Design in Paris is hardly a luxury; in everything from carrier bags to window dressing, it’s central to local life. Over 8,000 designers call this region home and now there is a special event on the calendar just for them. The new Paris Design Week intends to work as a complement to the fashion shows and art fairs that take place each autumn.
Like design in Paris itself, the fair seeks to embrace every discipline. It offers graphics, gastronomy, eco-designs and high-tech creations. Plus its launch was nothing if not ambitious, taking place in sites across 13 of our 20 arrondissements.
Its events embraced cult locations such as Colette and Baccarat while including big names like Jean Nouvel, Philippe Starck, Andrée Putman and Patrick Jouin. Yet it was something called Le Off that held the real excitement.
In French, an off is an informal, not-for-attribution briefing given by a politician to those in the know. So, when Design Week wanted a VIP moment, they called it Le Off and staged it at Docks en Seine. The evening featured a stimulating set of younger talents—producers of everything from plates to pop-up parties. Installing them at Docks en Seine guaranteed a crowd of the curious, since Parisians follow this building with particular interest.
Most visitors know the site as an architectural stunner, quickly glimpsed on a Seine-side walk or during a river cruise. From there, it appears as a long gray skeleton crowned with a green carapace. When it was built in 1907 (as a warehouse for the river’s cargo), that same industrial concrete was a first for Paris. One of the architect Le Corbusier’s all-time favorites, the building is a listed historical monument. But, after much consultation about its modernization, the glittering outside layer was added to transform it.
The aim was to establish a marriage of the old and the new. For the City of Paris had a special tenant in mind: La Cité de la Mode et du Design, a center for style and creation.
The idea was to install a fashion school, boutiques, exhibition halls and a public restaurant. But progress has been slow so its only resident is the school, L’Institut Français de la Mode. However, Design Week was used to make the dramatic announcement that, with new firms on board, it would open in 2012.
The reason to believe this is the hiring of Cyril Aouizerate. Aouizerate’s firm Urbantech is known as the cofounder (and co-owner) of Mama Shelter. They also rehabilitated the popular nightspot La Flèche d’Or. For Docks en Seine, they promise four more eateries, as well as a rooftop club and shops manned by younger designers. Other proposals include a dock for water buses, a floating café and public openings every Sunday. You can add unusual exhibitions, such as Le Off’s “Dessine-Moi le Japon,” for which 100 artists made works whose auction will benefit Japan’s rebuilding effort.
By temporarily filling the space with new design, Le Off gave a preview of what all this might mean. Sipping champagne and chatting about Aouizerate’s vision, it was easy to imagine a destination spot. Well before 6 p.m., the free drink was exhausted, but minicelebrations were taking off at every stand. So you can take part, here is a guide to some of the stars. All are names you’ll find around town in the future, offering their own take on design in Paris.
Bina Baitel is an architecture graduate who specializes in flexible objects. The furniture she placed on show was inspired by drawings from Le Petit Prince. Her work is shown as art in the NextLevel Galerie; she also works with Ciné 104, Clinique Paris and a lace museum in Retripnac.
Find her in Paris at 72, rue St.-Maur, in the 11th Arrondissement; 01 48 05 77 37.
For three years, Céline Merhand and Anaïs Morel have worked together under this label, nominated in 2010 for un grand prix de la création by the City of Paris. Their specialty is objects remade in witty ways such as the “Julio Design” mirrors made from scrubbing brushes.
Find them in Paris at Cornershop, 3, rue St.-Paul, in the 4th. Also at buyMeDesign.com and super-ette.
A line of slipper-soft shoes in a multicolored palette whose sales finance improvements in a Katmandu orphanage, these were slipping onto foot after foot at Le Off.
Find them in Paris at Merci, 111, boulevard Beaumarchais, in the 3rd; 01 42 77 00 33.
Dani, the designer behind Wanda Barcelona, runs a team specializing in ephemeral spaces. All are made using eco-elements such as cardboard and paper. In addition to pop-up parties and window dressing, they design events for hotels and companies such as Veuve Clicquot.
Find them in Paris via Paola Miranda, 06 30 42 32 67; email@example.com
Paris Design Week
Docks en Seine
La Cité de la Mode et du Design
L’Institut Français de la Mode
La Flèche d’Or