La Samaritaine Paris: an entrepreneur and a box of antique textiles


This textile obsession of mine is a quite the trip. In 2010, I knew nothing of silk other than not to through it in a hot wash, now four years later, I am buried in antique French textiles. You will never catch me willingly ironing my husbands shirts (bad wife) but give me a dusty box of crumpled up morsels of 19th Century ribbon and I'll happily iron for hours. I am addicted to the smell of dust and silk as it unfolds its beauty to me... P1230098

I discovered a beautiful cardboard box with a department store drawing on the outside. Inside a beautiful jumble of dusty pink, lace and mousseline and silk. Collars and dress trims, even a lace lingerie bodice / braserie trim. Not at all what I would usually be drawn to as I'm trying to be very good and only acquire items that I will be able to use in my jewelery making.


Despite my reservations, the box and its beautiful contents called out to me - so I took a deep breath and made it mine.


At home I unwrapped everything carefully, smoothing down the decades creased folds. The incredible detail and love that has gone into making each piece is a wonder.

P1230312Detail of a lace collar that was inside the Samaritaine box

P1230259Detail - Lace Lingerie Bodice with original tag

When I went digging a bit further I discovered that the Samaritaine was an important department store in Paris, opened in 1869 by Ernest Cognacq. A true entrepreneur, he started out by selling ties under an umbrella on the Pont Neuf, then expanded to a small space on the Rue de la Monnaie, then by 1900 he and his wife (his business partner, how very modern!) expanded their business to become the "Grands Magasins de La Samaritaine".  The department store operated as a "collection of individually owned stores, each managed by true "petits patrons" who operated in concert yet autonomously."


I will be adding these beautiful items to the Exquisite Threads shop this afternoon