March 2020, Paris
The threat of Coronavirus is very real. So real that the 50th Anniversary of MIDO, the largest optical event in Italy (arguably the biggest in Europe) has been cancelled! They don’t do things like that unless there's something serious going on.
MIDO is a big deal in the world tour of optical trade shows and conferences.
A bit like how the Grand Prix season tours the world showcasing the cutting edge of motorsport, there is an annual cavalcade of Opticianry Shows (to use an Americanism for comic effect). It all starts in London in January then Munich, both small fry compared to MIDO in Milan in March. The tour heads generally east through Europe, the Middle East, across Asia, over the Pacific onto the Americas with the Grand Finale being SILMO, Paris in late Autumn.
Whoever wins the Gold Award in Paris, Le SILMO D’Or, is indisputably the best frame designer in the world that year. It’s like the Oscars of Eyewear.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I’m in Paris to visit the Boutique Caroline Abram on Boulevard Raspail. And Caroline Abram is a former winner of that coveted award.
I’m here on the first weekend in March 2020 because MIDO is cancelled and Caroline has invited a select few Independent Opticians from around the world to view her Spring/ Summer collection in her Parisienne Boutique instead. Caroline has a distinct design style which combines her experience as a young woman helping in her mother’s practice up in Montmartre with her training as a jeweller. The latest frames are larger and finer while still featuring asymmetrical colours and finishes. I can’t wait to show these to you early in the summer.
For me a trip to Paris is no hardship. My son lives and works in London and it's as cost effective to meet up with him on the continent as there and we both get a holiday out of it. Also, a few hours at a practice on the Left Bank is preferable to a few days in a giant, anonymous conference centre even if that's on the outskirts of Milan.
I love a trip to Paris but this is the worst rain I’ve ever seen. Really - I’ve lived in Glasgow and worked in Greenock;, this is a lot of rain.
Whenever I’m away it’s a busman’s holiday. I’m always checking out other practices to see what they have and what I can learn (or copy!) to bring the best back to Linlithgow. So, when the weather cleared on Sunday we headed to le Marais, an area dense with eyewear shops. There we saw one of the four very colourful La Font practices in the city and I spoke with an independent optician who loves working with one of our new suppliers, OptiSwiss (who we met in London).
The Linlithgow Connection.
Our hotel is near the Pantheon. That makes it about ¼ mile from Place St Michel, the same St Michael who is patron saint of Linlithgow. This is a picture of a fabric wallcovering in our hotel…
If anyone can shed light on the Black Bitch/ St Michel/ Linlithgow/ Paris mystery, I’m all ears.