For Vincent Grégoire of the Paris-based forecasting agency NellyRodi, it’s good to be different. “In a world where things are becoming standardized, people are looking for something distinctive”, he says. And the French have exactly that. “When I’m abroad, I’m always told that we have a certain je ne sais quoi, an effortless chic, something you don’t find anywhere else”, he continues.
In January 2019, MAISON&OBJET celebrates not only l’exception française, but also the re-emergence of the country of Molière on the international scene. And where better to do that than at a quintessentially Parisian trade fair devoted to decoration, design and lifestyle? “There’s a renewed curiosity about the French, a sort of fascination at the moment”, asserts Grégoire. He cites examples such as first lady Brigitte Macron, the victorious World Cup soccer team, and fashion designer Olivier Rousteing. The theme chosen may have a humorous note to it—Excuse My French!, but it takes a very serious look at the reasons behind this renaissance.
Imagined by NellyRodi, the Trend Forum in Hall 7 encapsulates the phenomenon with a handpicked selection of products that embody the new Gallic spirit. International visitors are offered the opportunity to discover new French brands and designers, while locals can get a better idea how best to benefit from the “Made in France” fad. Based on the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, the décor also includes a few more dissonant notes. “French style is all about playing with opposites and exploiting the art of paradox”, notes Grégoire. A small truck stands parked in the middle of the space, while an ultra-contemporary ceiling light shakes things up amongst a host of traditional chandeliers.
The spotlight is cast on four different areas, which are contributing to French success in the world of design:
Leading the way is a whole array of small manufacturers and producers—or petites maisons—a number of whom first came to prominence at MAISON&OBJET. With brio, they are reinventing age-old savoir-faire in order to create products that are exclusive, original and highly desirable.
The pre-eminence of the French Tech industry is also playing its part. As the entrepreneur Xavier Niel notes, “France has become the principle European destination for technology”. Paris is home to the world’s largest start-up campus, Station F, and companies all over the country are at the forefront of innovations in the domestic field.
There is also a new cosmopolitan generation—a “nouvelle vague”—of creatives, whose inspiration comes from further afield. They combine classic French chic with influences from other cultures and traditions in a novel spirit of fusion and mix ‘n match.
A sense of daring has always been an integral part of French elegance and a group of designers are making their mark with a style that could best be described as “Classic With A Twist”. Their work is both singular and sometimes surreal, highly creative and a touch transgressive. As Grégoire points out, even the most classical symbols of French chic, such as Brigitte Bardot or Coco Chanel’s little black dress, were initially seen as shocking.
So, no excuses needed. Vive le style français !
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