Posts in Shop
The Designer’s Guide to Paris

Heading to Paris this September for Maison&Objet? Here are a few of our favorite places to stay, shop, eat, drink and see.

Bon voyage!

Hôtel National Des Arts et Métiers

Hôtel National Des Arts et Métiers

Hotels

Where to stay

There has been a flurry of new designer hotels opening in Paris in recent years, but we think these are the best picks of where to put your head down when the lights go out in the city of light.

Set in twin low-rise buildings on a quiet street, the Hôtel Adèle & Jules is a discreet gem. Designed by Stephane Poux the spaces feel warm and modern with a classic twist. Make this your base and you’ll be surrounded by some of the best of what Paris has to offer.

Hôtel Bachaumont

Hôtel Bachaumont

Hotel Des Grands Boulevards

Hotel Des Grands Boulevards

Hôtel Bachaumont is proof that designer Dorothee Melichzon is not afraid of colour. Here she has infused each of the spaces with a distinctive palette. The lobby bar is run by the lauded Experimental Group (of Experimental  Cocktail Club fame), but aside from moreish cocktails it’s also a place to see and be seen.

First time hotelier Michele Delloye wanted to create a space that felt more like a comfortable guest house, and a platform to showcase French creativity, the result is COQ Hôtel. The acronym stands for Community of Quality. Designed by Pauline d’Hoop and Delphine Sauvaget of Agence Favorite, this petite place has only fifty rooms.

The long anticipated re-opening of the Hôtel de Crillon, a Rosewood Hotel, was worth the wait. The team of high profile designers includes Tristan Auer, Chahan Minassian and fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld. Grand and stately but not at all pompous the hotel has incorporated an impressive art collection to grace its walls. Four dining destinations mean you have plenty of options —  including L’Ecrin, awarded one Michelin star earlier this year. The subterranean pool and comprehensive spa facilities (including a men’s grooming station) makes this one hotel from where you’ll literally never want to check out.

By the Experimental group, and designed by the current doyenne of Parisian design Dorothee Melichzon is Hotel Des Grands Boulevards. With only fifty rooms this hotel has a decidedly more boutique vibe to it. The building is quite historic but Ms Melichzon has infused the rooms with just enough tech and modernity. Our tip: book one of the attic-style junior suites and sleep like royalty.

The Hoxton, Paris

The Hoxton, Paris

The newest and maybe the hippest on the list is the latest edition to The Hoxton stables. The Parisian outpost has been designed by the team at SOHO House (the public spaces) and rooms by Humbert & Poyet. Located in the heart of the 2e — location wise it doesn’t get much better. You’ve got four basic room types, all furnished in a simple industrial-hipster chic decor. The Moroccan-themed ‘Jacques Bar’ and the all-day-dining ‘Rivié’ complete the dining options although you’ll be spoilt for choice in the near vicinity.

The Hôtel de Joséphine Bonaparte

The Hôtel de Joséphine Bonaparte

The Hôtel de Joséphine Bonaparte, or JoBo for short, was named after one of the country’s most famous pair of lovers. The interiors, by decorator Bambi Sloan, are as quintessentially French as they come and were heavily inspired by the iconic Madeleine Castaing. Walls are bedecked with toile, animal prints or napoleonic emblems and motifs. It’s a rich, historically imbued pastiche of design elements, but mixed with all the mod cons. Situated in the heart of the le Marais you’re just a quick walk from all that the right bank and the Rue de Rivoli has to offer.

Hôtel National Des Arts et Métiers

Hôtel National Des Arts et Métiers

Hôtel National Des Arts et Métiers

Hôtel National Des Arts et Métiers

A quiet newcomer to the scene is the Hôtel National Des Arts et Métiers. The name refers to the traditions of craft and materials that the French are so highly regarded for. Designer Raphael Navot was charged with the design, a fitting partner as he’s known for “made-to-measure interiors, combining traditional methods with contemporary savoir-faire”. There are only seventy rooms in this boutique accommodation but each of them display the best that contemporary French design has to offer.

Nolinski

Nolinski

Hotel Panache

Hotel Panache

Modern French elegance reigns supreme at the Nolinski. Designed by Jean-Louis Deniot each of the rooms has been decorated with his signature mix of custom, antique and vintage and feels more like a very chic residence than a hotel.  Even if you’re not checking-in the ground floor Brasserie Rejane is well worth a visit for a stylish dining experience.

Another recent project by designer Dorothee Melichzon is Hotel Panache. Each of the forty rooms are different, all a little bit quirky and fun, and all very chic. Its location makes this new bolthole a short walk from numerous neighbourhood establishments, if you decide to venture out you won’t need to go far. Worth checking out are the groups other properties Hotel Paradis, also designed by Dorothee Melichzon and  Hotel Bienvenue designed by Chloé Nègre.

Hôtel Saint-Marc

Hôtel Saint-Marc

In the heart of the right bank is the new Hôtel Saint-Marc.  Designed by Dimore Studio the interiors are as hip, fresh and inimitable as you would expect from the Milan-based duo. No doubt the swathes of pattern and generous lashings of pink have made this an instant instagram favorite. Not just a pretty face though, despite its central location the hotel has also managed to squeeze in a pool and comprehensive spa facilities.

Only thirty seven rooms makes the Le Roch Hotel & Spa one of the smallest of the new boutique offerings. Unmistakenly Parisian, the interiors the lobby, restaurant and bar are dark and decidedly moody, and slightly more casual. While the rooms are lighter and crisper.  Designed by Sarah Lavoine, who also resides in the neighbourhood, she’s imbued the spirit of the locale in each of the spaces. True to its name, and despite its central 1e location, you’ll find fully fledged swimming pool and spa facilities to indulge yourself in.


Retail

Where to shop

One of the world’s fashion capitals, it goes without saying that Paris is undoubtedly a shopping mecca. You shouldn’t limit yourself to just clothes and accessories, there is a plethora of ultra hip boutiques proffering a highly curated selection of books, home accessories, furnishings, and more.

Christian Liaigre

Christian Liaigre

Karl Lagerfeld is quoted as having once said ‘I have a fatal attraction for books. A disease I don't want to be cured of’. His library at his own Paris apartment is famous, but the bookshop he owns and curates — 7L Bookshop — is lesser known to overseas visitors. This left bank store is well worth a visit for any booklover, particularly those looking to discover a tome or two on art, fashion, design and architecture. Often rare, out of print, independant titles are to be found.

‘For us, books are a matter of intellect and emotion, of heritage and innovation’ say the founders of luxury book publisher Assouline. The maison’s pint-sized Paris outpost is a must see if you’ve got space in your suitcase, because you’ll be sure to want to lug back a couple of these divine books.

Astier de Vilatte’s signature ceramics are hand-made in an historical workshop in Bastille — once home to Napoleon’s own silversmith. Made with black terracotta and then fired with a milky white glaze, each piece is unique. There is charm in imperfection — and you’ll be sure to agree once you lay eyes on their collection of everything a chic home needs from plates to pitchers.

Paris has a few fantastic department stores, but we always find it hard to go past Bon Marche. And even harder to leave the basement food court. In this subterranean space you’ll find all manner of French gourmet delights, from cheeses and cured meats to preserves — the list goes on. Between the lower level foodie paradise, to the top level book and stationery department (heaven for print geeks), you’ll find one of the city’s best selections of clothing, footwear and accessories for men, women and the home.  

Buly 1803

Buly 1803

Founded in 1803 Officine Buly 1803 on rue Saint-Honoré by perfumier Jean-Vincent Bully the brand has since opened flagship stores around the world, but the boutique on rue Bonaparte feels like a relic from another time. While the collection has grown and formulas modified, the packaging remains the same charming style making each item a decorative accessory as much as functional products.

French designer Christian Liaigre is the master of a bold, highly-crafted minimalism. No longer the creative director of his namesake company, but his legacy lives on in the new flagship store on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Textiles, accessories, home fragrance and the highly covetable furniture collection are available so you can recreate as much or as little of the look at home.

If you really need to pick up some new threads while you’re in town, we’ll forgive you for that. Ex-Hermès creative director Christophe Lemaire and Sarah-Linh Tran are behind the collection, Lemaire, showcased in a beautiful boutique on the right bank. Here you’ll find womenswear and menswear displaying a paired-back simplicity that is modern yet adventurous.

Merci

Merci

A retail icon since it was founded in 2009, Merci has a carefully curated selection of home and living accoutrement, a fine selection of books, and an insightful edit of mens and womens wear. Set back from the street by a small courtyard, you can’t miss it for the iconic, and now oft instagrammed red fiat parked and often artfully styled. With three cafes on site, you can while away many an hour here.

In a delightful neighbourhood in the 3rd arrondissement, the OFR Librarie & Galerie has a stellar selection of independent contemporary books, magazines, fanzines, posters and other printed matter related to art, fashion and design. They regularly hold exhibitions too

Husband and wife team Ria and Youri Augousti have been working together for decade to produce their own furniture and accessories under the R&Y Augousti label. Their boutique on rue du Bac showcases their range perfectly. Highly inspired by the opulence of the art deco era as well as the decadent materials — these still feature in their work. Expect to see unusual combinations including bronze work with shagreen, exotic animal skins, metal leaf, precious stones and shell — often mixed together.


bars & Restaurants

Where to eat and drink

Burned a few calories on your retail therapy session? Here’s where we think you should revive, imbibe and indulge.

In the heart of one of the most walkable neighbourhoods in Paris, saint Germain des Près, is L’ Alcazar. The space is deceptively large but feels like an indoor garden with lush green foliage and simple elegant furnishings courtesy of local designer Laura Gonzalez. The menu consists of modern cuisine that is fresh and light, with meals served from brunch to dinner.

Balagan  Image by Studio l'Etiquette

Balagan
Image by Studio l'Etiquette

The place everyone is talking about in Paris right now is Balagan. The name translates from Hebrew to ‘beautiful mess’ — which is an indication of what to expect from the menu. Simple but chic interiors by Dorothee Melichzon are the delightful backdrop to one more establishment from the Experimental Group. Headed by two top Israeli chefs — Assaf Granit and Uri Navon, and new talent Dan Yosha, the menu consists of a fusion of Moroccan, French and Israeli recipes and everything is designed to share.

Beaupassage

Beaupassage

The French are known to like their food, so it’s really no surprise that something like Beaupassage would be developed in Paris. The only surprise is that it took so long. Officially opening at the end of August is a section of a pedestrian street dedicated entirely to food, wellness and a bit of art thrown in for good measure. Destinations will include a restaurant and wine cellar by Yannick Alléno, a cheese shop by Nicole Barthélémy, a street seafood restaurant by two star chef Olivier Bellin, a boulangerie by starred chef Thierry Marx, a new concept from chocolatier and pastry chef Pierre Hermé, an epicurean outlet by three star chef Anne-Sophie Pic, a Boucherie by breeder and butcher Alexandre Polmard plus a coffee shop by barista Junichi Yamaguchi. Bon appetite!

A quintessentially parisian dining spot, Chez Julien never disappoints. On the edge of the right bank of the Seine (in fact we highly recommend a stroll after dinner to top of the night) this is a place that you can eat alone or in a group and it will be equally special. The decor is old school and cosy and the shabby-chicness only looks more chic when candelit.  Another tip — start the night with an apertif at Au Petit Fer à Cheval, another charming local haunt that’s a short walk from the restaurant.

Le Flandrin was a stalwart on the Paris dining scene but looking tired until famed designer Joseph Dirand gave it a makeover recently. Now it’s a picture of opulent decadence, with walls covered in gleaming gold and a heady art-deco influenced mix of furnishings and finishes. Go for a drink, stay for dinner. The menu consists of classic French dishes that don’t disappoint.

The most famous French bakery and patisserie is the 150 year-old Ladurée. Their pistachio green shop facades, dotted around several locations in the city (and now internationally) are instantly recognisable. While the macarons are what they’re known for, we recommend you try the Religieuse (raspberry to be precise). It is as close to a religious experience you can have with a pastry.

Behind the rather non-descript front door at Le Mary Celeste you’ll find inventive cocktails, wine, oysters (they even do an oyster happy hour!) and some of the best bar food in the city. Come for the oysters, stay because of the chilled vibe and because you won’t need dinner after eating here.

LouLou

LouLou

Located inside one of our favorite cultural destinations — the musée des Arts décoratifs — is this stylish new cafe designed by Joseph Dirand. The menu at LouLou is overseen by young chef Benoit Dargère and is inspired by the French and Italian Riviera. The space is suitably hip, as you’d expect from anything designed by Dirand, but on a nice day it’s the exterior that we think makes this place a winner.

Monsier Bleu

Monsier Bleu

Another breathtaking cultural food combination designed by Joseph Dirand is Monsier Bleu, this one is attached to the Palais de Tokyo. The American-inspired brasserie style menu has a few classics and a few surprises. You can’t lose dining here — either sit inside and take in the stunning surroundings, or sit outside and enjoy the view of the Eiffel tower. Either way it’s going to be a meal you’ll remember.

If you like your gin (at let’s face it, who doesn’t these days) and feel like a tipple in Paris, then head over to one of our favourites — Tiger bar. It's located on a toursity street, but don’t let that fool you, the crowd here is very local. Inside you can expect an expertly concocted spanish-style gin tonic (with fresh seasonal botanicals, served in a balloon glass), from one of 130 gins mixed with their homemade tonic. No wonder it’s frequently listed as one of the best gin bars around.


Sights

What to see and do

Where do we start? Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, and there’s little wonder why. Apart from its perennial beauty and charm, there is a list an arm and a leg long of fantastic cultural institutions to visit and other interesting places to see. These are a few of our faves.

Galerie-Musée Baccarat

Galerie-Musée Baccarat

The Galerie-Musée Baccarat is worth a visit to see the selection of over 350 pieces from the company’s collection that’s been amassed since it was founded in 1765. An added, oft unknown, bonus is that parchment walls that line one of rooms were designed by Jean-Michel Frank with bronze doors created by architect and decorator Eileen Gray in the 1920s when the building was the home of wealthy patrons Marie-Laure and Charles de Noailles.

Centre Georges Pompidou

Centre Georges Pompidou

The controversial design for the Centre Georges Pompidou (a collaboration between several architects including Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers) is often called ugly and brutalist but undoubtedly helped earn Rogers his Pritzker. What’s on the inside is more important, and that’s one of the most progress and avant garde displays of contemporary art, an impressive book shop and that’s not to mention the Atelier Brancusi that’s connected. On a nice day one of our favorite things to do is buy a crème glacée (ice cream à la française) and sit in the square to the rear of the museum and soak it all up.

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Fondation Louis Vuitton

The Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton is worth visiting for the arresting architecture alone. On the skirts of one of Paris’ largest parks there are a multitude of opportunities for an incredible view of the city and surrounds. But don’t let that distract you from this seriously impressive art collection. The exhibitions are changing regularly enough for a visit each time you’re in town.

Designed by architect Pierre Chareau, Maison de Verre, was built in the early twentieth century for its original owner, Dr Jean Dalsace. The doctor and his family resided on the upper levels, while the ground floor housed his practise. The house has since changed hands and now belongs to former Wall Street magnate Robert Rubin. Mr Rubin has had the building restored and preserved and its now open to infrequent and limited tours. To be eligible to visit  you must be a student or professional working in architecture or related fields. To apply you need to email mdv31@orange.fr 3-4 months in advance of your desired time with a email outlining your interest in the building and your qualifications. Good luck. It’s worth the effort — we promise!

Paris has an impressive litany of grand, tourist-filled museums. We highly recommend you try a few of the more petite and lesser known ones instead. For example, the Musée national Gustave Moreau is in what was the private home of artist and namesake Gustave Moreau. The house itself is quaint and charming and filled to the brim with the artists furniture, books and personal belongings. The two upper levels were once the artist’s studio and now display an impressive selection of Moreau’s more important works.

Another former home turned museum was that which belonged to Moïse de Camondo, a wealthy Ottoman banker and art collector. Now the Musée Nissim de Camondo (named after his son) is open to the public. The mansion contains an impressive collection of French decorative art and fine art from an era considered to be the belle epoque.

While one of the most iconic artists of the twentieth century was in fact Spanish, not French, the Musée Picasso in Paris was donated and bequeathed a collection that includes 5,000 important works of art and tens of thousands of archival documents. This includes Picasso’s own private collection and works donated by his heirs and children. An extensive renovation was completed in 2014 replete with furnishings and light fixtures by Giacometti. For anyone even vaguely interested in art, this is a must see.

For architecture buffs — Villa La Roche was built by Le Corbusier and his cousin and frequent collaborator Pierre Jeanneret in 1925 and later renovated by Charlotte Perriand. Since named a UNESCO World Heritage site, and now open to the public, its managed by the Fondation Le Corbusier. Next door sits Villa Jeanneret, a private home commissioned by the architect’s brother, which houses the Le Corbusier archives. The Jeanneret home is not open to the public but the library is accessible by appointment. After several years of renovation the Studio Apartment of Le Corbusier has now reopened to the public. And if you want to do the full Le Corbusier pilgrimage, then a visit to Villa Savoye is a must. Though technically not in Paris, but in an outlying village called Poissy, lies what many an architect would say is a masterpiece. Designed by Le Corbusier and built in 1927 according to his modernist principles the house was originally built as a weekender and displays a number of unique features that won’t go unnoticed to the trained eye.

Japan House London

Japan House London opens in the heart of the British Capital, a mecca of Japanese culture, design and aesthetic refinement

It’s nirvana for Japanese design lovers: the minimal interiors inspired by a Japanese house; the restaurant serving seasonal sushi and wagyu beef; a contemporary gallery showcasing futuristic architecture; and a design shop selling crafts ranging from handmade paper to kitchen tools.

This may sound like the kind of impeccably presented creative venture found only in design-conscious Japan, so its location — more than 5,000 miles away from Tokyo —  may come as some surprise: London.

Welcome to Japan House London. Perhaps the Japanese government’s most ambitious cultural project in recent years, Japan House consists of a series of permanent architect-designed spaces in cities across the globe.

Its goal is as simple as its spaces are invariably stylish: to create international platforms showcasing the very best of Japanese culture, from design, art and architecture to food and technology.

Japan House London opened its doors Friday, June 22nd in a historic art deco building on Kensington High Street in the heart of the British capital. It is the third outpost following openings in Sao Paulo and Los Angeles last year, and is likely to become a bold new Japanese fixture on London’s cultural landscape.

An impressive roll call of Japan’s most high-profile talent is involved in the project, among whom rank Kenya Hara — the iconic designer, art director of Muji and Japan House’s chief creative director — and Masamichi Katayama, the interior designer from Wonderwall, who designed the London space defined by its minimal, contemporary aesthetic deeply rooted in Japanese concepts such as tokonoma — the raised, empty alcove traditionally used in homes to display seasonal flowers or scrolls.

‘The objective here was not to create a bridge between Japan and Britain but to present a genuine Japan, for today and the future,’ explained Katayama. ‘Key words are kyo (虚) which means a vacuum and kuu (空) which is emptiness. This is a uniquely Japanese notion that the imagination is enriched by blank, empty spaces. It’s also about how humans, spaces and objects interact with each other to maintain delicate balance and harmony. Our goal was to create this beautiful harmony.’

The building spans three levels and attention to detail is apparent throughout, from the hand-made kawara clay floor tiles from Awaji Island to the scene-stealing central spiral staircase, which was built in Japan before it was shipped to London and re-assembled, piece by piece.

The lower ground floor is home to The Gallery, where an inaugural exhibition casts a spotlight on one of Japan’s most cutting-edge contemporary architects with the show ‘Sou Fujimoto: Futures of the Future’.

Meanwhile, an authentic taste of modern Japanese gastronomy is served up in the restaurant Akira — named for its chef Akira Shimizu — with a menu including charcoal-grilled kushiyaki skewers, seasonal vegetables and sushi.

The Shop at Japan House also showcases contemporary design products and artisan-made crafts from across the country. Japanese teas and cloth-filtered coffees are sold at The Stand, while nearby, The Library is packed with books curated by cult bookstore creator Yoshitaka Haba of Bach alongside a nature-themed exhibition by photographer Risaku Suzuki.

Workshops, seminars, talks and performances feature heavily on the packed schedule at Japan House London. And for the opening weekend? Avant-garde, Tokyo-based floral artist Makoto Azuma has created an abstract installation complemented by 30 so-called ‘Flower Messengers’ who visited Kensington’s cultural institutions on foot, handing out blooms to passers-by along the way — the first of many innovative events likely to forge a deep-rooted cultural connection between London and Japan.

Reflecting on the final production, Katayama said: ‘This project gave me great pleasure and an opportunity to relearn, revisit and reevaluate Japan's aesthetics and the mindset of our people.'

 Text / Danielle Demetriou

Issey Miyake Kyoto

Kyoto's first stand-alone Issey Miyake opens in a traditional 132-year-old machiya

Designer Naoto Fukasawa, known for his mastery of modern minimalism, had one thing in mind when tasked with designing Kyoto's first Issey Miyake store — shades of gray. And in particular sumi, the Japanese word describing a traditional hue of charcoal gray. The end result is a clean-lined contemporary store deeply rooted in traditional Japanese aesthetics. Housed in a 132-year-old wooden merchant townhouse known as a machiya with a latticed wooden facade and tiled roof, the shop is set on a quiet Kyoto sidestreet. Inside, visitors will also discover an enclosed interior garden, where an old storehouse has been transformed into a small but perfectly formed gallery.

'Our idea was to make the colour and shape of the clothes stand out by turning the plaster walls, floors, fences and gravel a classical sumi colour,' explains Fukasawa. 'This was less a refurbishment than a restoration. In the parts that had been modernised over the years, we returned to the details of the time of construction as we imagined it.'

The shop — the first standalone Issey Miyake in Kyoto and the 15th in Japan — is a celebration of incremental shades of gray. A simple noren curtain made from natural ramie fibre marks the entrance with a monochrome logo by Katsumi Asaba. Latticed wooden doors slide open to reveal matte gray walls, created by specialist Kyoto craftspeople using charcoal pigment in plaster, alongside raw concrete floors and exposed timber frames.

In a gallery-like display, one wall showcases clothing from Issey Miyake Men and Homme Plissé Issey Miyake (don’t miss the funnel-necked Edge Coat with wide, fluid pleats in deep orange, created exclusively for the Kyoto store), while neat rows of Bao Bao Issey Miyake Bags in a rainbow-bright range of hues hang like pop art paintings on the facing wall. Watches, glasses and wallets are displayed out front in custom-made vitrines.

Kura gallery, however, is the undisputed scene-stealer. Accessed via a slate stone pathway leading to a serene expanse of smooth pebbles in the rear garden, the gallery interior, in contrast, explodes with light and colour. The white walled double-height space is currently home to the bold, bright textiles of the third series of the Ikko Tanaka Issey Miyake collection, with motifs by the late graphic designer.

Perhaps most fittingly, exhibitions at Kura will showcase not only works by Issey Miyake but also the creativity of the surrounding city. 'Kyoto has a capacity for accepting new things,' says Fukasawa. 'I see this store becoming a special place that assimilates the innovative spirit of Issey Miyake.'

Text / Danielle Demetriou

COS

Suzy Annetta, editor in chief of Design Anthology sat down with Atul Pathak of COS on the occasion of their latest store opening in Pacific Place, Hong Kong

Design Anthology: Why open another store in Hong Kong? Obviously we love the fact that you are, but I just wonder why the priority of Hong Kong as opposed to other cities in Asia, is it some kind of special connection? Or is it just the brand is doing so damn well here?

COS:  There’s definitely a connection and of course we are super happy with the performance of the brand in Hong Kong. It’s really as simple as that, if I am honest with you. And I think location is always of the highest importance to us. Pacific Place is a mall we have really found quite desirable from day one, since we opened on Queen’s Road. The opportunity to open a store here is pretty much a no-brainer. I think the aesthetic of the mall itself is stunning, it is one of the most beautifully designed malls I have seen anywhere. So the synergy between their vision of the mall and what we’d like to have for COS is very similar.

DA: Are there plans to expand further throughout Asia?

COS: Yes definitely! We just opened in Malaysia in December, so now we have Malaysia, we have Singapore, of course you know we have South Korea, and Japan. We are doing very well in Mainland China as well. We actually have another store opening in Beijing tomorrow, in the China World mall. So Asia for us is of supreme importance. The responses have been super positive, and of course I think there is a lot more potential for growth. But we have to be comfortable with the pace of growth, we have to feel the location is right for us, and of course more importantly there is a customer base that is interested and likes the brand.

DA: Sure, well we have friends in Manila and other cities dying for COS to open there…just an FYI.

COS:   That’s good to know. You know customer feedback is one of the things that we often refer back to because if we are not accommodating what our customers like and want then of course there’s no point. We listen to a lot of what we hear and what we see, and where we take our inspiration from, and that affects how we grow.

DA: So that leads me to the next question. How would you describe the typical COS customer, or is there a typical COS customer?

COS: There kind of is and isn’t really. We tend to talk in terms of interests and mindset more than anything else. The world that we get the bulk of our inspiration from is of course the design world overall. So things like contemporary art and architecture, product design and graphics and just design culture. So it could be film, dance, performance, all those types of environments are so inspirational to us and effects what we do in terms of the collection and the way we design the stores, the packaging, and all that side of things. So we talk about the core customer being very much interested in that world as much as we are, and not just in certain areas but it’s actually kind of informs their entire lifestyle so to speak, so that they‘re just as concerned about what they wear on their back as what they have in their house, the type of furniture they buy, the cars they drive, and I think they have very strong aesthetic vision and I like to think we do as well. So I think that’s where that kind of dialogue between the brand and the customer comes in. So we talk a lot about the core customer being interested in that world. Being culturally aware, and having that kind of, how to describe it, it’s like a big city mindset, but you don’t necessarily have to live in a big city to have that type of mentality.

DA: That’s interesting. I think you’ve actually done really well. I feel like the entire creative population of Hong Kong is constantly decked out in COS head to toe. So I guess it sort of brings me to the next question. I actually had the pleasure of meeting the two creative directors here in Hong Kong.

COS: Yes, when we did the Andre Fu collaboration, that’s right.

DA: Yes, and found them to be incredibly inspiring and when they were talking about their creative process. So how do you go about making the brand or the product continually so timeless? I think that’s one thing that really appeals to me, that the pieces are just such great cool wardrobe staples. You know what I mean? They are timeless in design. And that’s one of the things that I love about it, that it’s not going to be so seasonal. It’s very refreshing to see that from the fashion world. So how do you go about doing that?

COS: That’s very flattering to hear, of course, thank you. To be honest with you, it’s intrinsic to the core brand DNA, and that was really the purpose of the brand from the very start, to provide clothing that feels contemporary and modern. But also has this sense of longevity. So of course when we talk about that kind of thing, an example is the COS iconic product, the classic white shirt, and always being able to find the classics, like the chino style pant. But each season it’s revisited.  So it could be a type of fabric we use where an evolution happens, or it could be a specific seam or it could be the length. Each season we feature what we can see to be timeless clothing, but again we evolve, we change it as the season progresses, so that it always feel current but the white shirt is the white shirt. So you know we always talk about modernity and not just trying to be modern but actually the philosophical sense of modernity is to look at your techniques and constantly revisit them to see how they can be improved. So that’s something that we do in every level of the brand, on a daily basis.  We call them the round table discussions, and we will sit around the table and it’s all of us, but the bulk of it is the creative team - the creative directors and the designers. But it’s something we feel is intrinsic to all areas of the brand. So it could be interiors, we have our own interior department. And they design all the stores and do all the façades. I’m not sure if you’ve seen images of the store in Seoul…

DA: Yes, it’s quite unique and different looking…

COS: And the one in Toronto is amazing, with the charred wood on the outside.

DA: Yes I did see that, that is amazing.

COS: We are always, each of us in different areas, trying to look at how the brand is perceived and how we feel we can keep evolving and create this sense of balance between the timelessness, but also with the modernity as well. But like I said its intrinsic core DNA and so again it’s that something we all, when you join the brand really, when you come in house, it’s part of the COS culture I would say.

DA: So that brings me to the environmental side of things and sustainability. How much of that is the core part of business and how important is that to COS?

COS: Well, it is of supreme importance, as it should be. And of course sustainability is a journey, which we have started. But again if we hark back to when we first developed the brand it’s something that we felt was an important core value. It’s this concept of timelessness again, and the longevity of the product.

DA: Right, making something that actually lasts…

COS: Making something that lasts…yes. Quality for us is huge importance to us, but it’s a balance of quality and affordability. So making sure it’s accessible for a bulk of people to buy into our kind of design aesthetic.  Also we look into new fabrics and production techniques that will help the garment to last for a long time. And of course the aesthetic itself, as you pointed out before, that sense of timelessness. And the fact we’re not so trend-led. So they can be worn far beyond what some people would consider to be a seasonal garment. You see that in the COS office a lot actually, I’ll often walk in, and I’ll say to one of the team “is that new?” and they’ll say, “No, it’s from 7 years ago.” So people are constantly revisiting what we had. Actually I do a lot. I had one shirt, which is my favourite, I got it in 2010, and I wear it sparingly now because I want to keep wearing it as long as possible…

DA: You need to get the designers to reissue it, so you can get another…

COS:  Yes! So again, it’s inherent.  I think from day one we talked about longevity of the garments through quality, the type of fabric you use and the making process itself. And as you know we are part of a bigger organisation where the concept of sustainability is enormously important, and our CEO Karl-Johan Persson set very high targets that all of us have to work towards in the next coming years. And our “10”, I do not know if you are familiar with our 10 year anniversary collection. It’s available in our Queen’s Road store. We explored the concept of making as much use of the fabric as possible…

DA: Yes I read about that. There’s a lot less wastage.

COS: It’s actually more a question of the fabric we use, because the off-cuts can be recycled or used to create something else. But again, looking to the future and how we can do this in terms of technique and moving it forward, and I think the idea of using as much of the fabric as possible is something that actually is even better. I think that the idea is to keep improving, season after season.

DA: The DA team are not only big fans of the clothing, but we’re also a big fan of the magazine…

COS: Oh, that’s good, thank you.

DA: But I’m kind of curious why you guys publish it? I think it’s a very interesting insight into the COS culture. What is the decision making process behind doing it?

COS: The magazine really came about for the very strong reason of being able to share with the customer. So as I mentioned before, again a lot of our inspiration comes from world design and again not just a specific area. It could be anywhere from art, architecture, to product, to graphics, various things, that our design team looks at all over the world. We always had a section on the website called Things which we still do, which talks about a lot of things that we see from over the place. Hopefully also it’s there to share, educate and even support emerging talent. And that’s really why it came about, to be able to talk about the COS inspiration, and personality to the customer, hopefully in a credible, beautiful format. We talk again a lot about tactility, and that’s also a reason why we felt about paper magazine would do that…

DA: Okay, I was just about to ask you why print not digital. The tactility is important…

COS: All the features are available online of course, for those who aren’t able to get their hands on a printed copy. It’s not that straight forward, we don’t just have a section called “magazine”, it’s all there, but it’s spread throughout the site. There are interviews, and the features and the images are all represented online as well…

DA: Well, I have managed to get a copy of the last few issues. The latest one particularly…

COS: Yes, that one... So it’s about having a direct kind of link and conversation with the customer and being able to, not just to bring them to our world, but also again help them understand and formulate the areas of design that we find interesting and hopefully they find interesting as well. Some of them are already very familiar with who we represent, and why we represent them and we always hear a lot of positive things about the magazine from Hans Ulrich Obrist from Serpentine and…

DA: Yes, he was just here last week for the Art Basel.

COS: He’s brilliant and he often refers back to things that we’ve had in magazine from years and years ago. “I remember when you featured this person, and this person is now doing this” and we’re all like “oh wow, that’s amazing!”

DA: Actually I just read his interview with the duo from Studio Swine.

COS:  Yes, I think it was last S/S issue that they were featured. And now of course we are working with them on the installation at Salone in Milan.

DA: So why Salone?  As a fashion brand, why participate in a design event in Milan? It’s kind of interesting to see how a lot more non-design brands feel the importance of having a presence there. I’m wondering what is the philosophy behind that, and the decision making process of how you choose to work with the people that you do.

COS:  Well, it’s our sixth partnership with Salone this year. So we have been there since 2011, and its incredible to see the journey of not just what we’ve presented, but actually Salone itself. It seems to grow each year and becomes even more special.  I think the original idea behind it was going back, as you mentioned, to the D word, the design world that just runs through every aspect of what we do and the way we do it.

The very first year we didn’t actually even have a store in Italy when we first chose to have a presentation there. So that’s actually quite interesting. But I think we genuinely felt that we were already familiar with the concept of Salone and the concept of the fair, and of course the fact that all of the Milan seems to participate. It wasn’t just about the fair in the convention centre itself, it was actually that the whole city comes alive and recognises the importance of design. So that is really the principle reason that the city itself becomes such a design hub. It’s not just about going to the fair, it’s actually about looking at everything around it as well. And of course it’s very international, and we just felt again a lot of the people who may or may not be familiar with COS as a brand would certainly be coming into that city, so again it could be an opportunity for us to, again, not just gain our inspiration, but actually be inspired enough to create some kind of partnership or collaboration and have people come and see what we can do and how we can do it and also again to generate feedback  and dialogue with design people and of course the general public, existing COS customers and hopefully the new ones as well really.

It really was a talking point, sharing, giving something back as well. Hopefully you will see it next week and maybe you will feel the same vibe.  But it’s very much about just creating an interesting experience now more than anything else, to create that kind of the feeling the people have maybe when they are not so familiar with us and walking into the store for the first time. And hopefully they are quite pleasantly surprised, especially when their friend’s told them about it or something like that. We sometimes get the feedback that “oh, we hadn’t heard about COS before, but we went in, it was such a nice experience for us.” So we often think of the word experience as well when we refer back to how we want the brand to be conveyed. That’s really, what I like to think what we were able to kind of achieve with Salone.

I mean in terms of the partnership, again, it’s of supreme important to us. We had very different disciplines over the last few years. We’ve worked with design studios, we’ve worked with architects, and even this kind of element kind of artistic involvement as well. But they are all quite different in their field…

DA: And that’s a deliberate choice?

COS: It’s deliberate in the sense that, we’ve always partnered with people whose work we actually looked at over the last few years. So Karin, our creative director, very much feels we should work with the people that have inspired us and have given us so many ideas. So we think if they help us, give us some inspiration, perhaps they would be able to also create something that feels like the COS experience in this environment as well. We’ve been very lucky because everybody we approached to say “we’ve been so inspired by your work, would you consider of working with us on this?” They’ve all come back and said “yes”.

DA: Fantastic! I wasn’t in Milan last year but it was a partnership with Sou Fujimoto, right? I heard that was one of the most photographed installations. Very much looking forward to this year.

COS: Yes, it was interesting, very much so. I think this year’s collaboration with Alex and Azusa of Studio Swine will be super interesting.

DA: I can’t wait to meet them. They sound really, really interesting. Unlike anyone else. Fascinating couple. Okay, last question. COS just celebrated its 10 year anniversary, what do you see for the next ten years? I know that’s a very broad question…

COS: Well we’re always looking forward as much as we are revisiting, but I think we still feel very excited about the prospect of the brand in different areas. We talked a lot about the concept of accessibility, so we still have probably plenty of areas we look into, in terms of retail growth and new markets to look into. And it’s always nice to hear about that your friend is waiting for us in the Philippines! Of course we are excited to hopefully at some stage be able to go there. I think there are many other markets that we have been very fortunate enough to get some feedback on as well.  So from a business perspective that’s really the areas we’re looking towards.

There are also so many other international creative environments that we would ideally want to participate in, and talking about accessibility, the experiences we create at Salone going further afield.

We are also our own best and worst critics, so we often look inwards to see how we’re doing, how we can improve. Going back to the philosophical concept of modernity, what are we doing, how are we doing it, can we make it better. And I think when it comes to looking forward, it’s about doing things the best way we can do it. And looking to focus on who we are and what we’re doing. Giving the best back to the customer. And if we can do that for the next ten years we’ll be very happy.

 

Pon Ding

A chance encounter four years ago at a Bangkok design fair between Japanese designer Yoichi Nakamuta and married couple Indonesian industrial designer Kenyon Yeh and Taiwanese publisher Yichiu Chen led to opening this spring of Taipei's newest cultural hotspot. Pon Ding is a cafe, independent bookstore, gallery and event space all rolled into one. 'It's more of a casual art museum, a creative institution,’ says Chen of the space.

Good Design Store

A case study on design for small retail spaces, featuring the PMQ-located Good Design Store

Creating innovative retail interiors is always part art, part science, but when space is severely limited it is even more important to get the balance right. The Good Design Store at Hong Kong’s PMQ offers a masterclass in striking the perfect mix of quiet efficiency and maximum style while retaining a distinctive Japanese experience, making the tiny 27-square-metre store one of our favourite spots in the city.

Oxford Bookstore

Oxford Bookstore by Normal Studio

Paris-based Normal Studio’s first foray into interior design, following years of eloquently paring down products, furniture and graphics for manufacturers and galleries, is the sleek, playful Oxford Bookstore in New Delhi.

Housed in a colonial-era building, the 500-square-metre shop replaces doors with inviting archways, plays with the scale of furnishings and features display vignettes that guide circulation.