Paris em Lisboa opened in the year of birth of Fernando Pessoa, just around the corner in Largo de São Carlos: 1888. It was an instant hit in a capital city eager for all things Parisian. It was one of the first shops in Lisbon, if not the very first, to specialise in Parisian fashions for women, contributing significantly to the introduction of Parisian “taste” to the cosmopolitan culture of Lisbon’s elite classes. Before the Belle Époque era and the resulting enthusiasm for Parisian fashions, a woman was expected to be demure and modest. As the new century dawned, the model woman became more daring, more liberated, albeit still restricted by significant figurative and literal stays. In books such as Treatise on Civility and Etiquette (by the Comtesse de Gencé), Manual of Civility and Etiquette (Beatriz Nazaré) and The Art of Living in Society (Maria Amália Vaz de Carvalho), young women would devour everything they thought they needed to know about how to conduct oneself, dress and think. And they would replicate the advice as best they could. For such customers, a shop like Paris em Lisboa was a veritable Mecca. There they would find everything they needed to be the perfect mademoiselle, both at home and in society.
The Lisbon newspaper “A Folha de Lisboa” wrote in 1894: “The specialty at Paris em Lisboa is silks, woollen fabrics, velvets, hats, high fantasy fashions and made-to-measure garments, which are made in the shop’s ateliers to the highest standards. (…) Having so many advocates and recommendations, it is no wonder that this new establishment has become a sought-after place for elegant femininity; it is taking more and more and ever more important orders, thus in turn increasing its standing more and more. Nevertheless, it is impossible to judge the value of our words without entering the house in question and observing, with a certain degree of knowledge of the matters at hand, the way the people work there and the profusion of fabrics, the latest patterns, style designs and all the little fashion details that make it a veritable centre of Lisbon high-life, but high-life that has good taste and values quality.”
The interior design was carried out with the type of store and its needs in mind. The ground floor and upper floor are original; only the mezzanine floor has changed, as it was once a design and sewing atelier. Archive images show dozens of seamstresses working there.
Remaining in the hands of the same family, the shop adapted to the times and the differing demands. In the 1930s perfumery, stockings and homeware sections were added. A new development, glass stockings, also became a very successful addition to the assortment. Between the 1950s to 1970s a knitwear and ready-to-wear section was gradually established. The revolution of April 1974 brought with it new consumer trends. The home textiles section was remodelled, and was to eventually occupy the whole shop in the following years, marking the end of the fabrics business, with customers being sent to other Historic Shops such as Casa Frazão and Londres Salão. The last major remodelling project dates from 2006, when the sewing workshops were removed – today all such work is outsourced – and the shop was extended to cover the three floors. Bedlinen, table linen and towels and bathwear are displayed today on the three floors.The selection of products made in Portugal is considerable but not exclusive. Some articles, such as pyjamas and men’s underwear, are produced by the business itself, on an outsourcing basis. Items are also made to measure. Home textiles make up the bulk of today’s sales; the ranges on offer are rich in variety and stand out for the quality of materials used.
References & Links
All three titles: our translation
Accessories; bathwear and towels; bedlinen; kitchen textiles; table linen