In most cases, Parisian fads are something that one must grin and bear until their inevitable, unregrettable demise. There is however, one current exception to this generally unwavering rule: 'Made in France.' I visit a trio of boutiques with three very different concepts whose entire inventories consist of products made within the country’s borders.
As well as uncovering an astonishing array of highly creative and beautifully crafted objects, I was above all seduced by the articles themselves and the people behind this exciting renaissance of French savoir-faire.
Frustrated at the rarity of French-made products (as opposed to those made in China) while shopping to equip his new apartment, the sweet-talking David Ménochet decided to open a store where customers were in no doubt as to the goods’ origins. An outlet for his curiosity as to what products were still made in France and why some previously well-established brands had disappeared, Bleu de France was born following an almost comical host of political, bureaucratic and logistical hurdles. Together with friend and associate Justine, he offers a broad array of French-made wares both from manufacturers that have been around for generations and contemporary brands that are bringing the focus back to quality and know-how.
Bleu de France owners David Ménochet and Justine Lowinger
Ironically situated on a street monopolised by Chinese wholesalers, many of his clients are actually from China and are looking for bona fide French objects. Although margins are low, the pair strive to unearth innovative and eye-catching products and are looking into launching their own brand of French-made products too. www.bleudefrance.fr
Bleu de France
Serial entrepreneur Alexis Leroy hadn’t even conceived the idea for his project when he took over a boutique on the prestigious rue Jacob in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. After securing a piece of prime retail space, he racked his brain for an idea worthy of both the location and his own taste. The result was Gab & Jo, which Leroy describes as an ‘Ali Baba’s cave’ where customers can ‘uncover a treasure’ of their own. While there are some similarities with other Made-in-France shops, Leroy insists his ‘French universe’ goes further. His goal is to showcase the very best of the country’s savoir-faire and to highlight France’s charm, tastes and spirit through a unique collection.
Gab & Jo
Nostalgia plays an important role in his vision too, with many products evoking childhood memories within his French customers, tapping into their subconscious. Not French? Fear not. Leroy takes the time to explain the history of every single article in the shop with eloquence and almost tangible joy to those who may not fully appreciate their place in the French collective memory. With French music and even odours, it is easy to be hypnotised by Leroy’s world. www.gabjo.fr
Gab & Jo
Those looking for a more feminine take on Made-in-France should head to 'So-Pi' (South Pigalle) where you’ll find Sept Cinq. Two parisiennes who met at university in Rouen, Audrey and Lorna decided to pool their resources and passion for the City of Light by launching a boutique where the vast majority of the products are made by Parisian designers. While some articles come from elsewhere in France, such as watches from Besançon and candles from Grasse, the duo prefer being close to their suppliers in order to maintain close relationships with them.
Owners Audrey and Lorna at Sept Cinq
Limited edition jewellery pieces and fashion accessories sit next to beauty products, décor items and carefully selected books in a space designed with extraordinarily good taste by Lorna’s mother. Despite each having had their own dreams of opening up stores, neither feels like they have had to compromise. They continue to nurture creativity in the French capital with no pressure on designers to up productivity to meet demand, the idea being to constantly feature unique pieces. www.sept-cinq.com
Related: South Pigalle, Paris: a guide
It may come at a certain price, but the craftsmanship, quality and finesse guaranteed by the Made-in-France movement is unrivalled. It is refreshing to see such commitment from young entrepreneurs to champion French brands. We can rest assured that the future of the country’s savoir-faire is in fine hands.