Whenever I enter the La Garçonne store in Tribeca—a fashion mecca for those who favor minimalism and modernist cuts—I spend as much time looking at the merchandise as I do at the other shoppers (and what they’re wearing, of course). Last week, I had the best sighting to date: a French gentleman donning a floral bucket hat and Birkenstocks, thumbing through a boutique publication with a bottle of Rosé chilling nearby.
Turns out this vision of Parisienne style was Alexandre Thumerelle, founder of cult-favorite art bookstore Ofr., a librairie-galerie located in the Marais district in Paris. He was in town doing a collaboration pop-up shop with La Garçonne over the weekend of May 8.
Taking another look at my surroundings, I saw a series of minimalistic drawings on sheets of newspaper by the designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac—think Matisse meets Basquiat—lining the wall. (My favorite was the figure of a man falling through the air, reminiscent of the Mad Men opener, with a photograph of former French President Sarkozy in the background.) Beneath the drawings were beautifully-framed portraits by Jeanloup Sieff; Matisse himself made an appearance in a notebook full of his sweeping, jazzy scrawl. Resting easily on one table was a collection of unsheathed black and white photographs by Paolo Roversi; the purchase-ready editions were wrapped in thin, white paper like a letter and clad with a red, wax seal.
I sat down to have a glass of wine with Alexandre, who proceeded to tell me how he came to open Ofr.: At the age of 18, he had been working in the film industry in Paris. Finding the three-year long production process for a single film repetitive and dull, he was drawn to the fast pace of magazines and decided in 1996 to open a shop of his own that would become a community of creative innovation for the daring intellectuals of Paris. “Ofr.” which stands for “open, free, and ready,” boasts an inspiring collection of art and photography publications, art prints, graphic literature, endless fanzines, and their own Guide Paris. Since opening in 1996, the brand has grown to include over 110 permanent and temporary shops worldwide. The Paris location still hosts weekly art exhibits and events, book launches, and even an artist-in-residence series.
Alexandre showed me his own “Bon Voyage,” an avant-garde travel publication, which often features photographs of his daughter and two sons from the trips he takes each child on once a year. I was sad to part from conversation with such an elegant and playful man, and sadder to learn that the pop-up shop only ran for three days. The next chance I get, I plan to visit Alexandre’s cultural haven in Paris—and I advise anyone with an opportunity to do the same.