Maison & Objet and Paris Design Week 2011
As if the design community didn't have quite enough jetsetting to do in September already, what with Copenhagen, Helsinki, London, Lisbon and Vienna all staging city-wide mini-Salonis this month, Paris now wants in as well. Piggy backing on the success of biannual professional interior design fair Maison & Objet, the city is staging the first ever Paris Design Week, boasting around 100 citywide events and issuing a call to arms to French creatives in the process. Does the world really need another design capital? Zut alors. Of course it does. We booked the Eurostar toute suite.
Parisians have long excelled at interior design, and Paris Design Week offers a peek inside their toolkit. The key is in the mix. And while that can be slightly odd to see in a trade-show environment such as Maison & Object, where Wallpaper* favourite Michaël Verheyden's booth backed onto a stand specialising in seashell chandeliers, and GUBI was just metres from a giant stuffed giraffe courtesy of a taxidermy company (one of a worrying number exhibiting this year), across the rest of the city it makes more sense.
Juxtaposing slick contemporary pieces with classic arts and crafts, or rustic French bricolage with far Eastern influences, the contrasts - ever surprising and ever chic - are being played out all across town.
A feeling for Japan is palpable everywhere. At the treasure trove that is Astier de Villatte on Rue Saint Honore, visitors during Paris Design Week are treated with a curated collection of products from six Japanese artists, all chosen by Takanao Muramatsu. The lovely Merci meanwhile, is staging an exhibition entitled 'SUGAO - Essential Design in Japan'. More than 200 products on sale represent a new generation of Japanese designers and makers, fusing the craftmanship, traditions and cultures of their homeland with global influences.
The Japan fetish is also evident at the biggest organised event of the week outside of Maison & Objet - a show called 'Now! Design a Vivre' which took place at the big green Cité de la Mode et du Design on Quai d'Austerlitz. Here, 60 French and international designers gathered to display their wares, a platform for the up and coming, student displays and small curated initiatives. One such display was Dessine-moi Le Japon, for which 100 designers produced a drawing or photograph in aid of Japan's disaster victims, but there was also a strong collection of Norwegian design, as well as some interesting new names to watch such as Studio Pauline Deltour and Xiral Segard.
Paris in September is buzzing with energy. Blame the new collections, the weather, or la rentrée, the atmosphere is fresh and Parisians are all tanned and re-togged in the wake of their August vacances. Designers certainly need little encouragement to congregate here at this time of year and while there's still a little way to go, Paris Design Week certainly holds a lot of potential.