Feb 04, 2012 12:00AM

Interview: Parisian Street Society

If you dream about the perfect vintage Chanel bag, read on...

Would a perfect day for you involve trawling through the markets and antique shops of Paris? Have you ever had heart palpitations and gone into mild shock upon finding that perfect vintage Chanel handbag or YSL belt from the eighties? Parisian Street Society is a boutique that opened in Melbourne last year – the goods are also available for purchase online – stocking vintage designer jewellery and accessories. The owner Shannyn Alexene has sourced all the items from Paris, amassing an envious collection of Chanel, YSL, Christian Lacroix, Lanvin, Sonia Rykiel, Balenciaga, Balmain, Hermes and Givenchy from the sixties, seventies and eighties. We sat down with her to discuss Parisian style and what makes a good handbag.

Sophie Bosch: For you, which Parisian designer or brand defines Parisian style the most?
Shannyn Alexene: It's hard to choose between Chanel and Hermes so I would have to say both. Both houses are very classic and understated, which definitely epitomises the chic Parisian woman in every way. On my latest trip to Paris, nearly every girl walking the streets was wearing either a new or vintage Chanel handbag – so typically Parisian.

Do you have an extensive collection of accessories at home or do you try and keep your own wardrobe quite concise?
I wouldn't say I have an extensive collection of my own accessories at home, even though a lot of the pieces in the boutique I would love to keep for myself, but I do have a great collection of cuffs and all leather bracelets by different designers which I'm obsessed with.

Is there one piece in your collection that to you was like finding the 'Holy Grail' of accessories?
It's a piece I have in the boutique; an Isabel Canovas bracelet which depicts two beautifully sculpted mask faces. This French designer is very rare and so hard to find! Unfortunately this piece is too big for me.

What is your favourite or most unusual piece of jewellery that you've ever owned?
My favourite piece is actually quite a new purchase. A Hanna Bernhard snake-encrusted bracelet. It's a work of art. She is a contemporary French designer and her pieces are just amazing. We stock her exclusively in Australia. Emmanuelle Alt seems to be a big fan and so is Iris Apfel.

What makes a good handbag?
A good handbag has to be functional, for me it has to fit everything in it comfortably. I carry my life around in my handbag so to me that's important. It has to be made of a beautiful soft leather and a design that is classic, nothing too trendy that is only fashionable for a short time; a good handbag should last season after season, year after year. I love Jerome Dreyfuss handbags at the moment.

If you could go back to any decade in Paris which decade would it be?
The sixties for clothing. The classic structured pieces, the YSL see-through blouses with Le Smoking tuxedo jacket. Really elegant and simple. But as far as accessories definitely the eighties with a boom of amazing crazy runway pieces.

What is the one classic accessory that every woman should have?
The classic 2.55 Chanel handbag, jumbo size.

What originally attracted you to vintage?
I have always been interested in vintage and antiques ever since I was young, from furniture to jewellery, I was brought up with it. I enjoy trawling markets and such places, it's exciting searching for pieces. I love vintage jewellery and accessories because they are pieces that you are not going to find everywhere; no one is going to have the same piece as you. And I love the fact that there is a history and story behind each vintage piece.

Parisian Street Society is located at Shop 7, South Yarra Arcade, 101-105 Toorak Road, Melbourne.

Introduction: Alanna Bromley
Interview: Sophie Bosch


Alanna Bromley


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