Denise Francelle, situated beneath the arcades on the Rue de Rivoli, is one of the most charmingly old-fashioned privately owned shops in Paris. The tiny boutique opposite the Tuileries Gardens sells beautiful kidskin gloves, silk stockings and tights, as well as berets and designer sunshades and parasols. I was first taken there a few years ago by a fashion-business friend who was in town for a Dior show; she, among numerous designers and photographers, knows that if she’s missing something for a show or a shoot – or to wear – she can usually find it among the wooden drawers and cupboards at 244 Rue de Rivoli.
Denise Francelle herself opened the shop in 1938, but died two years ago aged 98 and, since 1995, the proprietor has been the delightful Sandra who describes herself as “just a coquette vendeuse” or saleswoman – and enigmatically refuses to give her surname. “After the second world war there was an enormous glove industry in France,” she explains. “It was centred in Grenoble and the Millau in the Aveyron, and they made gloves to order for the shop. Nowadays, we have to import lambskin gloves from Italy but we still have kidskin pairs from France (€260).”
A pair of long kidskin opera gloves with pearl or leather buttons on the inside of the wrist – the same style Audrey Tatou wore in Coco Avant Chanel – cost €400 (in black, white, grey and beige). Lambskin gloves, or Gants Fantasie – think silk linings, buckles, studs and fancy stitching – cost from €90. Black is popular and they also come in beige, “prune”, green and red.
The shop’s range of stockings and tights, also much admired by fashionistas, is equally special. “We only stock the most luxurious French brands, including Cervin and Gerbe,” says Sandra. “In the early days two of our best customers were Grace Kelly and Rita Hayworth, who both adored them.” Cervin’s silk Bas de Soie, described by Sandra as “very delicate and suitable only for special occasions”, cost from €37 a pair and are available in black and flesh colours. The Bas Coutures à l’ancienne, old couture nylon tights, which are stronger than silk, are €36-€50 in the same colours.
The woollen (and very French) berets in red, black, purple and blue (from €55) are handmade by Ane Thon, who is based at the Château de Vincennes. The most expensive items are Anne-Marie Gaspar’s sunshades and parasols, which cost from €500 for a printed-flower cotton parasol to €2,000 for a made-to-order umbrella with ivory or leather handle. The shop has a loyal Parisian clientele, according to Sandra, “many of whom are now third-generation customers following in their mothers’ and their grandmothers’ footsteps”.