Artistry in Action
June 3, 2012
Right after it opened, the glittering new Moynat boutique easily shot to the top as one of the city’s glamorous shopping addresses. Bernard Arnault, CEO of the luxury behemoth LVMH, acquired the venerable luggage company last year with the clear intention of revamping the once-iconic manufacturer much as he did with Louis Vuitton in the 1990s.
Moynat Malletier (trunk maker) was founded in 1849—before both Louis Vuitton and Goyard—when an enterprising young woman named Pauline Moynat teamed up with the Coulembier trunk manufacturers to capitalize on the popularity of train and boat travel. The company enjoyed a huge success because its innovations matched the times: Train cases were lightweight and precisely measured to slide under seats; instead of vulnerable leather, steamer trunks—often stowed in humid ship holds—were covered in sturdy, moisture-resistant linen canvas treated with gutta-percha, an early latex.
With the advent of automobile travel, the trunks were ingeniously curved to fit the contours of a motorcar’s roof, or opened laterally for easy access. Moynat’s success was fueled both by her talent for anticipating travelers' needs and her ingenuity—one reason why Ramesh Nair, the designer behind the new Moynat, has gone to great lengths to incorporate some of her signature flourishes, from the subtle curves of the women’s handbags to elegant brass T-locks on men’s briefcases and false bottoms for hiding sensitive documents.
Destined to be one of Moynat’s key pieces, the reversible two-toned tote in Taurillon, a supple and durable bull-calf leather, comes in bone/coral or mocha/taupe, and can be easily reversed with no discernable difference. With two handle lengths, the bag is simple, lightweight and durable. The serigraph tote, made of a waterproof cotton/linen blend and reminiscent of Goyard’s wildly popular version, is another instant classic. Men’s briefcases are brilliantly engineered with one convex side to accommodate a wide stride without banging against the leg. Small leather goods are lined with a burnished orange leather that compliments all of the company’s other colors. Every item is masterfully and discreetly crafted—top quality without instant logo recognition, in line with the times.
Prices are commensurate: totes start at about $900, custom luggage can easily exceed $20,000. A generous silk scarf ($400) or keychain ($220) are nice consolations for those who want a little piece of the glamour without spending a fortune, but they will still have to come to Paris to get it, at what is currently the world’s sole Moynat boutique.
Age old luxuries
Marina Life’s magenta-graffiti storefront may seem irreverent in its dignified stretch of rue Saint Dominique, but the concept behind it—to support a disappearing artisanal heritage—is anything but. Owner Marina de Charette is passionate about preserving a tradition of fine custom-made items for the home, and has scoured France and her native Italy to find artisans making contemporary versions of age-old luxuries: made-to-measure sheets, velvet bedcovers, chunky knit blankets in softest wool, table linens, colorful rugs, silk or linen lampshades, unique furnishings and small decorative items with a very Parisian flair.
Nearly everything can be personalized in a range of colors, fabrics and designs. Sheets in cotton satin, almost like silk, or a soft, easy-to-care-for cotton/linen blend only get better with time. Paired with pillowcases and shams—embroidered or with a transparent border of whispery cotton voile—a full set would cost about $500, says de Charette, “couture quality at a prêt-à-porter price”.
Area rugs, designed by Emmanuel Pierre and produced at the famous Parisian manufacturer Catry Codimat, come in 22 patterns, including colorful paisley, leopard, bamboo lattice and intricate florals that can be mixed and matched. Among the most popular items are handmade decoupage plates in all shapes and sizes, starting at about $60. All items are one-of-a-kind or limited series, and can be shipped anywhere in the world.
Ceramic artists Jae-Hyun Cheong and Stéphane Froger, founders of the lovely boutique/workshop Le Petit Atelier de Paris, chose as their motto "du bonheur au quotidien"—happiness in the everyday. Opened in 2005, their harmonious, light-filled space is devoted to useful and beautiful porcelain for the home, created on the spot. All in white—some with their hallmark tiny gold stars, their plates, platters, bowls and egg cups are versatile enough for daily use and also function as accent pieces. A set of six delicate small vases in subtly oblong shapes reminiscent of eggshells are so pleasing to touch that it’s hard to resist holding them. Rounded wooden containers handmade in the Jura by a company that has made artisanal cheese boxes for decades make very French gift boxes, priced at €2–€6. Every year from November through January a guest artist is also invited to exhibit original works at the shop.
Moynat 348 rue Saint Honoré, 1st. 01.47.03.83.90. website
Marina Life 34 rue Saint Dominique, 7th. 01.45.55.83.15. website
Le Petit Atelier de Paris 31 rue de Montmorency, 3rd (closed mid–Feb to mid–Mar). 01.44.54.91.40. website
Originally published in the March 2012 issue of France Today
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