Paris Trade Shows Showcase Everything From Scented Candles to Textiles

PARIS–French Chic Shopping was on a mission this past week: uncover the latest in French style and art de vivre at the leading trade shows: Maison & Objet at Villepinte, Paris Deco Off... and Tranoï at the Cité de la Mode, a strange, green tubular venue in the eastern part of Paris by the Quai d’Austerlitz.

First stop on Friday, January 21rst: Maison & Objet, Hall Five A to check out a broad array of soaps, scented candles and room diffusers–who knew there were so many?–only to discover that most are still made by small manufacturers in the South of France. They ranged from hipster chic to 18th century Baroque–and each in their way, proved remarkable. You can  order candles with your company logo, and I discovered candles made for both the Ritz Hotel and Cartier. But what dazzled me most where the rainbow-colored towers of macarons made of soap, inspired by Sofia Coppola’s movie “Marie-Antoinette.”

Naturally, to get to Hall Five A, I passed through Hall Five B where I couldn’t help but be drawn to some fabulous room sets by Belgian and Italian furniture designers/retailers. The most beautiful by far are the Belgium-based Flamant, which also has a stunning store in Paris on the Left Bank. Clearly this is decorator heaven–for ideas, lectures, and parties. The hot ticket was surely for Pierre Frey, the textile and wallpaper designer who is getting a retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in March. 

Not everyone loves Maison & Objet however. A bunch of renegade textile and wallpaper designers from all over the world prefer to rent out gallery space on the Left and Right Banks, and show their latest collections. This is one time when I found many galleries open on a Sunday–something short of miraculous in this part of Paris. Known as Paris Déco Off,  it has become the rendez-vous for interior designers and textile manufacturers from all over Europe and the United States.  Designers Guild, Loro Piana Interiors, Mario Canovas, Lelièvre, Glant, Dedar,  Jim Thompson, and Maria Flora were among the labels on offer. Most of them were using the event to open a Pop-up store that would remain open from January 21 to January 25, and then just as miraculously disappear. I especially liked the giant hanging lampshades used to promote the event that were strung between the buildings to signal the event. And then there was the wonderful see-through box that featured a lovely woman weaving textiles for all to see on the Place de Furstenburg. You can be sure she drew a crowd throughout the day.


My last stop was to see different small designers in fashion and accessories at Tranoï at the Cité de la Mode in the eastern part of Paris by the Quai d’Austerlitz. While Maison & Objet is VAST, you can count on Tranoï for being very limited in scope as well as very select. Here you will find  jewelry designers from Paris and Roubaix that create delicate gold and silver-plated jewelry for a limited audience, as well as unique shoes with gigantic interchangeable heels for that girl who wants to look six feet tall, and magnetic bow ties for the fashion-forward metro-sexual male. My only problem with Tranoi is that it remains poorly organized and amateurish when compared to Maison & Objet or Première Classe at the Porte de Versailles. For one thing, the on-site DJ is so loud, it’s hard to make a sale, and the trade show’s website doesn’t make it easy to find the venue for women’s wear and fashion accessories.

It remains to be seen how much business is done at any of these trade shows, especially in a sluggish economy. Still, I noticed a lot of traffic and customers writing orders for scented candles and soaps at Maison & Objet, probably because these types of items still sell briskly and throughout the year. They do make wonderful hostess gifts, and many people now burn candles in their offices and restaurants, especially in the dark and long winter months.

It is worth noting that many buyers who come at this time of year also hit the Paris sales, where they can pick up all sorts of wearable bargains even at the special Hermès sale at the Palais des Congrès. In short, a series of exciting trade shows can stimulate business elsewhere. If nothing else, Paris is still worth a stop at Angelina’s for their hot chocolate and Pierre Hermé for some real macarons that you know won’t taste like soap!