January 27 2013
It was a grey winter’s day and I had reached that divide
in the Haut Marais district of Paris where chic gives way to slightly musty
vintage – or so I thought. I was marching due north when, like a scene from an
old black-and-white movie with colour accents, bold hues punctured my field of
vision. Hanging like fairy lights in the window of a shop called Muskhane, I
spied golf-ball-sized felted wool orbs (fourth picture, from €7) in a sunny spectrum from lemon yellow to a deep crimson I later learn is
named Birman Lacquer.
These soft spheres lured me in, but the real draw to be found inside was the Nepali cashmere, piled high and well displayed, hanging along the shop’s walls. My greedy hands did not know what to fondle first: the sweet sleep mask (third picture, €47), leg warmers (€99), fingerless gloves (third picture, from €57) or one of the many scarves in various lengths and weaves (third picture, from €169). My fingers ran along each and every baby-soft surface while the French shop assistant remained remarkably calm – perhaps, like this enchanting fabric, she too had spent time in the meditative Himalayas.
She offered me the backstory (while fascinating, still a challenge for my fledgling French): Muskhane means “smile” in Nepalese, a reference to the French company’s fair-trade practices with indigenous Himalayan artisans; the felted wool is an Asian tradition dating back seven centuries and the cashmere is made from the downy soft fleece between the neck and navel of capra hisca goats capable of surviving at -40°C.
I moved deeper into the festive space, picking up pillows (from €59) and resting my face upon each one. I considered investing in one of an alluring array of felted wool necklaces (€10) before gravitating towards the clothing. I coveted the sexy cashmere boxer shorts (from €89) – while regretting all those baguettes that meant I couldn’t really squeeze myself into them. I settled on a bronze tank-top dress (€89) that will carry me from the Moroccan desert to Maldivian sunsets, black cashmere leggings (€245), for the multiple flights between those two locales, and my favourite find, the Cosy Neck Tube (€49), which doubles as a turtleneck or headdress. Mine is what the company calls Pure Orange, one of only seven shades (plus black) in its tightly edited rainbow of colours. I, meanwhile, am over the moon with my discovery.