Paris - Part 3 ... Parasolerie Heurtault, and Janssens and Janssens...
When I read on the schedule that we were visiting Parasolerie Heurtault this morning, I had absolutely no idea what to expect..
The store is located in the 12th Arrondissment of the Vicaduct Des Arts, a short bus ride from our hotel, in a renovated area of the former “Viaduc de Bastille” railways of the Paris-Bastille - Vincennes train line.
It's a beautiful place, with 64 arched store's all in a row.....filled with craftsmen, artisans, workrooms and cafes.
and while umbrella's and parasol's are certainly not the first thing that spring to mind when you mention couture...now, after meeting Michel Heurtault and seeing his store and workroom , it all makes perfect sense.
He spent 20 years in the film industry and specialized in corsetry for period dramas, before moving to Dior in 1996.
He eventually left in 2008 to follow his childhood dream and has since been awarded the distinction of Master of Arts – one of France’s highest honours for an artisan – his workshop is one of only 72 Grands Ateliers de France.
and of course, when I started to think about it , I realized that it's much more of a natural progression than I'd initially imagined..
A black silk umbrella lined with a semi opaque lace
Look at those matching stripes!
Not only does Monsiuer Hertualt use the same elaborate techniques, exquisite fabrics and expensive embellishments that you would find on any custom couture gown...
but he also buys his silk from the same mills as the couture houses and then sends them to Italy for a waterproof treatment, making each and every umbrella resilient enough to be used daily and for generations to come.
A custom made handle and hand painted silk umbrella
The inside of this umbrella has mini rosettes as well as bias strip spoke coverings
He said it all started in 2005 with a custom order of a gold and silk umbrella for YSL, and in the last 9 years, he has made umbrellas and parasols for royalty, movie sets, theatre productions, haute couture houses and museums.
Some umbrellas can take upwards of 200 hours to create, and although a custom design can start at 250 euros, they can easily rise to 5,000 and far beyond...
(There is a great article here regarding some custom makes)
When we arrived, he was in the process of constructing an umbrella for Hermes which was to be sent to a specialist for feathering!
Just look at that lining! It's actually functional as well as beautiful, because it also stops the umbrella from turning inside out when windy..
I also really loved his ethical approach to design...he has a vast collection of vintage handles, spokes and tops in his showroom that can be used for custom design, there are cabinets filled with individual parts, all found from years of searching in flea markets and estate sales..
Which makes me think that it would be a lovely experience to pick and choose each element to create a unique one off item.
And so while I bought almost nothing last week, I did buy an umbrella, ... I spotted this one almost as soon as I walked in, loving its classic lines and simple colour... and knew immedietely that I wanted to own a piece of couture history.
It's a vintage restoration, and was actually incredibly reasonable (thankfully!) and even more so when he gave me a lovely discount... and will be something I will love using for years to come...
and when we came to the end of the morning, I was sad to leave his store, I can't tell you what a joy he was to be around for those few short hours, his work is so technical and skilled, so unbelievably creative and innovative, and his passion so infectious that I just wanted to pull up a chair and stay...and watch... and learn.
I thought about his work for days after, reading everything I could about him, because surprisingly in what was a week of meeting some of the best of the best, he was the one that resonated and inspired me the most....
Janssens and Janssens
SO, I finally made it to the most talked about fabric store in Paris!
and what really surprised me was its location...its in one of the most exclusive arrondissments in the city, on a side street near Hermes, Gucci, Prada etc... with the Louve a few minutes away.
which in retrospect probably goes a long way to explaining the pricing!!
As well as the main street level floor, there is also a lower level, filled with a vast selection of fabrics..
but believe it or not, I bought nothing...which shocked everybody who knows me!!
It was as I knew it would be, filled with so much beautiful, high quality, exquisitely produced fabric, made in the top mills and mostly for designers, but I never had that wow moment...
and to some degree of course, as I work part time in a very exclusive fabric store, I think I have become very spoilt...a few years ago I probably would have been buying like crazy!
But, I thought the prices were high, really high, they started at around 100 euro a meter but there was an awful lot that were 1200 euro and above, and I don't think my skill set or more importantly my lifestyle will ever be ready for that calibre of fabric!
So, although I am very happy to have seen it, it probably won't be on my must see list for next time..(but I did find the most amazing place later in the week, and I promise to share!!)
However, I did buy something that afternoon.....because as we were walking to a very lovely afternoon tea at La Meurice I spotted in the window of a shop, a pair of boots I had been after for months.
I have to confess, I love shoes, probably more than anything, and when I saw these in early summer, I rang every store in Europe looking for them in my size....but they had already all sold out.
and as there was no way I was not going to at least ask if they had my size.... I went in, (with thirteen other women - which is still one of my favorite memories, the look on the staff's faces was priceless! ) and the half size down fitted me perfectly....
and that made it a really really good day indeed!
and now I'm back to reality, working all week in the city, I'm hoping to get the Mendel website up and running in the next few days.....
Its 43 degrees outside, pouring with rain, there were flurries last night.... and looking through all of these pictures again today makes me want to be back in Paris :-(