Monday, October 5, 2009

12 Days in Paris: Ribbons • Mercerie

How could we travel to Paris and not investigate the world of French ribbon? Well we couldn't. We visited, browsed, and purchased our way through a number of Paris ribbon shops in several different districts. Just as we found that Paris paper shops sold a lot of Italian paper, so too do the Paris ribbon shops sell ribbon from around the world. The word to look for is mercerie (a dealer in textiles and fabrics, especially velvet, silks and other fine fabrics).

Our favorite was a shop whose roots go back to the mid-1800s. Ultramod (3 et 4, rue de Choiseul, 2e, Metro: Quatre September or Opera) is actually two storefronts on the rue de Choiseul just beyond the Passage Choiseul. The Mercerie is just loaded with new and vintage ribbon and trim. The shelves are stacked to the ceiling and there's more in the back! Everything is displayed on old shelves, in vintage boxes and inside antique display cases. You can feel the history in this shop. It's easy to imagine what it was like 50 or 100 years ago as seamstresses searched for just the right ribbon to match the fabric, or the perfect button to replace one that was lost.Across the street is the old Haberdashery (or maybe it was a Millinery) equally filled with trims and accessories, with hat forms, hatstands, dress forms and more scattered about. Both sides of the shop feel as much like a museum as an active retail business. There are displays of vintage hatpins, antique sewing machines and more.Over in the Marais we found another shop that carries beautiful ribbons, trims, notions, and such. Entree des Fournisseurs: Maison d'ouvrages (8, rue des Francs Bourgeois, 3e, Metro: St. Paul or Chemin Vert) is located at the back of a courtyard and could easily be missed, so look for it.Another large ribbon shop is la Drogerie (9 et 11, rue du Jour, 1e, Metro: Chatelet) that is part of a small chain of stores with shops all over France, including one in le Bon Marche, plus one in Japan! It's a bit dark inside the shop, but it is filled to the rafters with ribbons, trim, yarn, notions and kits. Nearby, on rue Montmartre, is the Paris shop of the Japanese ribboniere Mokuba. This shop is typically minimalist in ambiance, with racks of ribbons. The ribbons are quite expensive, but beautiful.

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