Truth be told, I’m quite susceptible. Once I read in American ELLE Decor about white Charvet shirts belonging to the ten things some American designer can’t live without, I feel the urge to suffer from separation anxiety as well, or at least to own a white Charvet shirt, too. Strangely, I can’t recall that designer’s name. But what’s in a name?
Anyway, the next time I was in Paris, this time with my mother, we were celebrating her birthday, I insisted on heading to Place Vendôme first thing, to enter the sacred halls of Charvet, not paying attention to my mother’s need to have an extended coffee in Saint-Germain, my mother is rather a Rive Gauche person, which I get of course, the Flore and Simone de Beauvoir and the Sorbonne, which she calls “her” Sorbonne, and all that, but hey, there’s no Place Vendôme on the Left Bank, is there?
Charvet’s shirt department is on the second floor, it looks utterly old school, very much like earnest tailoring being done, not at all like Barney’s if you know what I mean, and when I was sent to the fitting room to check if the sleeve’s length was right, I didn’t care to come out for a very long time, some contemplation was to be done first, I immediately put that room on my list of the ten things I can’t live without, this elegance of times long gone by, it looked as if Charles Swann had been in just before me. I was in my natural habitat – and then I screamed “Merde!”. With quite some resonance. Wall shakingly. You see, I had put on my pullover again, and my beautiful quiff was gone, despite all that Elnett hair lacquer. I, of course, being German, think it a very noble swearword to use as it’s French. But for the French it just means “Shit!”. My mother, waiting outside with Mademoiselle Charvet – at least for a quarter of an hour, for just trying on a shirt, you have to remember – and always disapproving of losing one’s temper, was deeply ashamed by my total lack of time frames and composure on top of that. But she was quite impressed by the Frenchwoman’s poker face
Post scriptum: I bought a tie as well. Not because its purple silk was so exquisite but because Sebastian Flyte wore a Charvet tie, too, when he met Charles Ryder. As I’ve said, I’m very susceptible.