Lucky, lucky me. I have a client in Paris who is a lover of Harris.
It may be just a two-hour train ride, yet the world there is so different. The swirls on the buildings are more elaborate and lunches are longer. Paris is one of my favourite cities, especially in autumn when a perfect golden light is cast upon the streets and shutters.
The journey of this particular piece started in June at London's Masterpiece fair. You may have read about the ‘Artist’s overcoat’ created for Nic Fiddian-Green from a rare Harris with a narrow bright stripe running though it.
Nic swished around the recreation of his studio at Masterpiece, clad in his beautiful new full-length overcoat in the uncharacteristic heat of an English summer. This caught the eye of an exceptionally elegant Frenchman.
As Monday welcomed the official entrance of autumn, so it was time to take this bespoke coat to Paris for its first fitting.
My luck grows.
The owner of the coat is the proprietor of the most romantic business in the world - this really is not an exaggeration. Having inherited a 150-year-old business in a building created specially for the purpose of a Parisian side street, I enter an exquisite world.
His office is dream-like, soft green woods, carving samples and a library of art and design books. A myriad of rolled up sketches lean against the desk.
We tour his workshop, fencing swords and helmets abandoned on workbenches from the days when the craftsmen would practice fencing in their lunch times.
Oak paneling - of which the business is the world leader - lines the high walls. T
he owner of the coat collects, restores and recreates such rooms. Sometimes he waits for years for the right room to come to the market. Aged 6, he found a sketch of a paneled room and it took him some 40 years to acquire it. Often he saves these rooms from the modernisers.
That is not to say this business is not modern. His workshops are able to work with the inspirations of a Picasso, Miro or Koons into paneling.
We turn a corner to find orange panels that once lined Empress Josephine’s library. They had been inspired by her Egyptian collection and designed to complement them. Further on we pass white and gold panels with wonderfully round foxes that used to reside in a Parisian fashion designer’s flat until he chose to favour a monochrome style.
Elegant monkeys painted on panels depict the French aristocracy at play; a teasing sense of humour now not so much in fashion.
Art deco panels and radiator covers are some of the most important pieces of their decade.
The proprietor believes that the most important word in his work is ‘Esprit’ meaning ‘Spirit’. This sends my own spirit soaring. It is wonderful that this workshop exists as testimony to taste, craft and a family’s dedication.
The coat is going to a wonderful home.