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Travel

Paris City Notes

11 March 2017

The last stop on the fashion buying circuit is always Paris. What it’s like traversing the world soaking in these bi-annual shows along the way, I definitely couldn’t say. Beyond London, Berlin and Copenhagen has been our lot, with the Ethical Fashion Show and Greenshowroom providing us with a diverse mix of fantastic sustainable brands.

But this year, I felt a very definite need to move beyond the familiar in order to find a few new brands and see what France has to offer in terms of sustainable fashion. Having never visited Paris before and lacking the necessary linguistic skills to get me beyond anything other than ordering a cappuccino, anxiety levels on the Eurostar were relatively high.

However, it’s safe to say, this was certainly one of the best buying trips I’ve done to date – in part due to the palpable sense of fashion’s French history. Ranging from the eponymous elites (Chanel, Dior, Hermes, Vuitton etc.) right down to newer high-street aficionados (A.P.C, Maje, Sandro) there’s no argument that Paris has always been the centre of creativity. But the recent focus on a fresh offering by younger designers, based in showrooms such as Man/Woman, provided the delicious buzz of excitement felt only when stumbling across brands that weren’t on the radar but which share our same values towards social and environmental sustainability.  And for that, I have Paris to thank.

I felt a very definite need to move beyond the familiar in order to find a few new brands and see what France has to offer in terms of sustainable fashion

Ticking two ‘cultural’ items off the bucket-list may be another reason why the trip was such a highlight. Despite the proximity of the Tuileries Trade Shows to the Louvre, I sacrificed Mona Lisa for a rushed visit to the Cy Twombly retrospective at Centre Pompidou followed by a glance around Merci to soak up as much merchandising inspiration as possible.

Since returning home, I’ve tried, and completely failed, to recall when it was that I first came across American artist Cy Twombly (1928-2011). What I’m pretty certain of, prior to the Pompidou visit, is that I’ve only ever seen one or two pieces of his work, yet still enough to leave a lasting impression. Post Pompidou, I’m convinced I’ll never see so many of his major works in one sitting ever again.

Unprecedented in scope, the exhibition retraces Twombly’s sixty-year career, bringing together some 140 paintings, sculptors, drawings and photographs to reveal the complexity of a painter who’s considered one of the most important of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

“His handwriting is poetry, reportage, furtive gesture, sexual release, automatic writing, self-affirmation, self-abnegation too…Twombly’s writing has netiher syntax nore logic, but quivers with life, its murmur penetrating to the very depths of things.” – Pierre Restany

The building itself is also an outstanding piece of work, and the brainchild of Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers. To some an “architectural King Kong,” the multi-coloured, inside-out, machine of a modern art museum was designed to be a new type of art space; one that could be experienced by those alienated by the traditional museum or art gallery.

"the Centre is a fantastic object in its own right: expressive, colourful, complex, the realisation of Modern Movement visions of the building as machine" - Kenneth Powell

Despite criticisms, budget cuts and political interference, Piano and Rogers saw the project through to completion with their then-radical ideas intact: a column-less, flexible interior space (each floor is the size of two full soccer fields), a place for people to enjoy an unencumbered open space with a simple light structure.

After a morning of appointments and showrooms on the second day, before narrowly missing the Eurostar home, I made a beeline for Boulevard Beaumarchais and the instagramably infamous Merci.

From way back when The Keep was just a paper-based business plan, Merci has existed on a pedestal way above all other concept stores

Housed in a reconfigured 19th Century wallpaper factory, and located in the trendy neighbourhood of Le Haut Marais, Merci features three loft-like floors heaving with furniture, jewellery, stationery, fashion, interiors and childrenswear. From way back when The Keep was just a paper-based business plan, Merci has existed on a pedestal way above all other concept stores for it’s stunning installations and meticulously well thought out offering. In addition, and what we perhaps love most, is the fact this general store gives all its profits to charity.

So thank you Paris, you were an absolute delight and there’s no doubt we won’t be adding you to the buying calendar for Spring/Summer 18.

For a more detailed insight into the works of Cy Twombly, head over to Artsy – a fantastic resource for art collecting and education, whose mission is to make all the world’s art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

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