40 Hours in Paris (Or thereabouts)
I love trainers, I always have and probably always will. My collection is currently pushing 100 pairs (at a conservative estimate) and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon*. But, over the past few years I’ve moved beyond just buying and collecting the humble sneaker and into visiting trainer-related events and exhibitions.
Laces Out was my first. Taking place in the Baltic Quarter in Liverpool it combines a wide mix of independent traders and collectors with people talking about trainers, brands and DJs. I’m not sure if it was actually the lure of the trainers that first got my attention or the fact that I could combine it with going out for the day drinking with my friends, but whatever it was, it’s become a bit of a ritual amongst us now, with bi-annual visits being the norm.
The other one I’d visited was Sneakerness, at the Printworks in London. Although I didn’t really think much to this event, it’s on a much larger scale to Laces Out and is actually held at numerous venues around the world, from Amsterdam to Cape Town. I wondered if an international event might trump the London one.
I had toyed with the idea of going to an exhibition abroad for a while so when the Paris event dropped on a free weekend, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. So, I booked the Friday off work as my Inspiration Day, booked the Eurostar from St Pancras, downloaded numerous travel apps for the French capital and checked into a hotel in Porte de Pantin. I was slightly apprehensive as I’d never travelled solo before, but as the weekend drew closer the nerves settled down and I actually got quite excited at the thought of my weekend in Paris.
The day arrived and I jumped in my car and set off for the Big Smoke with my rucksack and just the one (!) pair of trainers. This pair had been very carefully selected as people at trainer festivals spend most of their time actually staring at your feet! I also knew that if my last few visits to the event were anything to go by I’d be coming home with more pairs than I arrived with.
I didn’t actually arrive in Paris until about seven in the evening so after making my way to the hotel via the Metro I decided to just dump my things and head out for some French cuisine and a few beers (again a daunting task on your own but something I just decided to embrace). I went into the restaurant, bagged my table for one and proceeded to give the waiter my order of French Mustard Pork Fillet and a pint of Monaco (some menu pointing was involved).
After a few more Monacos I decided to retire for the night as the next day was going to be hectic. My itinerary was stacked like jenga…
After an impressively early start, a whistle-stop visit to the Eiffel Tower and a quick croissant, I headed to the Louvre. An absolute maze of art and sculptures all housed in one of the most impressive buildings I’d ever seen. I think it would be hard enough finding the Mona Lisa there at the best of times, but the fact that it had been moved for renovation made the whole experience that little bit more frustrating. After searching for over an hour and numerous chats with different members of staff I was told it had actually been moved to a different building altogether and that there was a two and a half hour queue. At this point I decided ol’ smirking Mona would have to wait until my next visit. After all, I wasn’t here for her, I was here for the trainers.
Although a lot of Paris is pretty much what I expected – long flowing side streets packed with patisseries and boulangeries and stunning views of the river – my favourite place was an area known as Rue Reaumer in the 2nd Arrondissement. A hub of independent retailers, coffee shops, graffiti and little bars, it also happened to be the home of my favourite trainer shop, Sneakerstuff. Although trainer shops in Paris tend to offer a better experience to what you would get in this country, Sneakerstuff just had something else about it. The layout was better, the atmosphere was better, the vibe, the tunes, the staff, the trainers, everything about it was a positive experience. It was somewhere I wanted to take my time to absorb.
Whilst I was there I also wanted to take in as many different types of trainer shops as I could, the types you may not be able to see in this country, the more experimental types, the ones that would offer me a different experience than what I was used to, as well as a few of the more standard options. I managed to fit in Nike, Size, Shinzo Lab, Sneakers Lab and the Opium Sneaker store. The latter one was an eye opener: most trainers cost upwards of €500 and every pair on shelf was shrink wrapped.
The festival itself was held in an old warehouse, packed with food venders, a DJ, beers and stalls selling very similar, very expensive trainers with hundreds of people in an almost zombie-like state shuffling around and looking down at everybody’s feet. Whereas Laces Out is an exhibition focused around North West culture and rare Adidas Originals, Sneakerness definitely has a more urban vibe to it, populated with Nike High Tops and overpriced Yeezys. Although most of the offerings were not normally my bag, there was the odd pair that caught my eye. I ended up taking home a pair of Navy Adidas Padhims that I managed to pick up for a bargain £30.
My day ended with a trip to see France beat Albania 4-1 at the Stade De France. Watching a packed french crowd sing the Marseillaise** was unforgettable; watching the kerfuffle when the stadium inexplicably played the Andorran national anthem instead of the Albanian one, before asking everyone to respect the ‘Armenian’ national anthem was also unforgettable. The awesome and the ridiculous; that pretty much sums Paris up for me.
Next stop, Sneakerness Rotterdam (maybe).
* See ilkzine #2!
** Surely the best national anthem.