Paris Shopping: La Compagnie Française de l’Orient et de la Chine
It’s a mouthful, to be sure, but if you think of it as CFOC, as the company itself does, then you won’t find yourself saying, “You know, that place that sells the gorgeous Asian stuff – what was it called?”
The first La Compagnie Française de l’Orient et de la Chine store was founded in 1966 by world traveller and art collector François Dautresme, who wanted to share his enthusiasm for the beautiful and functional traditional handicrafts he found on his travels through the Orient, particularly China. At the start of the Cultural Revolution, when much of the country’s artistic heritage would be systematically eradicated, Dautresme’s fervour to preserve objects as simple as a cricket cage and as sublime as an antique lacquer bowl, suddenly seemed a more urgent task.
Dautresme, who’s affectionately called Lao-Du in China, organised eye-opening exhibitions in the West, becoming a respected authority while devotedly building his collection. In 1995, the store opened a flagship branch on a typically Parisian intersection at Avenue Haussmann and the Rue de Courcelles, not far from the Musée Jacquemart-André, and quickly gained an enthusiastic Parisian following.
When Dautresme died, in 2002, the business faltered. Then, in 2011, Laurent Dumas bought the company with the aim of perpetuating Dautresme’s vision. A year later, after the flagship store’s top-to-bottom renovation, the soaring, three-faceted CFOC reopened, equal parts art gallery and cultural space, concept store and restaurant-tearoom.
A spare, luxurious aesthetic reigns in this beautiful, art-strewn space – revolving exhibitions feature works by fine artists, sculptors and photographers – which is dedicated to preserving “rare or disappearing skills by making them part of contemporary life”.
The furnishings and housewares are deluxe by any standard, but there are plenty of objects priced in the ‘merely-a-splurge’ range, like sculpted wood tea canisters, lacquered or mother-of-pearl boxes and porcelain teapots, cups and bowls. Even some of the jewellery – precious-stone beads strung on long silk cords with tassels and filigreed gold rings are priced under €200. The limited-edition glassware ranges from large opalescent vases to brilliant swirled glass bowls, plates and glasses by Japanese master glassmaker Ryoko Takanashi, and a spectacular set of feather-light hand-blown Murano glasses with six different designs, from wood grain to what looks like streaks of rain.
Downstairs you’ll find a choice collection of clothes and accessories – handsome, sturdy leather travel bags, cashmere robes and heavy black silk Mao-style tunics –and linens delicately embroidered with cherry blossoms and soft, ticking-stripe linen bedding.
The bright, elegant dining room overlooking Avenue Haussmann is teeming at lunchtime, a good indication that chef Young Kyu Park’s menu of light Japanese fare is hitting the spot. Teatime lasts all afternoon, with a list of fine teas and pastries from the outstanding Pâtisserie des Rêves.
La Compagnie Française de l’Orient et de la Chine, 170 boulevard Haussmann, Paris 8th. Tel: +33 1 53 53 40 80
From France Today magazine
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