Thread your way back in time - the Mercerie - Silk Thread
Ultramod - the Mercerie and hat shop
A quest for silk embroidery thread leads me to a
haberdashery on a narrow Paris street.
The only name visible at this address
behind the green façade is "Mercerie".
The mercerie on the rue de Choiseul sits
a few doors north of
the Passage Choiseul entrance along rue Saint-Augustin.
Unlike the first chapter setting in Emile Zola's novel,
Thérèse Raquin, this display window lacks the dust and dinginess. The
interior is lit with brilliant colors of the past and present. The roses
are freshened weekly.
Ultramod lacks the depressing spirit of Zola's
main character. If you visit between two and three in the afternoon, you
will encounter a conviviality doubtfully found in any other mercerie shop in
One day while
waiting for the owner, Mr. Jean-François Morin, the sounds of laughter
and chatter and the clinking of the cutlery against the porcelain and
the scent of a warm lunch mingled with the sight of colored jewels of
buttons, boxes, ribbons and threads.
Ultramod is a haberdashery shop -- a mercerie.
They have two shops across the narrow
street from each other.
The mercerie on the one side of rue de
Choiseul sells vintage silk ribbons that feel
as if you are burying your fingers in goose down.
If you are looking for a button, you have
hundreds or "thousands" from which to choose.
They sell silk
Au Ver à Soie
or the complete color range of DMC,
traditional braids, ribbons of all types,
embroidery and tapestry threads.
Across the street, is the vintage hat shop with its
vintage patterned straw and other materials,
furniture braids, coarse-grains (gros-grains),
and supplies (fourniture) for hat making.
Givenchy once bought here, Lanvin does and Jean Paul Gaultier visits
personally to select his materials. If no one is in the shop, someone
in the mercerie will open the door for you.
Consider the vintage materials in the two
shops as unique -- once they are gone they are gone forever!
Experiencing the moment
This mercerie spells ambiance with a
capital “A”. The little shells above the entry door tingle
continuously as the customers move steadily in and out looking for that special
A French couple comes in looking for thread. Her
button has come off the bottom of her pants.
The color has to match her shoes, her
stockings and the color of the button. With help, they find the taupe
color necessary to pull the look together.
The Japanese girl in the raincoat wants to
replace the black buttons on her coat and sets about to patiently look
for and to find the replacements in one of the button boxes.
The French woman holds two rolls of
printed ribbon and needs a specific measure.
Another tries to imagine how the olive
felt ribbon will look tied; Marc demonstrates how to lap the pieces to
achieve the effect she wants.
A green, hand-crank cash register and hand
written receipts monitor all sales.
Often tourists come in browsing and still
end up leaving with something, Mr. Morin says.
We speak Japanese
Guidebooks and fashion magazines in Japan
mention Ultramod often.
Momoko found her job with Ultramod after
reading about the mercerie in the Japanese Elle magazine. She wanted
to work here and followed the channels.
She is here on an exchange visa so she can
work and learn French and the business simultaneously. This mercerie
is a favorite destination for Japanese tourists, and she acts as the
The oral history of
Ultramod dates to between the 1860s and 1880s. The last of the family
sold out in the 1990s.
Mr. Morin formerly had a
career in finance, until about 1991. In 1996 he was smitten as soon
as he walked into the mercerie side run by Madame Léone Santais. Mr.
Morin then had the opportunity to buy the store across the street, the
original with all of its vintage stock. The last of the original
family was selling (the name of the family was not exactly clear --
Mr. Morin is not even sure of the name any longer).
The original families’
factory and storage facilities in the north of France was bombed in
the 1940s. They brought the salvageable stock to Paris and rue de
The collection of the
vintage treasures for sale is amazingly large. When the stock is
depleted, that’s it!
Open Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
3 and 4 rue de Choiseul 75002
Tel: 01 42 96 98 30 Fax 01 42 60 45 57
Metro: Quatre Septembre (near the Opera)
A haberdasher is a
person who sells small, commonly used items in clothing via retail.
This can include ribbons and buttons, or completed accessories, such
as hats or gloves. A haberdasher's shop or the items sold therein are
called haberdashery --
Au ver à Soie
of Au Ver à Soie (founded in 1820) is
located on rue Réaumur.
The woman with whom I spoke at Au Ver à
Soie was very secretive about their factory.
She spoke to me from behind a massive,
solid wood, old-fashioned counter, topped by a gigantic gold cash
register, the atelier (studio) windows behind her.
She was among the wood bookshelves
that reached to the top of the high ceiling room filled with thin
boxes and tightly wrapped grey packages.
Other women were at work over to the side
behind other partitions and walls.
Samples hung on the wall and on the
display hooks to the right of the two entry doors made of wood and old
glass imprinted with the complete name of Au Ver à Soie written on an
What I left with, however, was the name of
Ultramod and their address.
This was also my introduction to silk
A reader wanted to visit Au Ver à Soie
thinking that the factory was located in Paris. During the September
Journées du Patrimoine, it might be possible to visit the factory
which is located
Bracieux (Loir-et-Cher, Centre).
Let's visit Ultramod
Come with me on a tour of Ultramod, a haberdashery
(mercerie) from long ago that lives a popular presence on rue de
Choiseul in Paris.
Jean François Morin and Momoko
Ultramod - 3 and 4 rue de Choiseul 75002
mercerie interior - front to back
When entering the mercerie, you are
faced with buttons on two walls
A collection of the various Au Ver à Soie
The window display never stays the same;
it stays as lively as the interior!
Marc and Masako Taniuchi (Hokkaido
Antique hat pins - not for sale
Cabinet that holds the antique hat pins -
for display only
Ultramod interior front to back
Buttons! have they got buttons
A small selection of beautiful embroidered
A piece of equipment that is now used to
count out mega meters of ribbon
A wall full of fringe for household
This rayon (silk) product can be shaped to
More selections on the hat side of the
Hat samples to decorate
Queen Elizabeth II's hat form from wild
Straw used for hats