The two founders of Veja have embarked on an intriguing retail project located in a neighbourhood that favours slow shopping, a few steps away from the Saint Martin Canal, and its cafés, and terraces. The space is a natural extension of the values behind the label and combines fashion with social commitment and artistic projects with environmental concerns. For those of you unfamiliar with the label, the origin of the Veja project can be summed up in one question: is another world possible?
Over the last six years Veja have helped put forward their answer by creating a global chain that emphasises solidarity and the environment, from the small producers in Brazil to the European concept stores that sell its growing product range. Centre commercial offers labels made in France, Great Britain and Denmark and houses second-hand bicycles, vintage furniture and art works. It is a collective space, uniting local, social and environmental initiatives. The retail space showcases their varied but ultimately complimentary influences. Here we speak with Veja's Aurélie Dumont to learn more about the store and the brands plan for the future.
SS: Centre Commercial instantly feels likes the antidote to fast paced retail. Was this one of the driving catalyst for the project?
Aurélie Dumont: Yes, Centre Commercial has been thought of as a place to slow down. Reminiscent in the ways of our grandparents, we wanted to favour know-how and continuity. Rather than mere products, Centre Commercial will curate genuine projects.
SS: How did the project arise, was it always part of the Veja plan, if not how did it evolve?
Aurélie Dumont: Veja was created in 2004 with the intention of proving that it is possible to work differently. We have created a strong social, economic and, ecological chain from small producers in Brazil to the doors of European stores. During these past two years we have started adding a cultural dimension to Veja having been inspired by people we have met along the way: designers with really great projects going far beyond the ecology or meeting artists with fascinating messages. We started organising art exhibitions and a series of unconventional talks, and we soon felt that we needed a space to feature those messages.
Centre Commercial is meant to be a place to slow down and to question what we consume through a selection of locally made clothes and accessories, furniture sourced by antique dealers, committed installations and artistic projects, bicycles revamped by a social charity and shortlisted books and publications.
SS: What does Centre Commercial mean to you?
Aurélie Dumont: In a way, the name itself refers to mass consumption. The name is a nod to the works of the French philosopher Bernard Stiegler and suggests questioning our consumption habits. Centre Commercial is a shopping center. A selection of clothes, accessories, furniture, bikes, cosmetics, books and publications has been put together…. a shopping center then …but modeled after us.
SS: Like the Veja label itself, the space manages to combine fashion with social commitment and artistic projects with environmental concerns. It is a space infused by your varied but ultimately complimentary influences. How did you curate the store?
Aurélie Dumont: Centre Commercial is meant to be a place to slow down and to question what we consume through a selection of locally made clothes and accessories, furniture sourced by antique dealers, committed installations and artistic projects, bicycles revamped by a social charity and shortlisted books and publications. Among the selected wardrobe for both men and women you will find brands such as Knowledge Cotton Apparel whose shirts are crafted in Denmark using organic cotton, Saint James who has been knitting their fisherman style jumpers in Brittany since the 1950’s or La Botte Guardiane whose boots and shoes are hand-made in the French Camargue following traditional methods.
An enticing mix of product from labels made in France, Great Britain and Denmark.
SS: Centre Commercial offers labels made in France, Great Britain and Denmark whilst housing second-hand bicycles, vintage furniture and art works. Are the brands and individuals involved friends of Veja? How did you find the right mix of products?
Aurélie Dumont: Our ambition was to create a space which would work as a catalyst for projects and initiatives we like. Ties between those projects will probably arise where we don’t expect them. From fine artists to fair trade certification bodies, we will feature individuals and companies which work differently.
Veja and Gloverall
SS: Would you be able to talk us through some of your favourite products currently in store?
Aurélie Dumont: One of the most interesting discoveries so far has been the quarterly French XXI publication. XXI features seasoned novelists, recognized investigative journalists and major graphic novelists depicting our current world through well-documented and in-depth articles. Both the latest issue and the 11 back issues are available at Centre Commercial.
SNS Herning knits
SS: Aside from fabulous product, what do you hope the consumer will take away from the store?
Aurélie Dumont: We hope that they will take away the feeling that trade can be done in a different way while experiencing a certain aesthetic. Centre Commercial aims to be a place where minds can meet. The book selection for example, contrary to what is on offer in a traditional library, counts only ten books in total. These have been carefully chosen by a French editor, they are his current selection of great books he’d like to share. That selection will be periodically renewed by each new literary specialist.
Knowledge Cotton Apparel whose shirts are crafted in Denmark using organic cotton
SS: The store sounds far from static, the curation of product and art is an on going endeavor. How would you like to see the store evolve? Is there anything that you are particularly looking forward to in the near future (for example a particular delivery of product or upcoming exhibition?
Aurélie Dumont: Centre Commercial opened last week featuring the fine artist Kleber Matheus from São Paulo, whose works are made from neon light tubes. More exhibitions will be unveiled in 2011. For the coming months we will have more ‘made in France’ garments, some promising accessories and a new exciting project around bikes.
Centre Commercial aims to slow down the retail experience.
SS: Finally, what's next for Veja?
Aurélie Dumont: 2010 has seen the launch of Projet Numero Deux, our debut line of day bags and accessories in collaboration with London-based store Darkroom and the exclusive web platform oki-ni.com. Vegetable tanned-leather wallets and laptop sleeves made of organic cotton have just been released. For 2011 we have worked on new exciting styles and an exclusive collaboration with French Trotters which will be soon uncovered!
Centre Commercial is located at 2 Rue de Marseille in Paris.