there’s a place in paris called cafe mode that we always visit when in la belle ville (we’re not in paris a hell of a lot, just so we don’t give you the wrong impression, but when we are, you’ll find us there at some juncture)…..scroll down to find out why….before we forget – here’s the address:
24 Rue François 1er
01 47 20 69 53
now the more fashionable among you will suddenly lean forward with a start and say:
“rue francois 1er? vraiment? le maison du couture? du balmain et les autres?!”
the very same, darlings.
cafe mode is, indeed, full of fashion people from the houses of couture, but only the type of atelier management who eat (this is, after all, a cafe, forgive – but you know a sample size doesn’t go over hips of any dimension whatsoever so those house models and shop girls just can’t eat at cafe mode).
we go to cafe mode because of the glorious ginette spanier.
we can see we’re going to have to explain……pick up your tea cup, take a sip, and lean in, we’re going to speak quietly as the utter fatigue of traveling/travelling has kicked in, love.
ginette spanier was the directrice of balmain (post-war up to 1960s) and had a most elegant and charming disposition (which belied the terrible experiences in occupied france she endured). ginette was a born saleswoman and a glorious host (noel coward, marlene dietrich and lena horne stayed up VERY late in her apartment on avenue marceau) and a fabulous writer – if you can get hold of her two books “it’s not all mink” (re-named later by a publisher into something awfully bland) and “now it’s sables” (isn’t she adorable?) you’ll have a great time with her tales of fashion, intrigue and behind the white panels of the couture house where house models paraded in the altogether (or wisps of satin) and ladies of a certain deep pocketbook (and age) decided on next season’s purchases for palm beach, monaco and monte carlo.
and yet there’s more….of course there is. ginette had a double-life. that was somewhat seasonal (how modern, as william would say).
september to early june, she was married to her suspiciously good-looking husband (who, in one picture, had his arm linked with noel coward, ahem) and when the summer months arrived, she was whisked off to america by her speaking agent or gave lectures around england with her good friend (and by all accounts quite possibly her lover) nancy spain.
we know! glorious, right?
so it was nancy (do read rose collis’ book, it’s excellent – although we also own a few of nancy’s own writings and will be quoting from them in later posts) who encouraged ginette to put down her memoirs and develop a second, very lucrative career.
what about cafe mode?
gosh. thanks for remembering.
well – ginette lived on avenue marceau and worked on rue francois 1er (balmain is still there) and cafe mode is at the bottom of the street and (yes, we asked, in french, no less) the cafe was there in ginette’s time.
so it feels as if she still pops in for a cafe creme, a baguette mixte and perhaps a glass of excellent cold crisp french mineral water. and loosens her corsetry after (as we did, today) in appreciation.