Going Green

Going Green

Blame it on Parisians’ love affair with the Vélib’ city rental bikes or the green policies of Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, but eco-chic is sweeping the city, and the hottest label in town is “bio“-that’s short for “biologique“, or organically grown. A few of our top picks in sustainable shopping:

Eco & Beau

The striking French eco-design range Ekobo was launched in 2003 by three visionary 30-somethings: Bruno Louis, a former marketing executive for L’Oréal, and his botanist friends Simon and Renaud Crouzet, whose family owns La Bambouseraie, a bamboo park near Anduze, in the south of France. With a helping hand from Bruno’s wife, American designer Boo Louis, the trio set out to create a line of handmade home accessories that would be “100% bamboo, 200% design.” The result is an attractive array of salad bowls, trays, vases, kitchen containers and knife blocks in acidic colors including tomato, mandarin, kiwi, eggplant and the same mouth-watering lime that lights up the exterior of the brand’s boutique-showroom in Paris.

Why bamboo? “Aesthetics, ethics and ecology,” says David Chaouat, head of Ekobo’s showroom. “Bamboo is a natural renewable resource that grows twice as fast as the average tree, and it can be harvested continuously without killing the plant. Bamboo also recycles a huge quantity of CO2 and grows naturally without pesticides, fertilizer or herbicides.” Working with local artisans in the Hanoi region of North Vietnam, Ekobo has given centuries-old spun-bamboo and lacquering techniques a contemporary twist, and it’s the lustrous lacquered finish of their products that first catches the eye.

But function matters as much as form at Ekobo. Salad tongs interlock neatly like a pair of Spanish castanets, the eye-pleasing elliptical rim of the Maxi Plato serving tray helps prevents spills, and the innovative Mikoto knife block is a triumph of design, with knife blades fitting snugly into a bed of giant bamboo toothpicks. The star of the current collection is the shiny Mello stool, a circular pouf-like structure that fits comfortably around a coffee table or doubles as a bedside nightstand. Ekobo Home, 4 rue Hérold, 1st,

Baby Bio

“I don’t buy the idea of people spending money on something simply because it’s labeled ‘bio’,” says Victoria Magniant, the dynamic 28-year-old designer behind the new organic babywear line Victoria Christmas. “I want parents to walk into the boutique, run their fingers over the clothes and want to buy them no matter what.” Trained at Saint Martin’s School of Design in London, Magniant has housed her “totally upmarket” showroom in the ultra-chic shopping arcade, Galerie Vivienne. “You can’t do this kind of fashion on the cheap,” she insists. “Using organic cotton is expensive and we have it produced in very small quantities, working with a village in Japan where the artisans have been weaving and dyeing cotton with natural ingredients for centuries.”

Magniant’s designs are then made in France by lingerie-specialists whose precision stitching gives her miniature bloomers and adorable little Marcel vests a perfect finish. The ultra-soft baby clothes, aimed at newborns to 2-year-olds—”an age when the sense of touch is primordial”—come in soft colors including beige, ivory and a delicate shade of pale red ochre inspired by a trip to Morocco. While the designer has an eye for poetic detail (note the star-shaped mother-of-pearl buttons on a simple pinafore), she’s also practical—none of her clothes require ironing and many pieces are reversible. “So you can easily turn them over if you get a stain partway through the day!” she laughs. 41 Galerie Vivienne, 2nd,

Other Worlds

Following the success of the first Alter Mundi boutique, opened in Paris in 2003, spin-offs have popped up around the city and across the country. The vast, loft-like store on rue du Chemin Vert is an Aladdin’s cave of fair trade treasures, showcasing intricate wrought-iron furniture from Honduras, black ceramic cookware from Colombia, handwoven lampshades from Burkina Faso and the trendy Bilum shoulder bags made from recycled advertising posters and old car seatbelts. Alter Mundi Mode, on the rue de Rivoli, offers striking jewelry made of Tagua nuts (the vegetable alternative to ivory) as well as eco-chic products from two hip Brazilian brands, Tudo Bom and Veja, whose 100%-green sneakers are made with organic cotton and natural latex from Amazonia. And Alter Mundi Café is the perfect place to put the world to rights over a plate of organic tapas and a bottle of organic Burgundy. 41 rue du Chemin Vert, 11th,; Mode: 9 rue de Rivoli, 4th,; Café: 4 rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 11th,

View Our Paris Boutique Guide Here

Originally published in the April 2008 issue of France Today.

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