March 08 2010
Lucia van der Post
Quirky stores with a take of their own, where we have a sense of real excitement as we cross the threshold, are pretty scarce these days. When we find one, we tend to treasure it and visit it whenever we find ourselves anywhere near it.
So it is with Merci, the wonderfully idiosyncratic Parisian store started by Marie-France Cohen, one of the founders of the über-luxe children’s brand, Bonpoint. I never go to Paris without dropping in to see what it is up to. Merci, regular readers may remember, is almost like Marie-France Cohen’s gift to herself. After the years of slog building up Bonpoint, and having sold it for what is clearly a life-changing sum of money, she now has the luxury of running a store which is more like a museum-cum-gallery than a shop. As I wrote when it opened, Marie-France Cohen “sees herself more as a curator of beautiful things than a utilitarian shopkeeper”.
So what one finds is a mixture of avant-garde and vintage, bespoke and mass-produced, all of it, though, pleasing in some way to the very elegant Cohen. She gives all the profits to charity and doesn’t have to worry about bottom lines. All this makes a visit to her store special.
So it is seriously exciting news that this month Liberty, another store much admired for its own individual take on contemporary retailing, is embarking on a swap-shop with Merci. Cohen and the Merci team have come up with a range of products using traditional Liberty prints – MT Tape, made from Japanese “Washi” (rice) paper, suitcases covered in Liberty fabric, napkins, the trademark Merci sofa, notebooks – which will all be on sale in Liberty’s Carnaby Street room (until April 1), while Liberty will be taking a collection of its wares to Merci in Paris (until March 21). Anybody with children should rush to Liberty to see Marie-France Cohen’s collection for children – all the Bonpoint chic, but at more user-friendly prices (from £20 for a Liberty print bib).
(Pictured: Liberty print cushions, from £25; fabric medal bracelets, £5; small vanity case, £35; notebooks, from £7; mug, £15.)