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Photographer's Note

It might have a Parisian name - Le Louvre, it might look like it's in Paris, it might even be full of French products, but it is, after all, in Melbourne. I was walking along at the 'top', or 'Paris' end of central Melbourne's most fashionable street, Collins Street, last Thursday afternoon in brilliant Spring sunshine, and found an agreeable mix of light and shadow around this shop. I thought to myself, if you block out the surroundings it looks for all the world like Paris itself. I managed to take only one photo after 15 minutes' trying in which the non-Parisian surroundings were out of the frame and an appropriate figure presented herself in front of the shop.

Le Louvre is Melbourne's most venerable and expensive 'boutique', Parisian only to the extent that a Paris fashion house was imagined by a woman from the provincial Victorian city of Ballarat (home of the world's greatest gold rush in the 1850s) in 1922. The formidable Lillian Wightman who, according to an article in The Age newspaper on March 29, 2003:

"...figured that all the doctors who lived in Collins Street in those days were rich and their wives could afford expensive clothes. She called it Le Louvre because it sounded French, and she also coined the term the "Paris end" of Collins Street. High-profile clients have included Vivien Leigh, Dame Nellie Melba and Meryl Streep."

She died aged 90 in 1993.

Today, the business is still owned and run by her daughter, the also quite formidable (so it is said, but I have no direct experience to rely on) Mrs Georgina Weir. According to the same article in The Age:
"A look inside Le Louvre reveals its forbidding style. A few colourful feather boas have been flung over a cream couch and the room is decorated with zebra skins and a massive gilt mirror. Upstairs there are several 'girls' who serve tea in delicate bone china and fetch the clothes bought in Paris, London and New York. A jacket could set you back $5000, a wedding dress anything up to $50,000." It seems that there are no clothes to look at in the shop itself; they are all out the back. You are supposed to sit down and wait for various items to be brought out for you to have a look at.

Sadly for Melbourne, the famous "Paris End" of the street was partially ruined by developers and politicians from the 1960s on, when many ugly skyscrapers were built, some behind the lovely Victorian-era facades. Mrs Weir herself successfully sought council permission to build a 6-storey apartment block above her shop in 2003!

Go to Le Louvre's website if interested.

Edit: I completely forgot to mention the fact that in the 1970s my father, who was a top quality ladies' tailor, made many garments for Le Louvre, to patterns which were brought in from France. One of the coats was made to order for Barry Humphries, Australia's great comedian, who wore it in the person of his most famous stage character, Dame Edna Everidge!

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Additional Photos by Andrew McRae (macondo) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2875 W: 101 N: 4800] (18551)
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