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Paris Design Week

September 8, 2011

Due, no doubt to the success of similar events in London and New York, Paris is pulling out all the stops by making Paris Design Week an adjunct event concurrent with Maison & Objet to take advantage of so many design-focused visitors.
Literally hundreds of design showrooms, studios and design stores throughout Paris will welcome those visitors willing and ready to fan out after covering Maison & Objet all over this city's neighborhoods. A listing of who is who and where to find them is available from the show offices at M&O. Participants include many who also are represented at Maison & Objet as well as many more who are not.
The event is giving smaller and often more specialized enterprises a chance to strut their stuff without the expense of taking space at the trade show. The initiative also highlights many of the popular concept stores.
In roaming the Paris streets yesterday, I saw many interesting shops filled with noteworthy home textiles, furniture or accessories but very few engaging in coordination. Most simply displayed products without context.
That's all the more surprising since "lifestyle" has become as much of a worn-out buzz word here as it has in the US - and yet, the reality is that there is much talk about lifestyle but virtually no action.
There are exceptions, of course, but just as few as in the US, and they are the usual suspects. Blanc d'Ivoire, Flamant, and Maison & Famille remain the rare retailers who present an atmosphere and an example of a Style of Living, but they are very much in the minority - just as we can count their American counterparts on one hand: Ralph Lauren, Restoration Hardware, West Elm, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel are the few that come to mind. Add maybe Ethan Allen ,and you quickly run out of worthwhile examples.
Makes you wonder why it has taken more than 30 years of talking about it with so little to show for.
Even Lafayette Maison has eliminated some brands striving for a complete look it featured earlier, such as Maison & Famille and has settled back into category merchandising. The only area showing vibrancy is the domestics floor - the sheet and towel presentation looks the best and the most inviting. It also sports the most brands - from Anne Solegne to Sonyia Rykiel, Kenzo, Boss, Descamp, Yves Delorme, and Secret Garden as well as imports Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, the latter now housed in easily double the space it occupied a year ago and providing much needed glamour with a black leather bed covered in deep plum linens accented with silver gray.
Lauren has clearly conquered this town starting with his incredibly beautiful store on Boulevard Saint Germain, open for just a year. A follow-up at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, a division of the Louvre, of the chairman's over-the-top collection of antique luxury cars (which just closed at the end of August) hasn't hurt his image either, and the ramifications of his influence and gaining recognition are not just evident in his growing real estate at Lafayette Maison but also across the street at Galleries Lafayette, where Ralph Lauren and Lauren departments of apparel are almost as prominent as they are in American department stores.
Amazing how few retailers seem to have the will to follow suit when it is so clear that to do so can be so profitable. As Tom Cruise would say: Crystal!