Why I Buy What I Buy
Where does the man behind New York's Conran Shop go for inspiration? Paris, bien sûr!
As Vice President of the Conran Shop in New York, Emmanuel Plat must not only stay abreast of design trends but create them as well. To keep that eye fresh, he returns regularly to his hometown, Paris—where he first worked for the company—for an infusion of style. A Sorbonne history graduate and a former magazine journalist, Plat is keenly curious, and the French capital offers endless stimulation. "Whether I'm at a store, museum, or market, or on the terrace of a café, I always get inspiration for my work," he says.
A PERFECT SUIT
At Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, a sort of Parisian Barneys, you'll find a choice of various international fashion labels along with clothes by French créateurs and house brands, including Le Bon Marché and Balthazar. I buy all my suits here; not only are they elegant but they're also moderately priced [$450-$525]—and I know that no one else in New York will be wearing the same thing. Don't miss Delicabar, the chic snack bar in the women's fashion area, for a quick bite. At 24 Rue de Sèvres, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/44-39-80-00; www.lebonmarche.fr.
CAKE AS ART
La Grande Epicerie de Paris offers the best food selection in the city, with its 30,000 delicacies and outstanding wine cellar. The prepared-food counters are elaborate and colorful, and they always give me ideas for product display at Conran. Look for such signature pieces as a perfectly square chocolate cake simply named Le Gâteau, and Les Verrines, an artfully layered sweet and savory mousse served in a shot glass. These spectacular pastries also taste delicious. At 38 Rue de Sèvres, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/44-39-81-00; www.lagrandeepicerie.fr.
If you're looking for things by up-and-coming artists as well as the classic icons of design, visit Sentou. Collections by French designers, among them Tsé & Tsé and Robert le Héros, are carried in Sentou's four locations; the three stores in the Marais offer the largest selection. I particularly like the 100drine tin boxes. These kitchen-storage items are fun, graphic, and practical. All in Fourth Arr.: At 18 Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, 33-1/42-77-44-79; 24 Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, 33-1/42-71-00-01; 29 Rue François Miron, 33-1/42-78-50-60; www.sentou.fr.
I first saw Mandarina Duck watches at Printemps Design au Centre Pompidou. We ended up choosing the line for the New York shop. I visit the boutique to see the eclectic and ever-changing range of gifts, along with the bookstore. And of course I always take in the main exhibition. Piazza Forum du Centre Pompidou, Fourth Arr.; 33-1/44-78-15-78; www.cnac-gp.fr.
Rue Montorgueil, which I consider the classic Parisian street, has managed to hold off the international chains. I go for the amazing fruit and vegetable merchants, bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, and the half-dozen or so authentic restaurants and cafés. With a glass of wine, I sit in a Bertoia chair on the terrace of the café Santi (whose Castiglioni Taraxacum hanging lamps I always admire) and watch the scene. I learn more about trends there than I do when I read magazines. $ Santi, 49 Rue Montorgueil, Second Arr.; 33-1/42-21-36-58.
EAU DE PERFUME
Many have tried to copy Colette—Paris's first-ever concept store—with its clever mix of housewares, fashions, and food. But no one has yet succeeded. A rendezvous for models, fashionistas, journalists, and actors, the store defines the latest in pop culture. Push through the crowds and you'll uncover the ultimate gadget before it appears anywhere else. Last time I bought the Eau de Colette in a cool bottle. Pick up one of the mixed Colette CDs (the first five are now collector's items) and refresh yourself at the downstairs water bar. At 213 Rue St.-Honoré, First Arr.; 33-1/55-35-33-90; www.colette.fr.
Philippe Starck recently transformed the former residence of art patrons Marie-Laure and Charles de Noailles into La Maison Baccarat, the crystal company's headquarters. A crystal table six and a half feet long is the centerpiece of the boutique, forming a striking contrast to the concrete walls. At the Conran Shop, we've been inspired by Starck's juxtaposition of contemporary furniture with antiques. Peek into Cristal Room Baccarat, the restaurant. Reservations must be made at least two months ahead! At 11 Place des Etats-Unis, 16th Arr.; restaurant : 33-1/40-22-11-10; www.baccarat.fr.
If you collect one-of-a-kind furniture or objects, go to Galerie Kreo for the city's most adventuresome pieces—limited editions by design stars Jasper Morrison and Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, for example—as well as vintage furniture. My own favorite here is the Zenith Chair by Marc Newson. It was produced in an edition of only eight and is sold out, but I could not have afforded it anyway. $ At 22 Rue Duchefdelaville, 13th Arr.; 33-1/53-60-18-42; www.galeriekreo.com.
Between the posh Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore, in St.-Germain des Prés, is La Hune, one of Paris's most engaging bookstores, with a comprehensive lineup of volumes on design, art, architecture, and photography. On my last trip here, I got an issue of Art Press, a brilliant French magazine. At 170 Blvd. St.-Germain, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/45-48-35-85.
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