One of the hidden secrets of the 6th Arrondissement in Paris is the 1930s art deco swimming pool at 17, rue de Sèvres. I don’t know if you’ll ever get the chance to visit this urban oasis because the spot was recently acquired by one of the last true luxury brands in France, Hermès. This is particularly nice for the city’s mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, who lives just upstairs, somewhere behind the stunning mosaics of violets on fields of gold that adorn the facade.
The Rive Gauche was once home to bohemians and intellectuals. But the real money seems to have moved south, and Hermès cannot seem to move in fast enough, which is why they have opened a temporary boutique at 16, rue de Grenelle. Temporary boutiques are quite fashionable these days, and the French refer to them as “boutiques ephémères,” which sounds so romantic that I simply had to have a peek.
Which is why I was looking into their window during a shoe-shopping trip with the Frenchman this weekend. Well, that and the stunning redhead who was embossing gold and silver sheets into a rainbow of animal skins that were carefully displayed behind her. Naturally, I had to go in and investigate further.
I’d love to say, “Her name is ____,” but this is France and we generally don’t ask someone’s name unless formally introduced, so I’ve lost the habit. In any case, Mademoiselle is an embosser for the Hermès leather goods department, and she was there for the weekend embossing bracelets, handbags and any other leather keepsake people wished to purchase and brand.
I was disappointed to learn that she was leaving after the weekend, but thrilled when she explained that artisans from the Hermès workshops would be visiting throughout the month of February to work their craft and share their magic. The program is called the Magic of the Movement and the Tool, and it is happening Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through February 27.
There really is a feeling of magic when committed artists wield their tools and explain their expertise. These people are passionate about what they do, and sharing with them is a gift. I did not think to ask if she speaks English, but the sales staff does, and they are more than happy to translate, even if you are just there to look and learn. You are sure to leave feeling enchanted.
Temporary boutique at 16, rue de Grenelle, in the 7th.
Thursdays to Saturdays through February 27.