BONJOUR TRISTESSE (translation: "Hello Sadness") was a book written by Francoise Sagan for another generation depressed by limitations of the status quo. It might as well be the title of the current mood that’s palpable in Paris.
As I drove into a sleepy town from the airport 2 days ago – it was still dawn – I first thought that the city had not quite awakened from the lazy pace of "les vacances," the traditional long August respite. Vehicles all around us were trussed with bikes, canoes and all manner of vacation paraphernalia making their way back to reality. But I have been here this time of year before – when, with the return of the people, came the roar of renewed energy. That’s decidedly lacking this time around.
Since it is my pattern before Maison & Objet opens to look at prominent retailers that can usually be counted on for the first signs of change, or at least evolution in color and design, they, too, appear amazingly dull. "Triste," the adjective to "Tristesse," is the best word to describe the listless offerings.
Displays look tired and offer no news. The omnipresence of gray, which once looked fresh, crisp and sophisticated (about 5 years ago) is starting to get stale and old. Likewise, colors, if any, or fabrics fail to uplift as they persist in the purple and pink to raspberry range. Black remains the only constant accent.
Store shelves look relatively empty, as do many restaurants, including some of the tourist hotspots on the Champs Elysees and the Left Bank – not surprising following the end of the traditional August Sales, but more so this time around. Only retailing’s small specialists seem to be making an effort toward a new season, primarily in home accessories rather than furnishings. Lighting, in particular, shows promising signs of creativity, with architectural elements often used for lamp bases.
Texture is decidedly more pronounced than ever.That’s an ongoing trend which easily started at least two to three seasons ago. Especially heavy knits, which also appear prominently in apparel, are getting ever more complex for the home – high profile evidence on blankets and throws in particular. Wool is ascending, including mohairs and decorative pillows, even used on beds – and not just by virtue of the impending cooler season. Fur accessories are everywhere, both real and faux. If anything, that’s a trend that keeps growing ever stronger, newly reinforced by the explosive return of animal hide patterns of every origin. Feather trim is also still with us – in one striking example added onto a corduroy throw.
There are more metal studs and grommets than anyone knows what to do with – except makers of handbags, stiletto dominatrix booties, belts – and, yes, leather pillows. These go hand-in-hand with leather jackets, another great catalyst for metal accent razzle-dazzle, some artfully torn to coordinate with equally artfully torn jeans.
Even the museum circuit is wanting of any major exhibitions on offer. Perhaps, the month of September will change all that, but as of this writing things are pretty quiet on the culture front as well.
Nevertheless, I look forward with great anticipation for better news to come with the opening of what is traditionally and arguably the most inspiring exhibition for decorative products and fresh lifestyle takes. Back to you from the show.