I worked hard for my Maison Labiche Cherie t-shirt. That statement sounds glib, but I’m serious when I say that I can’t remember the last time I made so much effort to add a piece of clothing to my wardrobe. Or the last time so many barriers stood in my way.
This story is quintessentially Parisian. Architecture in the French capital is old. Installation of plumbing in many of them took place long after construction. Pipes run along the walls, rather than inside them. Often, buildings have many lives, converting from homes to restaurants to shops and back again. A Parisian building with no need for ongoing maintenance is, well, probably not in Paris at all. In our years there, we have gotten to known a variety of tradesmen, because we have called them to homes repeatedly for small, unavoidable fixes. Shop owners and restauranteurs deal with the same frustrations.
I discovered Maison Labiche about a week and a half before our return to Canada. The brand runs a small shop in an old building in the north end of Le Marais. It was just a short walk from our apartment in the tenth arrondissement. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I went on a pilgrimage to choose an embroidered t-shirt – I had the Cherie version in mind. But when I arrived, the smell of smoke greeted me. And worse, the shop was in utter disarray, t-shirts stacked all over the floor. The other customers took no notice. Many demanded specific sizes persisently. The salesman explained, again and again, that little was available. When I inquired, the smell of smoke suddenly made sense. A fire started in their basement stockroom the evening before, I learned, and most of the t-shirts burned.
I left empty-handed that day. But I resolved to return the next, expecting the store to be quieter and less chaotic. Instead, I found in closed despite the posted hours on the door. Thwarted in my attempt to spend what I really knew was too much for a white t-shirt, I walked away again. I vowed to return one more time. If I couldn’t buy my Cherie t-shirt on that visit, I would accept that it wasn’t meant to be mine.
Monday came. I went back to the shop again, this time with Ian in tow. They opened relatively on schedule, at least. But the back room remained in visible chaos. Plastic-wrapped t-shirts lined the floor in haphazard piles. There was a flood, the salesman told me. Yes, he confirmed, shaking his head when I asked, after the fire. I was in luck. One Cherie t-shirt remained in my size. I paid quickly and rushed to take it home.
Maison Labiche survived both the fire and the flood; their online shop is going strong. I admit, there are a few others I would happily add to my wardrobe. Like this one. But I doubt any online order will come with a story like my Cherie did.
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