Paris, France – In a world where globalization appears to be gaining a firm foothold, French savoir-faire continues on its unique path as it has through the centuries. Luxury linens, hand crafted wallpaper, collector coins, perfume, crystal and watches are among the products crafted by the hand of man throughout the land.
In terms of watchmaking the world tends to think of Switzerland first but across the border in the French region of the Doubs, the manufacturing of timepieces is a tradition as well. Among the French watchmakers one finds the house of Michel Herbelin, which was founded in 1947, and today the house remains family-owned, with the third generation of the Herbelin family at its helm. Nestled in the village of Charquemont in the Haut-Doubs in the heart of the high watchmaking region on the Franco-Swiss border, the house possesses its own design studios within its workshops where the timepieces are fashioned. The house’s Antarès watch with its interchangeable straps, which has been seen on the wrist of Brigitte Macron, the wife of the president of France, remains a classic. The delicate watch in stainless steel has three different versions for its case, rectangular, round and lyre and a silvery dial with or without guilloche that is outfitted with handsome Roman numerals. White, red, pink and blue straps – which are wound around the wrist twice — are all available and the house has just brought out its Urban Jungle line of straps in sable, green and dark green.
The finest of materials and weaving techniques, customization, embroidery and hand embroidery are the hallmarks of the house of Yves Delorme. It all began back in 1845 in French Flanders in the heart of the French textile industry when Ernestine Fremaux and her husband founded a linens weaving company. Some 175 years later, the family-owned manufacturer having become the House of Yves Delorme launched five years ago its exclusive Couture line. The Couture line works its wares in noble fabrics like baptiste linen, silk, voile, sateen and percale with some designs being hand-embroidered and in some cases requiring up to 400 hours of work. Each design in the collection can be completely personalized and so the drawings, colors, materials, threads and dimensions can all be made-to-measure. Since 2001, Yves Delorme has been a member of the prestigious Comité Colbert, which brings together the finest of France’s luxury goods houses and aims to radiate French luxury throughout the world.
In another register, what is regarded as the oldest manufacturer of wallpaper in the world still in operation, the house of Zuber was founded in 1797 in Rixheim in Alsace in eastern France where it remains today. The house’s archives harbor over 130,000 drawings and 150,000 wooden printing plates sculpted between 1797 and 1830 with the latter being listed as a historic monument. And still today the house hand prints its creations in a wealth of decorative patterns including earthly paradises, fantastic bestiaries, luxuriant flora and spectacular landscapes. Many of the house’s collections can be customized with a change of color, decor or the texture of the wall paper. One of Zuber’s specialties is the panoramic decor wallpapers the first of which appeared in 1804 and which represent a landscape that is continuous without repetition of the scenes or patterns.
On another decorative note, and a collective one, the concept store Nou Design showcases vases made throughout France and which are crafted in family-owned companies in an environmentally friendly fashion. Launched by the decorator Hélène de Saint Pierre, the boutique features some 100 design vases by contemporary creators that have been brought out in small and limited series, or even one of a kind. The mission of Nou Design is to support and promote the French savoir-faire in vase making in which heritage and the decorative arts are showcased. There are the blown glass vases from Anne Donzé and Vincent Chagnon in olive green, turquoise, cobalt, pink, bright yellow or colourless. Black and white characterize the Titian vase by Olivier Gagnère and the single flower vase from Bahn and designed by Pierre Juvigny is available in forest green, cobalt blue or opalescent white.
One of the oldest manufactures in the country is located right in Paris on the banks of the Seine, La Monnaie de Paris, the French mint which strikes collector coins in the French capital. Regarded as the oldest institution in France, it was founded in 864 with the Edict of Pistres when Charles II, more popularly known as Charles the Bald, decreed the creation of a coining workshop in Paris and it has been in continuous operation ever since. Here a host of crafts come together to fashion the coins ranging from engravers to polishers to founders to the minters. The establishment brought out at the beginning of the year a new three-piece collection entitled Natures of France, an ode to the various French landscapes and designed by master engraver Joaquin Jimenez. The first coins in the collection, two in silver and one in gold, feature the oak whose leaf is struck on each coin. The mint and its museum can be visited.
Luxury watch expert and collector Romain Réa and Pinel & Pinel, a French luxury house founded by Fred Pinel and producing trunks and high-end leather goods, have joined forces to develop the Twin, a watch winder that can be matched to the bezel (the top ring on the watch surrounding the crystal) and which winds and displays the watch while preserving its movement. The case, especially designed to display and automatically wind the watch, is made in Paris in the Pinel & Pinel workshops located in the 20th arrondissement while the actual mechanism that winds the watch, the Swiss Kublik, is from Switzerland. Geared for an automatic watch the rotative case is programmed for a cycle of 800 rotations each day in each direction. The case is available in a host of colors in leather or canvas.
Meanwhile down on the French Riviera in the town of Grasse, the house of Molinard has been fashioning fragrant fragrances since 1849. The family-owned business now has the fifth generation at the helm incarnated by perfume maker Célia Lerouge-Bénard, the house’s olfactive director, and the first woman to direct the company. In the beginning Molinard distilled perfume flowers, an activity which inspired the house’s motto, “Here Perfumes Are Born Among the Flowers”. Avant-garde is one of the hallmarks of the house which brought out one of the first oriental perfumes for women, the heady Habanita in 1921, based on vetiver, a plant that had up until then been reserved for men’s fragrances. The house would go on to be the first to invent Concreta, the first solid perfume and made from the wax of natural flowers offering a highly concentrated scent. Molinard’s Left Bank boutique carries the perfumer’s collections, including the recent La Fraîcheur collection revolving around floral notes, and also offers perfume making workshops and the possibility to create a personalized fragrance. The house has just brought out two new fragrances, Osmanthus in its Eléments Exclusifs collection and Santal Insolent in its Eléments Prestige collection.
Another young Made in France company is the Slip Français, which manufactures underwear, pullovers, socks, swimwear and pyjamas among other items for both men and women. The adventure began back in 2011 when Guillaume Gibault founded the company using French textile savoir-faire found throughout the land. Today the company’s products emerge from some 28 workshops and suppliers throughout France with all of the materials made in France, starting from the thread to the packaging. You can even customize your garment with embroidery done in a workshop in Troyes, France. This year the house has launched its Ludo, a pullover in French wool, its Montcoton project to make thread from recycled cotton in conjunction with the 1083 manufacture, and its first pieces in recycled wool.
The original glassworks of Saint-Louis were founded in 1586 in Münzthal in Lorraine in eastern France and were decreed Royal glassworks by King Louis XV in 1767. By 1781, the house had discovered the secrets of crystal making, introduced colours and its first chandeliers in 1837 and the house would produce the very first paperweights into France in 1845. Precise cuts and strong colors are the hallmarks of Saint-Louis crystal. Today the house continues to create tableware, decoration pieces, furniture and myriad types of lighting ranging from candle holders to chandeliers, and its celebrated paperweights imagined by specialized glassmakers and fashioned at a temperature of 550° C and assembled at 1,100° C. All of the house’s pieces are crafted in the Münzthal manufacture by master craftsmen, glassblowers and cutters for crystal is mouth-blown, hand-cut, hand-engraved and hand-decorated using 24-carat gold or platinum. Saint-Louis has been part of the Hermès group since 1989.
And how much more Made in France can you get than the classic beret, the Basque beret as Napoleon III dubbed these hats that were originally hand-crafted by sheepherders in the Béarn region of France from the wool gathered from their herds then felted in the water of the local streams. Yet today the house of Laulhère which was established 180 years ago in 1840 in the town of Oloron-Sainte-Marie in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains is regarded as the last historic house of traditional beret-making. Each beret is unique, fashioned from French merino wool and French leather from the Tarn region and requires two days to craft, to adjust and to verify. Laulhère opened the first shop in Paris dedicated to the beret in 2016 where the infinite berets made by the house are showcased and where the visitor can choose from a host of sizes, shapes and colors and can have the hat personalized with their initials in gold leaf.
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette
14-16 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (8th) 01 42 65 90 59
(in the courtyard)
La Monnaie de Paris
11 quai de Conti (6th), 01 40 46 56 66 (museum)
2bis rue Guénégaud (6th), 01 40 46 59 30 (boutique)
Le Slip Français available at
Galeries Lafayette, 40 boulevard Haussmann (9th), 01 40 36 63 32
In Le Village Suisse, 13 rue Alasseur (15th), 01 43 06 62 60
13 rue Royale (8th), 01 40 17 01 74
24 avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie (16th), 01 47 20 57 36
36 rue Bonaparte (6th), 01 42 77 95 91