Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Paris Millinery--Supplies, Blockmakers and More!

Back from France and Italy!  I have so many things to tell you. I'll probably break the trip into two posts.

But first---PARIS!  This was my first trip to the City of Lights and I can tell you I can't wait to get back.  What a beautiful city!  Lots of hustle and bustle, but somehow at a slower pace, if that makes sense.  I love the cafe society, the long lunches, the lighter fare, and of course the fashionable French women...and men.

But this post is about the millinery establishments I visited...and wanted to visit while there.

First, La Forme.  If you are not familiar with La Forme I am here to tell you that this is probably one of the last 'true' hatblock makers in the world.  Yes, there are those you make fabulous blocks on a lathe.  One of these is Guy Morse-Brown, in the UK, who makes outstanding crown, brim and fascinator blocks.  (I stayed with Guy and Ann when I taught at the Womborne School of Millinery and they are lovely people.) But there is a difference in what Monsieur Lorenzo Re does.  He actually carves the blocks by hand; a sculptor of wood. And you should see the sculptures!

I had contacted Madame Re to ask for an appointment and was graciously given one.  La Forme is almost hidden.  It took my husband and me over an hour to locate their establishment and we had a map and an address!  Later we discovered this is not unusual in finding addresses in Paris. If you look closely you will see that I'm pointing to the tiny sign announcing La Forme!

We were ushered into their apartment and Lucie Re and I quickly discovered that they didn't speak English and my French is so very poor that we both relied on the few words we knew in common.  I was a little intimidated being in the company of such an important man in the industry! Monsieur Re acknowledged me as we entered but continued to work on a very curvacious block for some lucky milliner.

I was not allowed to take pictures inside his workshop, which was much smaller than I would have imagined, but absolutely chock-a-block (pardon the pun) with sweeping, swirling hatblocks.  Truly incredible!  My breath was practically taken away with the range I saw there.

I asked if any were for sale.  Yes, with a waiting period of about 6 weeks. Not bad.  How much for the incredible swirled beauty I fell in love with?  600 Euros.  You do the math....

I asked cryptically, "Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones?" "Oui!" responded Madame Re. So THIS is where Philip Treacy has those incredible hatblocks made! Some milliners send in illustrations of the blocks they want but the traditional way is to send a sparterie (or buckram, I suppose) model so that Monsieur Re can make an exact replica.  Cool!

Here's the picture of Madame Re and me in their foyer.

We left Paris and headed to the South of France and the Cinque Terre in Italy.  Also to my teaching assignment at Lucy Till Hats in St. Quentin La Poterie.  More about those in my next past.  Upon our return to Paris I found more millinery establishments.

I tried to no avail to get into Legeron, the foremost flowermaking atelier in the world.  They had agreed to give me an appointment, but when it came time to actually come through with the appointment I could never get a date set with them.  Maybe they were busy.  This is the ONE place I really wanted to visit.  I did find them and here is the picture.  I almost had the nerve to just go knock on their door, but it was lunch time, and you do NOT interrupt the French during lunch!  So, maybe next time.

Here's the picture of the entrance to Legeron anyhoo.

I also went to one of the few millinery supply houses in France--Artnuptia, also in the millinery district.  I bought some great printed and embroidered sinamay that we can't easily get in the US.  I also bought some flocked tulle that I've never seen.  They have lovely feathers and flowers as well, and many trimmed out hats that perhaps someone on staff makes.  My stash just arrived today!

Ultramod is another millinery and trim shop that I visited in the millinery area.  Beautiful old petersham from the WWII era, and some vintage blocks that I'd love to have.  Could have spent much money but I'd already spent my budget at Artnuptia.

That's it for this post.  I'll be adding other posts about the trip in the next week or so.

Thanks for reading!


  1. This looks like an absolutely amazing time! I think I would be shaking with excitement, especially with the one place where Stephen Jones and Phillip Treacy get their blocks; so cool. I also love the purple hat you are wearing, very chic.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Emily! I must say my eyes just couldn't take in everything in La Forme...I'd have to spend the day to see everything.

    The purple hat (and the black one) are flat-packable parisisal hats that I make for traveling.

  3. I love them such a great idea; a hat to travel with.

  4. I might do a post on how to make them sometime in the future. Stay tuned!