The unabashed aesthete who finds elegance on Paris's every boulevard.
“I was out on Sunday and there was a family that was so stylish: a little girl with the most adorable coat, a woman who was wearing a men’s black coat and her husband, who had long hair,” says Marie-France Cohen. “I don’t know who they were, but they were terribly inspiring.”
So begins a glimpse into a Paris filled with easy elegance and beauty on every boulevard. Born in Aix-en-Provence to an aristocratic family, Marie-France is an unabashed aesthete who has built an empire on her appreciation for such detail. After she and her late husband launched beloved children’s label Bonpoint in 1975, the pair became leading figures in Paris’ elite fashion and design circles. Their status was cemented when they went on to establish concept store Merci in the fashionable Marais district in 2009.
With such sensibilities, it’s no surprise to learn that Marie-France is a discerning shopper. Dries Van Noten is a favorite, whereas Céline is enjoyed in moderation (“some nice stuff, but they’re just dreadfully expensive”). Historic department store Le Bon Marché is another frequent destination, allowing Marie-France to stay informed about what’s en vogue. But despite her interest in new brands, her own wardrobe favors simplicity, quality materials and flattering cuts. “If you only look good in certain shapes and proportions, then you allow yourself to go out of fashion,” she says.
This exacting eye extends to another Parisian obsession: food. Marie-France loves her son’s Italian restaurant, Pizza Chic, a Saint-Germain-des-Prés eatery which serves pizzas “made with the best mozzarella and olive oil” to the neighborhood’s well-heeled clientele. Other favorites include Blueberry, an upmarket Japanese restaurant known for its creative sushi. “The décor is very nice,” she declares. “I’ll always tell you about décor. I can hardly have a good time if the décor is not nice.” Widowed shortly after Merci’s inception, Marie-France eventually bid adieu to the emporium in favor of a much smaller boutique. Disheartened by the empty commercialism of big brands—“No beauty, no meaning, nothing”—she decided to create a graceful space stocked with homeware items of enduring appeal. After settling on a tiny 19th-century bistro, she filled it with ceramics, velvet cushions and other soft furnishings. The boutique’s anti-trend, pro-beauty ethos is firmly emphasized in its name, Démodé, which translates to “out of fashion.”
Despite decades in Paris, Marie-France still speaks with wonder of its cobbled passages and grand architecture. The weekend markets, packed with fresh produce and sensational food, always prove inspiring for her, as do the city’s smaller art museums, which often fly under the radar of tourists and Parisians alike. “Don’t rush where you’ve been told to go,” she says, insisting that newcomers instead prioritize a good pair of walking shoes and a relaxed itinerary. “Let yourself discover. There are so many little streets, so many beautiful buildings.”
In the City of Light, luminous beauty is everywhere. All one needs to do is pay attention. “French people always complain… But when you wake up in the morning and cross la Seine, it’s hard to believe how beautiful it is.”
Démodé at Tourette
70 rue de Grenelle