By  on July 26, 2011

The cradle of high fashion is branching out. The city will host itsfirst design week in September, with more than 80 events across thecapital showcasing a wide range of the latest creations from France andaround the world.

SAFI, the group that organizes Maison &Objet, the Paris home fashion and design trade show for professionals,also initiated Paris Design Week to reach a broader audience, much likedesign weeks held in London, Tokyo and Milan. The new event is scheduledfor Sept. 12 to 18, to coincide with the final days of the Maison &Objet show, branching off the professional salon’s 85,000 attendeeswith a citywide happening open to the public.

It will take placein an eclectic array of venues, inviting visitors to purchase creationshot off international trade show floors, view works in progress, attendconferences and meet players in the industry amid a festivalatmosphere.

With the help of a guide, the public will be able towander through the city, attend exhibits held in temporary andpermanent showrooms, galleries, ateliers and even hotels, restaurantsand apartments, where new designs in the largest sense of the word willbe on display.

From dessert concoctions or an inflatablesurfboard to home and kitchen fashion, any form of “art de vivre” isencouraged in the festival, said Philippe Chomat, the director ofcommunications for Paris Design Week. Helping prolong the Maison &Objet show, objects that were previewed there will be exhibited and forsale at the Galeries Lafayette Maison store.

“I saw that it wasa beautiful opportunity to wake Paris up,” said Odile Fillion, directorof Jean Nouvel Design, which is transforming the French architect anddesigner’s headquarters into a temporary showroom for Paris Design Week.She also said the sector could use a “positive project,” after lossesfrom the economic crisis. “If we can make Paris lively and a place ofdiscovery for the greater public and professionals, then we should doit.”

Signs the French market was increasingly interested “in thecontemporary” suggested it was time to launch a design week, saidChomat. What’s more, design weeks “are increasingly being created in bigcities, to give more visibility to showrooms.”

But organizersalso hope Paris Design Week will have a voice of its own, bringingattention to the more than 8,000 designers living in the capital region,as well as stimulating business following the economic crisis.

“Ourdesire is to be much more diverse than what happens elsewhere,” saidChomat.

Besides new creations from big brands such asCappellini, Cassina, Poltrona Frau and Modenature, roughly 60lesser-known designers, young collectives and students at the start oftheir careers will show original and experimental work at the Docks enSeine.

“We don’t speak up strongly enough on design. We had akind of complex,” said Jean-Luc Colonna d’Istria, director of generalmarketing at Paris concept store Merci. For Paris Design Week, Merciwill exhibit more than 150 pieces by the next generation of Japanesedesigners, discovered over a year-and-a-half of research throughout thatcountry, in a show titled “Sugao.”

Colonna d’Istria echoed theshared view that although there is no shortage of design creativity,“there is not enough distribution for young creators in France,” due torelatively “conservative” investment in design distribution compared toother European countries. The Merci show will introduce works that evoke“the Japan that isn’t seen.”

“These are artists who don’t goafter the big lights, but are interested in how an object can be used,”said Colonna d’Istria. “We have to get out of this very closed clan ofpeople in design, and get out on the street."


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