Paris: Lafayette Saltiel, Kenjiro Suzuki, Ateliers Baudin
Last week I was in Paris for two days, catching up with old friends and artisans, and seeing a few new ones.
One of the most interesting things was an interview with Lyne Cohen Solal, the new head of the Institut National Metiers d’Art - the organisation that tries to preserve and progress French high arts, including menswear.
While France has a lot of such institutions, and can be the subject of envy from somewhere like the UK (which generally lacks them), the French ones don’t always play nicely together. I’ll publish that as a full interview in a couple of weeks.
Lafayette Saltiel Drapiers
In this post I’ll summarise a few of the interesting appointments.
One was the cloth agent Lafayette Saltiel Drapiers, which has become well-known for its stock of vintage cloth (just under 20,000 metres) which it is selling on Instagram (@LafayetteSaltielDrapiers).
They are the agent for most English and Italian mills in France, and have been for many years. In that time they’ve built up this vintage collection - largely because, given their big office, they simply have room to.
Among the most unusual cloths are different flannel colours, very dense coatings (both above), and some silks and synthetic mixes from the 1970s and 1980s.
Because the cloths were all distributed by them, they have records of when they were bought and know generally what they are. This gives a lot of confidence to the buyer - given vintage cloth can often be hit-and-miss.
It’s also the reason they don’t really want to start buying up and trading other people’s vintage cloth.
Virgil and Pierre (left and right at top) are young, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and I recommend stopping by. Although this remains a very small part of their business, they love talking about and showing off their vintage cloth.
I picked up a length of heavy gun-club tweed with some interesting yellow and pumpkin-coloured checks.
There he was joined by his wife, who was working as a coatmaker at Camps de Luca (Kenjiro also worked at Camps previously). They are the first Japanese tailoring outfit in Paris - which is slightly surprising given how many Japanese there are in the city.
Interestingly, one of the reasons Kenjiro left Smalto was that he didn’t like their system of having a ‘fitter’ who met customers and a separate cutter who carries out the fitter’s instructions.
It is said this odd system was partly established to prevent cutters leaving and taking customers with them. But in Kenjiro’s case it had the opposite effect, spurring him to leave.
Kenjiro’s style is very like Smalto, with the fish-mouth lapel shape and beautiful finishing. He is quite versatile, however, and also cuts other styles including one very English-looking lapel he recently designed with a customer.
His suits start at €4800 - and there is an impressive laminated grid showing all the permutations of those prices. Kenjiro doesn't like the normal vague pricing of tailors, as he says 'most of the time they just make it up'. He is planning to start visiting London soon.
Guillaume Clerc started up this bespoke eyewear maker two years ago, following the closure of his previous glasses venture, Maison Bourgeat.
Things seem more established at Baudin, with more experienced staff and Guillaume more in control of the operations. As with Bourgeat, there is a lot making on-site, and I watched a pair of my sunglasses being cut down and buffed.
Guillaume’s team also adjusted the pair I had made at Bourgeat, which have never quite fitted properly. Partly this is the straight or ‘paddle’ arms, which I like aesthetically but just don’t seem to work with the shape of my head. Better to stick with hockey ends.
Guillaume also has a small supply of old (certificated) tortoiseshell, which looked beautiful.
Shell glasses have a warmth and translucency that you don’t get with any other material. The only limitation is that they only come in the honey-to-cherry-to brown range of colours we’re used to from mainstream acetate. Horn, on the other hand, has the opposite problem, only coming in cold shades of cream, brown and grey.
The Institut has five workshops on its first floor, one of which is the home of cufflinks-maker Samuel Gassmann (pictured top).
I’ve met and chatted with Samuel many times at Pitti, but never seen his workshop.
It was just as chaotic and interesting as I expected, with feather samples everywhere and small tin boxes of tiny, beautiful inspirational things.
Samuel makes mostly cufflinks, stocked on No Man Walks Alone among other places. They’re often too eccentric for me, but I love his creativity - largely down to his art-curator background.
The Institut is on Avenue Daumesnil, whose long viaduct has become a home to many menswear craftsmen over the past decade.
It has grown and filled out since then, with three workers on site now, students coming and going, and a nice buzz on what was a warm afternoon in Paris.
The product range has filled out. Philippe now offers silver-plated belts, leather coin purses, shoe horns and shoe brushes. Philippe says wasting too much of the leather they buy wouldn’t be respectful to the animal it came from. It’s also financially efficient, of course.
One finish on the products (shown above) involves cracked eggshells, with the shell being dyed and secured under lacquer. Other pieces are similarly inventive.
Philippe is now offering a ready-to-wear range that is fully handmade - the same make as the bespoke. These start at €2400 and come in just browns and black.
He doesn’t want to offer anything else between this and the full bespoke offering (as some Japanese makers do) but finds this an effective way to fill any gaps in the shop’s workflow.
Next down the Viaduc was Michel Heurtault, the umbrella and parasol maker. I love Michel’s work, which is largely concentrated on the canopies (rather than sticks) and draws a lot on vintage pieces (which he also restores).
I have two pieces, a grey silk with a geometric pink pattern much like a tie, and a plain black with little copper details around the hinges inside.
Unfortunately, Michel is moving out of the city at the end of this year - into the countryside, where he can focus on his work and avoid retail (and annoying journalists).
His work will be stocked in a shop in Paris though - I’ll publish details at the time.
Next, a quick stop at Serge Amoruso.
I hadn’t planned to see Serge, and had indeed forgotten he was on the Viaduc des Arts, but stopped in when I saw the shop and Serge himself, busy tidying away.
Serge hand-sews beautiful and often unique leather pieces such as wallets and bags, for men and women. He has a particular penchant for unusual materials like meteorite stones.
Downstairs most of the range is on display, including a suitcase partly in alligator, partly carbon fibre; and his guitar, covered in stingray with meteorite knobs. Upstairs Serge, his wife and two other workers have desks.
Other than these lovely places, there was catching up with Vincent and Jacques from Mes Chaussettes Rouges, with Jean-Baptiste (now ex-Lavabre Cadet) and having a fitting at Cifonelli (black velvet 6x1 double-breasted jacket).
It was also a nice opportunity to have a couple of jackets altered at Cifonelli - my suede one and my old green tweed. I’ve been in the gym a fair bit recently and they needed letting out in the back.
Thanks to everyone for their hospitality.
Photography: All Permanent Style, except Heurtault images, Jamie Ferguson