When I was planning a recent trip to Paris, a stylish French friend sent me his list of must-sees: new restaurants and hotels particuliers, and one bijou boutique by the name of Brigitte Tanaka.
With no time to waste during my 72 hours in the city, I made this Franco-Japanese mini concept shop, which is literally tucked into the wall of the 17th-century Eglise Saint-Roch, off the Rue Saint-Honoré, my very first stop.
I fell immediately in love with the charming space, which occupies just 21sq m. Once home to Robespierre’s barber and later an antiques store specialising in religious trinkets, the beautiful building – now listed – has been thoughtfully transformed into an eclectic collectables and curiosities emporium by its chic owners Brigitte Giraudi and Chieko Tanaka.
The store is spread across three tiny floors that are connected by a sculptural staircase; I felt as if I had happened into a playhouse – albeit one with a sensibility reminiscent of the designer and antiquaire Axel Vervoordt. The light-filled ground floor has a magical ambience, and the church music that can be heard through the thick stone walls certainly put me in an acquisitive mood. I was greeted by Giraudi herself: she also designs some of their pieces, and was a font of wonderful ideas as I looked for something special to bring back for my (very particular) daughter’s birthday.
The jewellery in particular caught my eye: quirky rings that flip to reveal French and Japanese flags (€240), antique-made-modern crystal-like resin drop earrings (€315), heart-shaped “locket” rings (€145), and delicate necklaces embedded with blue, white and red stones (€390) that manage to be à la mode and patriotic at the same time.
Antique tables beckon with their spreads of customisable tableware: white ceramic mugs and plates by Richard Brendon (from €40) can be personalised with gold initials (€25 for small typography, €35 for large) – a service that takes place in the tiny corridor that forms the boutique’s lower level.
As shopping here is an intimate experience – you are one-on-one with whichever owner is in the store that day – I was happy to hear stories about everything from enticing ancienne painted fans (€550) to unique rings (from €90) made from antique objects designed by Giraudi.
I was also enchanted by a set of five fine Japanese usuhari drinking glasses (€140), embroidered wicker bags (€75) with côte sud elegance, and an envelope pochette (€240) – but in the end I had to go with packable pieces, so I opted for a whisper-thin gold ring with a glass button stone (€95) for my teenager, and 10 boxes of the sweetest mini-matches featuring the city’s monuments (12 for €12). For me, these matches encapsulate the Brigitte Tanaka aesthetic: they are miniature, functional and extremely tasteful – and they remain my favourite souvenir from Paris.