Retail environments are an expression of a culture’s needs, desires, lifestyle, communication habits and patterns, etc. In Paris I have begun to study these retail environments and it has really helped me to focus on the patterns within the society, as well as to identify similarities and differences between French & American culture.
One of the most fascinating things that I have discovered in the French culture that I plan on researching in more detail is the mobile retail environment. While the US has the occasional food stand or festival booth, there is nothing quite like the mobile retail spaces that I have witnessed here in Paris. In the US, retail is focused on permanence. Interior design in these spaces is articulated in a finalized way. When stores close, the doors are shut and everything stays put for the following day’s sales. I believe that this has led to a very predictable and reliable environment.
One particularly fascinating retail environment that exists in Paris is the tent and pole market system. Each neighborhood has specfic pole bases integrated into the sidewalk and on particular days the poles are popped in and tarps are attached. Merchandise is layed underneath or attached to the tarps.
The flexibility that the lightweight structure provides the community with says a lot about their lifestyle. The sidewalk is transformed from a means of pedestrian transportation to a vibrant market of local artwork, jewelry, foods, etc. This duality in space seems to be a common theme – While the roads exist for vehicle traffic, They turn into social gathering places at night, cars often forced to squeeze through the crowds. Additionally, this transformation in function could also be a reflection of Parisian lifestyle itself. Hard workers by day, Parisians seem not to hesitate to stay out late on work nights - Dinners not beginning until ten, and the evening not ending until one or two AM.
I hope to continue this study of mobile retail environments in Paris and use it as a means to draw larger conclusions about general societal values and lifestyles. In Italy I hope to explore a retail environment that is unique to the community as well & use it as a means of cultural exploration.
tent and pole retail system
I’ve also enjoyed general parisian shopping. I’ve explored some of the most fun and interesting retail spaces all over the city. Below are some of my favorites so far.
Adorable boutique that is literally 5 steps away from my hotel!
The messy, eclectic, feminine space with raw exposed materials & systems is a culmination of my retail design aesthetic. The clothes were amazing and affordable too!