A frozen strawberry daquiri, my favourite Missoni sunglasses and an doorstopping 800 page September Issue.
That’s how things went down here today.
There were these:
I can hardly choose between them. Simply divine!
I’ve been doing a little more research into my favourite hat shop – Chapeaux Alfred in Montpellier – and what I found out is so interesting.
The shop has been open on rue de la Loge since the 1930s and is owned by an 81-year-old chapelier, Guy Benyoumouff. Chapeaux Alfred was established by Guy’s father, Haïm Benyoumoff. Haïm named the store Alfred after his brother who had been killed in action in the First World War in 1914.
The only break in the Benyoumouff family’s running of Chapeaux Alfred was during the occupation of France in the Second World War. Being Jewish the family were in grave danger of deportation so they fled Montpellier and spent the war lying low in a remote village almost 200km inland. Chapeaux Alfred was taken over and allocated to a collaborator.
The Benyoumouff’s returned to Montpellier and Chapeaux Alfred after the war. Guy Benyoumouff has been the proprietor of the store since 1958 and, as he himself acknowledges, “nothing has changed”.
I need to go and get that trilby…..
My sister lives in Montpellier in the south of France, and over the past year I’ve visited her quite a few times. Whenever I go to a new town or city in a different country, my essential and absolute favourite thing to do is find and visit any hat shops or haberdasheries that the town has to offer.
Chapeaux Alfred doesn’t really take much discovering. In fact it wasn’t on my list the first time I visited Montpellier, I just happened upon it which is not difficult to do as its right in the centre of town.
It’s just wonderful. To say that its a shop whose its hey day has been and gone is something of an understatement, but that’s why I love it. It’s a shop whose days I’m sure are numbered – one day I’ll visit and Chapeaux Alfred won’t be there anymore. The faded wooden and broken signage will be gone, instead of the windows with only two hats on display there will be a glossy modern chain, and a little piece of history will disappear.
On my last visit, I actually went into Chapeaux Alfred and the inside is just as old, chaotic and layered as you might expect. The proprietor wasn’t there (I have seen him on previous occasions, standing at the door of the shop, just watching the world go by) but a little old lady who I imagine to be his wife was. She was reading some papers and instantly stood up when I entered. She informed me that all the hats were on display in the windows and patiently stood behind the counter, waiting for the next cue. I could have stayed in there for hours, just looking, taking it all in, feeling the shop and its story. In the end, I only stayed a few minutes, I felt I was in such a personal space. When I left, I thanked her and she responded with “à votre service”. I don’t think I could have felt like I’d gone back in time more if I’d tried.
Next time I go to Montpellier, I’m going to buy myself a trilby or a fedora from Chapeaux Alfred. If ever there was a shop which was the place for me to buy a hat, Chapeaux Alfred is it.