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Merci Beaucoup!

A 1500 square metre charity shop laden with style and concept in Paris.

If you look for ‘Merci’, it is likely you will miss it. All one can see is a flowershop and a seemingly unrelated bookstore. But if you take time to push the door, you’re in for a surprise. At the back lays an enormous, luminous loft – reminiscent of Berlin, which petite Parisian architecture usually doesn’t allow.

Merci is Paris’ least well kept secret. Opened in March, it is a charity shop à la Française, or rather, a charity concept store. It is the result of several years of hard work by Marie France and Bernard Cohen, the creators of French luxury childrenwear Bonpoint. The 1500 square meter (16,000 square feet) space was previously a fabric factory; today, it is like a contemporary cavern of Ali Baba:  split up into three stories, it offers a multitude of books, clothes, flowers, furniture, but also a café and an elegant canteen.

Better, yet, is the fact all the benefits – minus the costs and salaries – go to children in Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the planet where a child dies of malnutrition every five minutes.  “I had worked with Madagascar during my Bonpoint years,” explained Marie-France during an interview, “my priority is to help little girls and train them towards a job.”

And this is a joint effort: Merci offers specially designed pieces by Stella Mc Cartney, Yves Saint Laurent, Paul Smith. These are 30 or 40 percent cheaper because the designers gave up their profit margin. The collection includes YSL’s famous Safari Jacket, specially re-edited for Merci in white and Khaki.

The rest of the clothes, for women, men and children is a rather Bobo (= Bourgeois Bohemian) selection, offering designers such as APC, Isabel Marant, Paul&Joe, as well as brands such as Acne, Swildens and Forte Forte.
Look out for the vintage stand, which looks a Seventies photoshoot. It features
a range of clothes going from 40 euro items to second hand 80s Chanel purses. This is complete with a selection of pieces donated by various actors, models, singers.

The top level of the loft offers a wide range of furniture, some affordable, some more decadent and in limited editions, along with a multitude of home accessories. This includes a 1950s school desk by Arne Jacobsen, 19th century stools found in Chinese farms, but also contemporary pieces by designers such as Oskar Zieta or François Azambourg. “This is a personal mix of rare pieces and daily objects, which illustrates my life philosophy” said Marie-France.

There is also an Annick Goutal perfume laboratory, when one can create one’s own fragrance. The Goutal company agreed to sell at a special rate four of its fragrances, in laboratory-like flasks. “This way, students or mothers on tight budgets can afford to buy one of these fragrances” explained Marie-France.

Make sure to stop at the Café Bouquiniste (the Reading Café) next door. This New York inspired space is a merge between a coffee shop and a second-hand bookshop. There, in the quiet, wooden interior and high ceiling, one can spend the entire day flicking through donated books whilst eating tartines. The books are in many different languages which, being priced between 3 and 10 euros, is one of Paris’ cheapest international bookstores.

Situated in between the Marais and République, Merci has rapidly become a nest for Paris’ Bobo population, who stroll in on lazy afternoons, or chose to spend the day –  what better way to spend the weekend than bumping into Charlotte Gainsbourg and doing a good deed?

Merci
, 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris, +331 42 77 00 33