In Liège, Belgium, Paul de Marchin’s family has been associated with fine clothing since long before living memory. “It goes back at least four or five generations,” says Paul. “My grandmother worked in lingerie, my mother had a lingerie business for a long time, and I know it goes back farther than that. My parents had a clothing store, my brother still has one there. I guess it’s in my blood.”
"I love discovering new, small brands you can’t find at the mall.
– Paul de Marchin, owner"
In 1981, at Université de Liège, Paul met his future husband John Mathews, a medical student from Tucson, Arizona. After graduating, the couple moved first to Phoenix and then to Seattle, where John established himself as a physician while Paul worked as a buyer for Duck, the fashion loft brother Georges was establishing back home in Begium.
The couple both love to travel, and Paul seeks the finest clothing wherever he goes. “I love discovering new, small brands you can’t find at the mall,” he says. “What draws me to fashion has always been the creativity, the process. I love visiting ateliers, checking out how people design. Why this color or that one? How do you choose the fabric? What are the fine details that matter in how the garment’s made? It fascinates me, and it can be exciting to be able to explain these choices to the customer.”
In the mid-90s, John accepted a position in the anaesthesiology department at Columbia Memorial in Hudson, where he’d soon be leading the department. Soon afterward, in 1996, Paul opened de Marchin on Warren Street, bringing to Hudson a whole new world of sartorial possibilities.
“It’s a funny thing the way Europeans love American fashion and Americans love European fashion,” says Paul. “You want what you don’t have, what’s hard to find.”
During those first years, Paul reflects, “Hudson was a much quieter town than it is now, but we had 70 antique shops already. Back then, people would drive up and shop for a couple of hours and leave; now, they come and spend a weekend at a B&B, go to Olana, dine out. It’s a destination now.”
You’ll find a veritable United Nations of designers who are taking classic styles to the cutting edge, clothing from all corners of Europe, from Asia and New Zealand
For lovers of finer fashions, de Marchin has been a destination from the beginning. You’ll find a veritable United Nations of designers who are taking classic styles to the cutting edge, clothing from all corners of Europe, from Asia and New Zealand. The common thread is originality and quality; Paul likes clothing that will hold up in 20 years.
Age, Stetson, Gimo’s, Armor-Lux, and Goorin Bros. But no list could possibly be complete, because by the time this story is in print, Paul will have found something new and wonderful to share.
“There is added value in a customer being able to come in and touch a garment, make a connection.”
– Paul de Marchin, owner
“We go to Paris and New York and Vegas for the shows, besides just generally loving to travel,” he says, Some of the brands that have gotten the nod include women’s styles from Hartford, Cotelac, Pas de Calais, Scotch & Soda, Elemente Clemente, J. Brand, Barbour, CYDWOQ, Campomaggi, Eugenia Kim, and CLOSED, and menswear by Rodd & Gunn, Naked & Famous, Phil Petter, Golden Bear, Scotch & Soda, Barbour, WRK, Oxford Lads, Gilded “and I find different brands and ideas to bring back—not just clothing, but some gadgets and home décor items. I’ll find something nice or interesting and bring some home; if people love it, great; if it doesn’t move, we put it on sale and move on to the next thing.”
On de Marchin’s Instagram feed, you can get a feel for Paul’s taste; fans of all that is chic may find themselves drooling over the colors and shapes that range from unabashedly classic to wildly abstract. “I love the flow of fashion,” he says. “On the one hand, you want a fresh look each season; on the other hand, wonderful styles from decades ago are coming back in new forms.”
“What draws me to fashion has always been the creativity, the process. I love visiting ateliers, checking out how people design.... It fascinates me, and it can be exciting to be able to explain these choices to the customer.”
Assistants Leslie Tapsak, who runs the women’s department, and Zachary Sbrocco, menswear, are the lucky recipients of Paul’s inherited and finely honed sensibilities. “I bring them with me on the buying trips and it’s a very open conversation, what’s for us and what isn’t and why,” Paul says. “We try to act together, and when we’re here we meet every month. It’s a team effort, not just me. I like to share knowledge; it’s not something to keep.”
John has recently retired (besides being loved at Columbia Memorial, tributes mention a lot of work for Doctors Without Borders) and the couple can often be found enjoying life at their 1784 Dutch colonial, five minutes outside of Athens. “When we have time, we like to get back to Europe,” Paul says, “but when we’re here, there’s always something going on in and around Hudson. John loves music and I love art—I collect drawings and paintings—and we love Basilica Hudson. Then, too, we love being home—the quiet and the view, the wildlife are magnificent. We both like to garden and play with Kai, our English Setter.”
He’s delighted with Hudson’s destination status—a status that unique shops like de Marchin have arguably helped to create—and with its cultural ferment and diversity. “People have asked me why I don’t do this in New York or Boston,” he says. “Because I’m happy here! I have no need to grow larger. We have a nice, unique niche, and as Hudson has grown up, I’ve found we get more sophisticated customers, so we can offer more variety.”
The internet, he says, is a double-edged sword in a business like his. “It’s good to be able to reach out on Instagram and Facebook and draw people in; on the other hand, it can be hard to compete with online sales. Just like with the mall, you need to have things that people can’t find just anywhere, even online. But there is added value in a customer being able to come in and touch a garment, make a connection. And it’s a good challenge: to research, to find things that are different.”
“I love the flow of fashion. On the one hand, you want a fresh look each season; on the other hand, wonderful styles from decades ago are coming back in new forms.”
620 Warren Street, Hudson