corner. There, the other Plastiques boutique is a different kind of wonderland. It has been a favorite shopping spot for teens, trendies and couples not just recently but for more than 30 years.
Established by the pioneering Muguette Rouot, Plastiques became a mother-and-daughter business shared with Frédérique Rouot. The family has always insisted on objects made in France and Europe. Not everything on their noncloth side is unique to the shop (it stocks plenty of objects by labels such as Pylones), but there are shelves and shelves of delectable buys.
I’ve yet to send anyone here who came back empty-handed—and random English-speaking shoppers I stopped all loved the shop (below). Since these two boutiques stock everything from key chains to dinner sets, they are also useful if your budget is exhausted.
For me, however, the perfect Paris souvenirs remain their tablecloths. It’s choosing only one that I find impossible.
Four visiting ladies comment:
1. Gift: Tablecloth in macaron pattern, for a table that seats six; €78
Recipient: Sister in Chicago, Illinois
Comment: “This even matches my box from Ladurée. I was going to buy a Hermès scarf, but this is way more fun.”
2. Gift: Melamine plates with cartoon princesses, each reciting a rule of French table manners; two blue, two pink; €6.70 each; Petit Prince plate, €8
Recipient: Three nieces and a nephew in Sydney, Australia
Comment: “These are perfect, especially for my sister-in-law who loves Paris.”
3. Gift: Heavy cotton bread sac in bleu-blanc-rouge, €20
Recipient: Mother in Kingsbridge, England
Comment: “The shop is more my style. But this is not so bright and my Mum is kind of conservative. I’m going to put bread in it.”
4. Gift: Acid-green coasters with Baroque French motifs; four at €3.40 each
Recipient: Boyfriend in St. Petersburg, Florida
Comment: “These are really for me. I might come back tomorrow, too—I want one of those see-through champagne holders shaped like a bag.”
The two Plastiques stores ship to the United States. Although not everything mentioned above appears on its website, over 4,000 items are available online.