One might think that the waiters at Les Deux Magots were the first male models to have trod Boulevard Saint-Germain in maxiskirts – their ankle-length white aprons. And that would have been long before Jean-Paul Gauthier established male skirt-wearing as the quintessence of class. But fashion did not wait around for the 20th century to make a home in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.


One of the first district’s first shopping shrine opened at the corner of rue de Buci and rue de Seine in 1813 : Aux Deux Magots, named after the play by Charles-Augustin Sewrin (Les Deux Magots de la Chine) and in reference to the country whence came the silks sold on the shelves of this boutique.

L'exposition des Deux Magots pour fêter ses 140 ans
L'exposition des Deux Magots pour fêter ses 140 ans


It relocated in 1874, landing opposite the church at what is the café’s current home, displaying fabrics and frills on several floors, drawing the who’s-who of Paris in search of style. Having morphed into a café in 1884, Les Deux Magots still sees the latest looks slip past–decade by decade, day by day-like beads on the rosary of a new religion : The Church of Chic.


In the 1940s, the zoot-suited Zazous brought their devil-may-care attire here, then the existentialists showed off their “brightly colored striped socks” (in the eyes and words of Boris Vian). Not long thereafter, women began appearing in suit pants. Balmain designed a dress for Gréco, Gainsbourg nonchalantly shuffled his Repettos.


Then came the 90s. Dior settles in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Some made an uproar, while others saw it as the neighborhood returning to its roots. The major French fashion companies were establishing in the place where Rive Gauche style was born.


Giorgio Armani smiled on the terrace of Les Deux Magots as his store opened when the planetary princess of elegance, Sonia Rykiel, reigned on the boulevard. In the ultimate incarnation of this Saint-Germain-des-Prés fashion-literature hybridization, Nathalie Rykiel, director of the fashion group for almost 20 years, is today an author.

L'exposition des Deux Magots pour fêter ses 140 ans
L'exposition des Deux Magots pour fêter ses 140 ans


Les Deux Magots also embraced the mix of genres without hesitation, holding a fashion show during a party, with the waiters sharing the catwalk with the professional models. Because Rive Gauche style is here to stay – you need only take a chair on the terrace to catch a whiff of the trend.


A Spring 2024 snapshot : a woman in a floral kimono, a man in a seersucker jacket, a woman in a sweatsuit wearing a Jacquemus fanny pack, an androgynous, sculpted silhouette of superb dimensions. Today’s clothing connoisseurs continue to strut their stuff before the unflappable waltz of the garçons de café in nothing more, and nothing less, than their black vests and white aprons.


Photos credits : © akg-images / Paul Almasy ; © Collection privée Les Deux Magots ; © Marc Piasecki/GC Images ; © Murat Sintem

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