November 26 2009
Paris may be popping with stores specialising in mid-century design from Prouvé to Perriand, but for the equivalent in fashion – including haute couture costume jewellery – you have to look hard for quality vintage. Over the years the city has been scoured to the last ring-road flea market by designers looking for inspiration. Corinne Than-Trong’s boutique Renaissance, in the seventh arrondissement, is therefore an address that the cognoscenti – including Nicolas Ghesquière, Lucien Pellat-Finet and overseas collectors – keep close to their chests.
This small, one-room shop has occupied the same location since 1989, squirrelled among antiques stores and just around the corner from Le Bistro de Paris. Half-Vietnamese, Paris-born Than-Trong buys mostly from private individuals. “I do attend auctions, but it’s difficult. There are fewer surprises, the competition is high and the quality is not always as it needs to be,” she says.
The store’s collection is highly regarded for accessories, from a perfect 1984 Hermès Kelly bag with a 35cm strap (€3,500) to a 1976 Roger Scemama-made Yves Saint Laurent metal belt of linked flower silhouettes centred with muted green, yellow and red stones (€1,400). But it’s the costume jewellery produced by haute couture fashion houses that makes Than-Trong’s store unique. She has exquisite pieces made from non-precious metals and stones by the likes of Lanvin, Givenchy, Cardin, Chanel, Balenciaga, Christian Dior and Jacques Fath.
Examples include an original 1955 Christian Dior brooch, bracelet and earrings (€4,500 for the set); it looks like coral and diamonds but it’s “fantasie”, says Than-Trong. There’s also an intriguing cross-shaped 1975 Chanel brooch that can also be worn as a pendant (€950). “Since the movie [Coco Avant Chanel] came out, everyone wants Chanel. I love the jewellery – I have many pieces but the best remains anything by Roger Jean-Pierre,” she explains. Jean-Pierre designed for Balenciaga, Dior, Grès and Balmain. “I just found a brooch of his for Balenciaga, circa 1960, like a sea anemone (€1,200). With pearls and chains, it’s very strange but, for me, he was king of the haute couture jewellery designers.”
In addition to this highly specific collection – not all of it on show – Than-Trong sells vintage haute couture fashion. Ruthlessly edited rails feature as-new pieces from Dior, Schiaparelli, Courrèges, Cardin, Lanvin, Paco Rabanne and others. Recent rare finds include a 1958 navy blue crêpe dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga (€4,500) and a mid-1960s blue, beige and red houndstooth tweed jacket and skirt by Coco Chanel (€4,000).
“I’m especially proud of a piece I recently found by Yves Saint Laurent, circa 1964: a pink and white wool skirt and jacket. It has the most beautiful buttons from Line Vautrin,” explains Than-Trong, her remark pinpointing an obsessive’s eye for one-off decorative details.