Eye on Design | Paris | Merci | A Store to be Thankful For

Eye on Design | Paris | Merci | A Store to be Thankful For

Not only is Merci ("thank you" in French) one of the most fabulous stores in Paris, it's a store with a heart...all profits from their 16,000 square feet of designer products go to charity.  In March of 2009, Bernand and Marie-France Cohen, the couple behind the luxury children’s clothing brand Bonpoint, opened the Paris concept store, Merci.  Having had great success with their children's brand, they decided to develop a way to "pay it forward." And so they asked themselves these questions: Give, but how?  How to be supportive?  How to generate funds in a sustainable manner without calling for donations or charity?  A concept store combining luxury consumerism with philanthropy? The answer has been a resounding, "YES."  Inside an 18th century building on Boulevard Beaumarchais is a masterful contemporary space that holds several levels of décor, furniture, and fashion, in addition to a bookstore, a florist, several cafés, and a garden.  Concrete, wood, and steel, lit with tall windows and skylights, are the setting for the stylish enterprise. All profits go to a foundation that helps disadvantaged children.  Marie-France Cohen has established a foundation where profits of the store will help to get young women and children off of the streets, and teach them skills and trades to help them achieve a better life. Merci is a mecca of cutting-edge design, so it's pretty effortless to find something to help the cause.  Fashion designers including Isabel Marant, YSL, Chloé, Stella McCartney, Marni, and Paul Smith have pitched in by offering unique pieces at a thirty to forty percent discount below their typical prices, foregoing their share of profits. Fashion accessories are displayed among antique furniture and home dècor, which is also for sale. High-end brands are balanced with basics, as well as unusual artisan-crafted merchandise.  These dishes are made of sugar cane fiber.  The fork and spoon are wood.  Chic and eco-friendly at the same time. Old becomes new: traditional silverware that's made contemporary in the hands of an artist with a hammer. I absolutely LOVE these washed linens.  Tablecloths, dishtowels, napkins, sheets, duvet covers, pillow covers...oh, the colors, oh, the shapes, oh, the textures...ooh la la!  (Yes, I do get rather excited about linens.) This door isn't actually a door...it's adhesive trompe-l'œil wall-art.  The planks on the wall next to it are the same, sold in large sheets. The lofty space in the main entrance is a constantly changing display of contemporary goods, like these colorful products from Japan. If you go to Merci, time it so you can have lunch there.  The menu changes according to what is in season, and the offerings are written on a black board.  Honestly, everything is delicious...you can close your eyes and point and you'll be happy with what you order.  Here's just a small sampling of the food...a fresh vegetable quiche topped with cherry tomatoes, a delectable and colorful medley of salads, and, truly not to be missed, a raspberry plum crumble to die for.  The tables are communal, and every time I go there, I leave with new friends.  (You know who you are.) People shopping there seem open to making new acquaintances...maybe it's something in the air. This little girl was exploring the garden that's open to the café.  Seeing her reminded me of the children that were the inspiration for the business. Who would have thought that, in a major metropolitan city, there would be a successful economic model of business that is less about the accumulation of wealth, and more about giving excess back to those less fortunate?  Let's hope that others will be inspired by the Cohens noble and generous contribution to the world.  They have given us the opportunity to provide happiness for others, simply by shopping for ourselves.  Magnifique. A quote by French author, Jean Giono, appears on the Merci website: “J’ai ce que j’ai donné.” I have, what I have given. Let's take that message into 2012. Merci 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais 75003 Paris +33 1 42 77 00 33 Métro Saint Sébastien-Froissart http://www.merci-merci.com
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