14 Oct 2015

Poetic Shopping in Paris

With my fiancé due to arrive in France from the US in less than a week, which better city for us to join than in the world's most romantic, Paris! If a little spot of shop may be on the cards, what will be off our radar is the international chain stores, temples of consumerism, ubiquitous brands, and those déjà-vu and more of the same items. For the sort of Paris we are after is the one that is steeped in classical culture and history, honed by heritage, filigreed in craftsmanship, imbued in poetry, wrapped up in artistry and signeted with tender loving care.

Photography by L'Instant Parisien

Against the odds of the modern marketplace, off-the-beaten-track Paris still has a few retail gems nicely tucked away from the high streets. And in its cosseted niches, the otherwise overused, overworked adjective 'unique' finally finds its meaningfulness and purpose. One of the boutiques on my list may be open only half a day a week, that makes it even more covetable in my eye.

La Maison du Pastel

Whether you are a fine artist - or not - you need to pay La Maison du Pastel a visit. Admittedly you may not be into crayons and drawings, and thus not have at first hand a need for visiting this artist institution. Yet one thing is for certain: we share commonalities with the pastel maker. We see life in colour, our environment is bathed in colour, this life of ours is all about colour, whether we like our palette light or bright or dark or muted. Each of us has their favourite colours, even wears them, and drapes their windows and walls in them. Colour is a statement and an attractor, and marketers have long harnessed its powers in order to seduce consumers. Colour is therefore a big element! To see it translated into formats that transcend the obvious (objects) is a joy. Oh boy, I am making it my mission to make you look at a stick of pastel in a totally fresh way.

'I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for.' - Georgia O'Keeffe

But let's get back to colours. My favourites for the home are those faded, paled-down, diluted greens like Eau de Nil, Sage Green and Mint Green. I could own a piece of pastel for each of those colours I like. Why? To add on to my nuanciers (colour charts/ cabinets), and well, why not? Plus it's more than about colour and pastel and artistry. It's a little piece of portable made-in-France Paris, the one that makes me proud to be French and the owner of a piece of anthology and anthropology endorsed by a Maison that has been going strong since 1720, with 1021 nuances to boot.

Palette of green nuances (detail)

A French family concern, the Roché, and their artisanal way of making things that have stood the test of time and remain a part of French savoir faire establishment, as globalisation elsewhere is dulling our world, one colour shade at a time. To partake in a little French heritage with my American better half makes sense, as it lends our shopping experience the cultural bias it deserves, with a little nod at Margaret Zayer, an American artist besotted with colour, who a few years back contacted Isabelle Roché, interned at La Maison du Pastel, fell under the spell... and never left. We would have done the same.

(Pict source)
La Maison du Pastel
Isabelle Roché & Margaret Zayer
20, rue Rambuteau
75003 Paris

The boutique is open every Thursday 2:00pm-6:00pm. Meanwhile, I recommend that you read the fabulous article by L'Instant Parisien, whose photography soaks up the poetry of the atelier and the manufacturing processes. A must-read.

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