I must admit; after two wonderful days of sightseeing in Paris, I was not entirely thrilled about going to the Maison et Objet trade show yesterday even though that was the whole point of this trip. The devil kept whispering things in my ear like, “Get lost on the Metro and ‘accidentally’ end up at Versailles or at the Musee d’Orsay instead of at the show!” With so much still to do and see in Paris, the last thing I felt up to was traipsing around a trade show looking at the same vendors and lines I’ve seen before a hundred times in the U.S. But I could not have been more wrong. I’m glad I went with the group to M&O, and I wholeheartedly recommend the experience to all of you designers, shop owners, and style makers out there if you ever have the opportunity to be in Paris for the show.
So, what IS this Maison et Objet business anyway, you may be asking? Well, the only thing I have to compare it with is the High Point Furniture Market in the U.S. Imagine what the High Point Market would be like if all those different exhibition spaces were adjacent to one another so you didn’t have to schlep all over the place, and then multiply the size and number of exhibitors by four or five. There are exhibitors showing everything from home furnishings to accessories, linens, fabrics, trims, small accessories and gift items, home fragrance, outdoor, etc. Now envision every vendor’s booth looking as though the space was professionally designed and styled for an advertising photo shoot, so you feel like you’re walking through the beautiful ads in Veranda and Architectural Digest. It’s an alternate universe from the shows in the U.S.! All those resources that have eluded you, the truly unique, must-have product lines you’ve been searching for that your competition isn’t offering because they can’t find them either – they’re all here at Maison et Objet, the premier European trade show for the interior design industry. According to the show management, over 90% of the exhibitors at Maison et Objet do not participate in any of the U.S. shows. And even though this show is much larger and more comprehensive than what we have in the U.S., I found it to be a less stressful and more enjoyable experience overall. The entire show is infused with French hospitality. At High Point, I couldn’t even get a decent cup of coffee inside the exhibition buildings. At Maison et Objet, they have gourmet food stands, sit down restaurants, and a Ladurée macaroon stand shaped like a carriage from the ancien regime – and that’s just in the one hall I was able to visit today. Here’s a photo of designer Octive Healey from our group, getting her macaroon fix at the Ladurée stand:
Susan and Deb arranged for our group to get access to Le Club at M&O (the VIP lounge) and all sorts of other perks and privileges. I was expecting Le Club to be something like the Frequent Flyer lounge at the airport, but it blew away all my expectations. Have you ever seen on E! TV when they take you backstage at the Oscars to show you the “Green Room” where all the stars hang out before they go on stage? That’s what Le Club was like. Here I am, savoring one of several free cappuccinos I enjoyed at Le Club:
This next photo, from left to right, shows my roommate Maria Vila, Tammi Le Nair, and Karyn Caldwell (the Karyn from yesterday’s post), enjoying free refreshments at the bar inside Le Club:
…and in this photo we have product designer and book author Jackie Von Tobel and designer Octive Healey relaxing at Le Club before heading out to the exhibit floor:
Photography was not allowed at the show, and Karyn even got chased out of one booth just for sketching, so I’m going to have to do my best to describe some of the treasures I discovered. I fell head over heels in love with Zuber, a high end fabric and wallcovering company that has been manufacturing in France since 1797, and their factory is actually classified as a national historic monument. They are still using over 100,000 original woodblocks from the 18th and 19th century, which gives their line a unique character and authenticity. I drooled all over their embossed velvet damask wallcoverings, and I could barely tear myself away from their exquisite hand embroidered and appliquéd fabrics. I didn’t even think fabrics like this existed anymore! I know you’re thinking “Damask, velvet, embroidery, I can get those anywhere,” but these fabrics and wallcoverings are on a completely different level. This was my favorite exhibitor yesterday by far, so please take a look at Zuber’s web site to learn more, even though the photos there do not do the line justice: http://www.zuber.fr/default_zone/gb/html/page-23.html Zuber has a showroom in New York City, and their line is also represented at Stark Carpet in the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles.
But fortunately for you, after awhile I got brazen and began interpreting the “NO PHOTOGRAPHY” signs as “NO PHOTOGRAPHY EXCEPT FOR REBECCA IF SHE CAN’T HELP IT AND NO ONE’S LOOKING,” so I do have a couple of interesting photos to share with you. I loved this whimsical scrolled iron chandelier featuring wooden tassel beads instead of the expected glass or crystal accents:
The heading on this readymade drapery panel caught my eye as well with its tidy horizontal pleating and simple grosgrain ribbon intertwined as though it was braided:
I saw a lot of ribbon embroidery at the show, with rosettes and floral ribbon embroidery (like what you’d see in vintage millinery) made to feel fresh and modern in tone-on-tone colorways of taupey lavender, gray and neutrals. I’ve got a couple of books on ribbon embroidery stashed away at home, so I know this is something I’m going to experiment with when I get home.
At one point Karyn sat down in the middle of this fun exhibit where retro “flower power” prints were shown with deep, muted plums, and I just had to take her picture because I loved how her blouse fabric blended into the display like she was part of the vignette:
In the afternoon, the high end Italian textile company Dedar conducted a special presentation of their new product offerings just for our group. Here’s the Dedar rep showing us an interesting unevenly flocked velvet damask that is flocked in some places, but not in others – in person, this technique creates a magical 3-D illusion as though parts of the pattern are floating freely in the air just in front of the fabric:
What I loved most at Dedar were their overscaled patterns with enormous repeats, several of which could fill an entire standard length drapery panel with one repeat, and the soft, luxurious hand of all of their fabrics, even the polyester fabrics that were rated for commercial applications. Look how beautifully Dedar merchandised their passementerie collection for the show, as though their trimmings were delicious candy treats:
Back at Le Club later in the day, Philippe Bazin held a show overview and trend presentation on behalf of M&O management just for our group of designers and bloggers. The show organizers were very interested in our feedback and asked for suggestions on how to encourage more Americans to attend Maison et Objet in the future. That’s our Beth Hodges to the right of the girl presenting for M&O, and Sue and Jackie on the left. The back of designer Sarah Youngblood’s head is in the foreground at left, and Philippe Bazin is on the far right:
I want to leave you with one thought tonight: Out of all the registered show attendees at Maison et Objet 2010, only 2300 came from the U.S., and many of those 2300 were teams of buyers sent to M&O by big companies like Williams Sonoma or Pottery Barn. Only 6% of the attendees at this international show hail from the U.S.! Your competition isn’t here, and your clients haven’t seen these products yet – but it’s what they will all be wanting a year or two from now. If you want to position yourself as an expert on what’s hot in design, you need to be able to anticipate the next big trend before it hits and be the first in your area share these offerings with your clients. Going to this show will give you a huge competitive advantage in your market, and the fact that it’s in Paris is just the icing on the macaroon!