© merci / daniel rozensztroch
as a city with a rich cultural legacy that's often directly linked to glamour and luxury, paris has its fair share of prestigious department stores and boutiques lining its streets. and while this is very much part of its appeal, drawing in millions from near and far to its doorstep, the local retail scene is more multi-faceted when taking a closer look, featuring retail establishments that approach the high-end segment with a more meaningful vision. founded in 2009 in the buzzing marais district as a lifestyle emporium that offers the very best in fashion, design, homeware, and last but not least, eating, concept store merci has quickly become a much-loved shopping destination with a large following both home and abroad. superfuture had the opportunity to pick the brain of its artistic director daniel rozensztroch, and asked him what sets the store apart from others in the fiercely competitive retail scene of the french capital.
merci has always maintained a more considered approach to high-end lifestyle in general and merchandise in particular. nowadays, this has become increasingly fashionable, finding more and more resonance even in the luxury segment. how does merci aim to distinguish itself? merci distinguishes itself because it's a store where you feel right at home. people come here to walk around, browse and discover simple things. to us, luxury is about authenticity and simplicity; values that you'll find in our products. we don't want a retail space with useless items, a reflection of the disproportionate nature of mass consumption.
it’s interesting to see in this day and age of accelerated technological advancement that merci seems to define good product design by values more rooted in the past than in the present. how do you specifically entice young consumers to shop at merci, a demographic that’s often triggered by all things new?
we select our items for their quality, use and aesthetic, both old and contemporary. yes, we do like items whose history endures because it's actually a sign of quality. that’s not to say that we don't like high-tech! obviously, you won’t find the latest products like you'd find at apple, for instance, but you can discover things that are quirky or particularly well-designed. we live in an age where everything is intertwined: cultures, customs…that’s modernity! today’s young people know how to appreciate technology just as much as they do craftsmanship.
the current slow life exhibition is emblematic of merci’s product philosophy. could you elaborate on how the concept came about, and more importantly, how it was integrated into the propositions slow light, slow movement and slow sign?
the slow life showcase stems from a desire that i had to speak about our current lifestyle. we operate in a world of constant turmoil, and like some people, i am very sensitive to dramatic events that punctuate our daily lives as they can strongly change our behavior and influence our happiness. on the other hand, i refuse to slide into a completely negative vision of our society, we need our small daily pleasures to survive. slow life is made up of these small everyday pleasures that embody a selection of aesthetically pleasing slow light, slow movement or slow sign objects that are simple and charming in nature, and last but not least, far from the world of ostentatious luxury and distracting gadgets.
how did you come across the brands and products featured in the exhibition, and what were the selection criteria? once the slow life theme has been defined, we start looking for products that correspond to the themes of slow light, slow movement and slow sign. we first select products based on their use, quality and aesthetic by promoting products made from natural materials.
there’s a sense of nostalgia that surrounds the slow life showcase. what’s your view on the general trajectory of modern product design? i don't agree with the idea there's a nostalgic side to our slow life presentation. i'm actually against nostalgia, it's not modern! there are of course items that echo the past, such as the turntables, but these have been first and foremost selected for cultural reasons and not to denounce the fact that 'it was better back in the old days'. today, design doesn't speak to the ego of the designer as was the case in the 1980s and 1990s. the modernity of an object, and what makes it successful in the long term, comes from its use and simplicity.
slow life implies that from a consumer point of view, quality of life is based on knowledge and awareness, clearly a core ethical code. expanding this notion into merci’s wide range of curated lifestyle goods, how does the store go about its selection of items and brands?
the themes that punctuate the life of the store are a way to nourish the different spaces [furniture, stationary, the garden level…]. when the success of a product is guaranteed and holds a legitimate place, it becomes permanent. other products are, however, sold for a certain period of time because they're either impossible to categorize, or they simply haven't found their audience. the merci store is also fueled by off-topic products related to personal favourites or a desire to renew the product offering. the selection criteria are the same: use, quality, material, aesthetic.