Traveler's authentic shopping columnist Laura Morelli is back this month with an lesson in scouting out the ornamental trimmings, fringes, tassels, and pom-poms that make up the distinctively French art of passementerie . This "art of embellishment" fed the desires of wealthy French nobles for opulent flair on nearly everything they could touch. Morelli writes:
The French monarchy and noble classes kept the city's artisans busy churning out deluxe interior fabrics and table settings, prestigious coaches, along with shimmering jewelry, lace collars and cuffs, custom shoes, and powdered wigs to adorn themselves as fancifully as their abodes.
Though sadly, the popularity of powdered wigs has declined, Paris remains the world's fashion capital thanks to the work of these artisans. Morelli writes that authentic passementerie shops can still be found in pockets of the city:
Some of today's best artisan passementiers are clustered in the Bastille district of southeastern Paris. In the Middle Ages, this area of town was home to the furniture trade guilds: cabinetmakers, joiners, metalworkers, and specialists in inlay and marquetry. Today, though undergoing gentrification, the area retains some of the flavor of an old-fashioned working-class district, with hole-in-the-wall workshops that transport visitors light years away from the posh avenues of the rest of the Right Bank.
Read more: Check out Traveler's website to find Morelli's current article and to see her columns from months past. Look through IT's own archive of shopping tips. And visit Traveler's Authentic Shopping guide before heading out on your next trip to ensure you can do better than souvenir T-shirts this time.
Photo: Jacqui Hurst/Corbis