In the Wanderlust issue of our current newsletter we’ve done all kinds of travelling.
We’ve gone past national boundaries to visit Morocco, India and Japan, we’ve taken inner journeys to lead philosophical dialogues with ourselves and now it’s time for us to sign up for a little trip back in time…
A journey in itself, the largest and oldest textile market in Paris – the Marché Saint Pierre – will take you back to the 50s when the common practice dictated that ladies should be their own style-makers. Whether they would choose patterns from the style magazines, fashion them themselves or go to their dress maker for advice, the Saint Pierre market would always be their obligatory first stop. Providing an eyeful of colour and fabrics from around the world, it never failed to delight and please its faithful clientele.
Today, this legendary textile market has by no means lost its yesteryear charm. With its broad-beamed wooden floors, antique-looking cash machines and employees walking around with wooden meter sticks and scissors ready to cut you a piece of your selected fabric, the market still sustains the spirit of the 1920s. What’s more, this is the last Parisian department store to have an elevator operator taking you up and down through the shop’s 5 floors (each committed to a specific kind of fabric) at your fancy.
Located at the base of the stairs to the Sacré Coeur, with its five floors and its surface of 2 500 m², the market holds yet another record – it is admittedly the largest fabric shop in the world. Specialized in selling textiles for the past 60 years, the area (along with its adjacent streets) got its name from the former covered market built in 1868 by a disciple of Baltard (the architect of the famous markets of Les Halles), which still stands there but currently houses the Musée d’Art Naïf.
From tulle and lamé, raw silk, brocade and georgette, silk jersey, cashmere and chiffon in sumptuous colours to deep and soft velvets for the famous Parisian shows and cabarets, you could find the most amazing of fabrics in the Marché Saint-Pierre. To draw shoppers in with prices starting from the attractive 99 cents to 3 euros per meter, the cheapest fabrics are strategically stored on the ground floor. “We want to promote the atmosphere of a warehouse”, the market’s manager says. “We want shoppers to feel like they’re at the market!”
And so they do! The mixed clientele of the market permits you to shop side by side with fashion students searching for the ideal fabric, Parisian housewives hunting out a new pair of draperies and professional designers looking for a waft of inspiration.
For everyone does enter “this Ali Baba’s cavern with its decrepit, unpretentious décor only to leave with their arms full of happiness, new looks just waiting to be made and ideas inspired by this stimulating store, where decorators rub shoulders with stylists, students and many housewives who have come to search for inexpensive treasures, as well as dancers and brides-to-be purchasing miles of white, pink or cream tulle…”
Resembling a little fabric village surrounded by specialty stores selling scissors, beads, buttons, ribbons, hooks, fringes and other whatnot, the Saint-Pierre market is a dream come true for all the textile lovers of Paris. However, the historical fabric district should be an interesting place to visit even to the non-tempted. This “patchwork-made wonderland” is certainly worth the detour, as in visiting it you’ll be able to get a colorful eyeful of everyday Parisian life which the regular tourist would rarely get the chance to see.