October 05 2010
Some years ago I was in Paris on a rainy autumn weekend and in urgent need of an umbrella. A friend directed me to Madeleine Gely’s small but fascinating shop on the Boulevard St-Germain which is the oldest umbrella boutique in Paris and has been selling “parapluies d’élégance” since 1834. Rather than buy a boringly British black folded-up number, I came away with a rather smart dark green umbrella with a horn handle.
Earlier this month I went back to the shop and met the current owner, the dynamic Alexandra Sojfer, who hails from a Hungarian family of umbrella and cane-makers and bought out Madeleine Gely in 2002. Sojfer has inherited her family’s passion for umbrellas, parasols and canes and vows that she will “keep an umbrella with me in paradise”.
Her stock (prices from around £180) includes traditional umbrellas and modern and antique silver-topped canes and walking sticks, as well as her personally designed range of sexy and flirtatious parasols that look as if Leslie Caron once twirled them in the dance routines in An American in Paris.
I would happily have bought a replacement there for my old green umbrella, but there was no need as it still serves me well, and stylishly, on wet days at the races in England and France.