Paris, France: Styling in the rain
Some days you want a three-dollar collapsible umbrella, just to stay dry. Other days, you want something more.
A blood-red ruffled parasol with a silver handle in the shape of a bulldog's head, say. Or something in turquoise taffeta, festooned with lace and Swarovski crystals, perfect if you're Marie-Antoinette going for a light stroll in the gardens.
For that, you call on Alexandra Sojfer, whose grandfather Georges Gaspard fled Hungary for Paris in 1937 and began handcrafting umbrellas in his atelier.
He quickly became the go-to parasol outfitter among fashionable parisiennes, and today, Sojfer creates exquisitely detailed brolleys and shaders in the styles he popularized. She hand-crafts every piece in the atelier behind this 1834 storefront on the boulevard Saint-Germain, where she's joined forces with umbrella purveyor Madeleine Gely next door.
The boudoir-ish boutique is an experience unto itself. Like the pieces she creates, it's dripping in froufrou detail and umbrellas of every possible shape and texture—raw silk fringe here, curved brass handles there—from floor to ceiling.
Your so-called willpower is no good here. This is the kind of place that makes you say, trancelike, "Why yes, I do need a hundred-Euro parasol."