That’s “thank you” in French. Pronounced mer-see. Isn’t it such a soft, soothing, wonderful sound to express gratitude. And Merci is what this post is all about.
“Paris’ latest shopping sensation” according to TimeOut Magazine, this three-floor artistic brainchild of Bernard and Marie-France Cohen sits in a 19th-century fabric factory at 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, in the heart of history district Haut Marais.
They sell clothes, they sell food, they sell beauty products, they sell household goods, they sell an unprecedented concept that generates employment for young creative minds and aids human development in Africa.
In 2009, this shop opened its door to say Merci to life and thus, as the most appropriate and pragmatic action, they provide a launch pad to young designers and profits received are channelled to an endowment to pay for educational projects and development in south-west Madagascar.
The unchanging ethos of Merci is to provide something for everybody – be it “small budgets or large projects”, “young or not so young”, “local or international” – they want their customers to feel comfortable, understood and accepted. Nevertheless, they operate with an ever-changing theme that “works like a magazine”. They feature the most recent trends by monitoring the moves of society that are synced to the messages and eyes of talented designers. Hence, in a 150-year-old space, nothing actually feels outmoded or inapplicable. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.
There are two ways to enter Merci – one through the Used Book Cafe that houses more than 10,000 books and where you’ll be bombarded by the scent of strong coffees and ignored by studious patrons lost between pages; another way is through the main door that leads to a courtyard where you will be greeted by lots of light, manicured plants, glass windows and a red vintage car.
Can’t take your pick? Don’t. Make a detour and enter through both like me.
At the front, there’s a huge display of a bed piled up with pillows and hanging craft that painted the image of floating clouds.
Venture in and you’ll see scarves and clothes, nail polishes and shoes. Fashionistas please sit still.
At the bottom floor, there’s Merci Canteen that offers fresh, healthy lunch next to a small lush green garden.
Turn around or climb two floors up and you’ll be surrounded by a vast array of household goods and shabby-chic furniture.
What a design for matchboxes!
^Want to order all of these and place them in my imaginary country home.
Sometimes simplistic designs are the best to calm a tired, complex mind. Don’t you agree?
Walk to the other side of the floor and you can find some cheerful haberdasheries and bedsheets.
^Sadly, this doll was not for sale.
I fell in love with the space of Merci, its confidence in fledgling creativity, art and how it gives back to the community. From its tassel-like candles to organic cushions, travel notebooks to pouches and sandals and clothes, they conjure images in your head – ah, I could have them here in this corner of my house! Oh yes, I could wear this to the afternoon tea! I need this when I travel! – you convince yourself they are not excuses, but reasons because the items are so narrative and the cause is so cogent.
Good news is they also have an e-store and ship worldwide.
So, click away ladies.
It’s not shopping, it’s charity.
With love x