Three figureheads are behind a new Paris-based boutique, La Manufacture: the brainchild of Lebanese entrepreneur Robert Acouri, with his long-time collaborator Milena Laquale as fashion director and Italian designer Luca Nichetto as art director. The trio started engineering the concept eleven months ago as an amalgamation of design, fashion and retail experience – a brand that conveys French allure and Italian craftsmanship.
Raised in Switzerland, Acouri worked in Monaco and Italy in culture and fashion before settling in Paris, where in 2002 he established the Cider Group for the French office furnishings market. ‘Robert’s dream was to create a brand,’ Nichetto says. ‘Cider produces high-quality goods made in Italy, but what the company was missing was a distinctive creative direction.’
Looking back to the celebrated brands of the 1950s, like Herman Miller and Knoll, furniture was originally created for the office market, but as the products were so well thought out, they eventually evolved into household environments. Nichetto explains, ‘Today, the contract market no longer means only offices. There are many different kinds of public or sharing spaces now. For La Manufacture, I defined the typologies that a label needed and identified the designers that in my opinion were best for each typology. Together we worked carefully with CMF (colour, material and finishing) and tried to find a common blend to unite the designs in the collection.’ Oki Sato from Nendo, Ben Gorham, founder of Byredo, Patrick Norguet, Sebastian Herkner, Emma Boomkamp, Todd Bracher, Marco Dessí and Elena Salmistraro are among the first group of creative minds to launch with La Manufacture.
Collection 01 combines artisanal quality with industrial precision, while French and Italian cultures guide the colours and materials used. Decorative reds, yellows and greens reflect Jean Prouvé’s Maison Tropicale and Antti Lovag’s Maisons Bulles while other hues are reminiscent of the interiors of Piero Portaluppi and Gio Ponti. The whites and greys are a nod to mineral colours from Carlo Scarpa’s and Le Corbusier’s avant-garde architecture. As a result, the collection is a adaptable melding of pieces – some minimalistic, some radical and others that are more classic; and when one starts mixing these, the collection easily moulds to different atmospheres and situations.
For the inaugural fashion collection, Laquale created individual pieces in natural materials that at the same time blended with the design line. The topstitched seams of the t-shirt mirror those of Nendo’s Stack poufs; muted shades are accented by fuchsia and emerald for women and coral and green for men.
Nichetto commissioned his fellow Italian creative agency Studio Blanco for the branding, and the 250 sqm flagship space on rue Édouard VII in Paris epitomises La Manufacturer's philosophy and identity. ‘I tried to make the space clean and basic because the pieces should speak for themselves, and every kind of finishing and materials that we picked are chosen to complement the collections,’ says Nichetto. Natural materials like wood and marble are highlighted by craftsmanship and industrial processes, and subtle uses of the logo can be seen in the organic clay plaster while the bespoke tapestries and wallpaper carry the M monogram.
La Manufacture has a big ambition. ‘It is clear that, especially in France, you have boutique editors like La Chance and Petite Friture, mainstream big names like Ligne Roset and Roche Bobois, and then the maisons like Baccarat and Lalique – but there are no strong concepts in between. La Manufacture is a brand that ranges from furniture to lifestyle accessories to fashion, plus a space that houses a unique retail experience. In a couple of years we plan to open more stores in important cities all around the world.' says Nichetto.
3 rue Edouard VII
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Yoko Choy is the China editor at Wallpaper* magazine, where she has contributed for over a decade. Her work has also been featured in numerous Chinese and international publications. As a creative and communications consultant, Yoko has worked with renowned institutions such as Art Basel and Beijing Design Week, as well as brands such as Hermès and Assouline. With dual bases in Hong Kong and Amsterdam, Yoko is an active participant in design awards judging panels and conferences, where she shares her mission of promoting cross-cultural exchange and translating insights from both the Eastern and Western worlds into a common creative language. Yoko is currently working on several exciting projects, including a sustainable lifestyle concept and a book on Chinese contemporary design.
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