The event “Le Japon Rive Gauche” was held at the Parisian department store “Le Bon Marche Rive Gauche,” from Aug 30 to Oct 18 of this year.

The department store offered a large space to hold the biggest-scale event to date, with items ranging from fashion, foods, cosmetics to daily necessities. Over one-hundred brands from Japan took part in the event, some of the highlights being the exhibition of artworks by the prominent Japanese architect Tadao Ando in collaboration with Benesse Art Site Naoshima, and a pop-up space by popular fashion brand Sacai. The entire event was decorated in dark blue and accentuated with red polka dots. The store windows were occupied with designs from Sacai.

From the opening day, the event attracted countless numbers of people, including the media, who were eager to report what is trendy and hot in Japan. As a result, the event recorded the highest number of visitors in comparison to similar events held in the past.

Sophie Joly, the head of commercial events at Le Bon Marche, offered her wisdom regarding the success of the event.

Fashion Headline (FH): Why Japan?

Sophie Joly (SJ): At Le Bon Marche, we periodically hold events focusing on cities or countries from around the world. Such as Brazil, New York, London and Tokyo, to name a few.

Japan has always been popular among French people. The sophisticated designs and the history and heritage of the country are all very appealing to us. In 2012, we visited Japan because we wanted to see the wonderful fashion, designs, foods and other types of products firsthand. We met with a lot of suppliers and visited concept stores and department stores. I was able to experience Japanese energy and creativity.

We also visited Benesse Art Site Naoshima. We were amazed with the view, architecture and contemporary art seen throughout. I knew that Benesse Art Site Naoshima and Tadao Ando, the architect behind it, would be a perfect fit for the event, particularly from a cultural perspective.

FH: The exhibition space you set up was fascinating and stood up among the commercial space of your department store.

SJ: Le Bon Marche understands the value of art. Art is not only important when creating new products; it also helps us to introduce culture and craftsmanship in the form of entertainment to our customers. We want the customers to enjoy the story behind each of the products.

The video where Tadao Ando and Soichiro Fukutake talk about the Naoshima Project was created by photographer Gabriel de la Chapelle and videographer Quentin Labail. Alongside it, we placed a reproduction of Ando’s architectural work for Naoshima Island, which was built by Ecole Boulle students.

FH: How did you select the products to sell at the event?

SJ: Our product selection ranged from widely-recognized items to those coming to Paris for the first time. Some were traditional, others contemporary. During our visit to Japan, we were only able to see Tokyo and Kyoto, but we lined-up products from Okinawa, Hiroshima and other places too. By mixing classics with the new, we created an image of Japan through our eyes. Our goal was to introduce something new to our customers.

FH: The visual images used in your presentation were pure excellence.

SJ: At Le Bon Marche, we have an artistic team that overlooks all of the designs. This team handled the creation of the red-sphere objets which decorated the event. The images of red polka dots on a navy background were designed by Juliette Mai, who’s also worked with Hermes.

FH: We heard that the opening day was a great success.

SJ: Opening day was as busy as the Christmas shopping season, and many of the products sold out. The customers purchased all sorts of things, including fashion items, stationary and cosmetics. As well as local customers, we saw many tourists including Japanese people. Many journalists came and reported the event, and we’d numerous inquiries soon after that.

FH: Which products were most popular?

SJ: Makanai Cosmetics, Delfonics stationary, Sacai’s clothing, bags from Newneu., Cup No Fuchiko and items selected by Beams. I became a fan of these items at first sight. I’m sure we’ll continue to stock some of these items at our store.

FH: What is the key to success for Japanese brands entering the French market?

SJ: French people value traditions, which is why Japanese traditional items are appreciated. Not to mention, the quality of Japanese products are superb. In order to create something that is desirable to our market, it's essential to mix elements of both the past and future, and produce something truly creative.