You don’t come to Paris just to visit the Louvre and get a closer look at what the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre or Notre-Dame look like. The Saint-Ouen flea market is also part of the charm and soul of the capital. The site has a total of fifteen markets, thirteen of which are open to the general public and two to professionals. Les puces is one of the largest open-air recycling centers, ever more attractive, at a time when recycling is prioritized as an eco-responsible attitude.
Fleas between two shores
As there is a left bank and a right bank in Paris, there are in the flea market of Paris, two worlds which rub shoulders: the popular side, located near the Porte de Clignancourt, and that of the antique dealers which begins rue des Roses. David Lambert, tour guide, explains to us that he originally came more from the popular side to buy jeans and T-shirts. He tells us that thirty years ago, merchants sold more leather, jackets and today it is basketball that is queen. On the more bourgeois side, “we walk, we stroll, we watch what is happening. It’s the atmosphere, it’s the pleasure of eating a pancake, sometimes even discovering stars.”, says David Lambret. “You have to take the time to enter the markets of major decorators like Jean-Luc Ferrand Or Benjamin Steinitz. We will find authentic items, but also small trimmings, second-hand clothes. It’s the rush, where everyone is running around in the water.”
“If we go into the square, we are with a bourgeois class, on the other, we are in the difference and eclecticism. That’s what I like here. Whether customers or merchants, we have the widest panel in society. And all of that mixes up happily and that’s the fleas, that’s that poetry.” make us understand, Emmanuel Roucherflea marketer since 1999, owner of the
Arsinopia Gallery. “I feel good at the flea market, because it’s a mix, where we have a sample of the world’s population. It’s alive.”, explain Stephanie Duplaix, general manager of the Paul-Bert Serpette market. The fleas are a large gathering of markets and merchants, a large historic market that begins at the beginning of the Porte de Clignancourt, then there are, among others, the Vernaison, Biron, Dauphine, Malassis and Paul-Bert Serpette markets.
The artist Christele Tea takes us from one world to another, from vintage-furniture fleas to jeans-sneaker flea markets. This designer sketched every weekend for almost a year the alleys of Paul Bert Serpette.
With her pencil, she managed to capture, with poetry and delicacy, a few moments of daily life in this great Parisian souk.. “There are plenty of American and Asian tourists. You can find lots of things, jewelry, sculptures, decorative objects. There are quite a few people from the design world, from the world of “fashion” who come to hunt around, to unearth finds. I come often, but each time, I get lost a little.”, she explains to our microphone.
The history of Saint-Ouen fleas
The origins of the Saint-Ouen flea market date back to 1885, following the decree of the prefect Eugene Poubelle prohibiting the dumping of garbage at the doors of buildings in Paris. Chips were born at the crossroads of the industrial revolution, major Haussmann works and universal exhibitions. They began to take shape from the Vernaison market, the first sedentary market in 1920.
Originally, it was the ragpickers, called at the time the biffins, which made the fleas live. Among the scavengers, several activities must be distinguished. The piqueurs recover all the objects which interest them with their pike and their hood. The ushers, teamed up with the janitors, watch the iron boxes into which the residents at the time threw objects that they no longer needed. Finally, bargain hunters walk around with their two-armed cart. The objects collected from midnight until 5 am are finally brought to the master ragpickers.
The inhabitants of the place, the antique dealers
What would the Saint-Ouen flea market be without its antique dealers? Our crossing of the fleas brings us to meet many merchants. First of all, Jean-Luc Ferrand, whose mother was already at the flea market before him, has been an antique dealer for thirty-five years at the Biron market. After studying art history, he naturally took over from his mother. Him, what he likes is “create harmony, seek human connection”. Then, Emmanuel Roucherchipper, tells us about his report to this place. “Me, I am an absolute fan of chips. I think it’s a place, and I don’t think it’s unique in the world. Here is an absolute mix of all merchants. It’s a most enjoyable social mix.” Afterwards, Maxim also has parents who were already at the flea market. He talks about his passion for vases and the need for contact with customers. It’s a “job of passion”, as he puts it so well. He’s there to pass on this culture and ensure that it is not forgotten.
Finally, Yvette, 83 years old, was practically born on the flea market. This merchant from the Biron market also explains that her mother was already a flea seller and that she learned to walk here. “I have never been anywhere else. Biron is the most beautiful of markets. Unquestionably.” Now her daughter is taking over. The most beautiful piece of his career will remain a large chandelier 2m50 high in overlay, that is to say with three colors: white, red and gold. She had bought it in a mansion. “It was spectacular. I sold it to a Japanese 20 years ago.”
The program Esprit des Lieux would like to especially thank the marketing department of the
Plaine Commune Greater Paris Tourist Office which organizes guided tours for groups and the general public in Ile-de-France. We would also like to thank all of the speakers on this show.