French style versus Made in France
Is it really French? As a store owner, I often have this question. Behind this 'really' are doubts around the origin and authenticity of a product. It’s such a challenging question, I wanted to share my thoughts on an important distinction: 'French style' versus 'Made in France'.
Low price shopping
Let's start with a little backstory. For the past 30 years, the majority of furniture, home decor and fashion have been manufactured in Asia. Design has generally remained in a brand’s country of origin, but the manufacturing process has been outsourced to Asian countries like China, India, and Vietnam. Cheap labor means low prices, making the desired products accessible to everybody. We shouldn’t blame anyone for this situation, because let’s be honest, we all take part. How can one resist a $5 candle that smells like the lavender fields of Provence, or a cute $15 t-shirt featuring classic French stripes? French style can come at a low price.
Authentic and purposeful shopping
But in recent years, authenticity has emerged as an important shopping metric in many countries. And the pandemic only accelerated this awareness. From the preservation of cultural traditions, to supporting local jobs and minimizing one’s environmental impact, the benefits are numerous. That doesn't mean price isn’t important anymore, but that intrinsic value is vital now as well.
From price to value, the consequence is that we may buy less. Every purchase will now carry more meaning. And from a long-term perspective, buying high-quality, authentic products that last will ultimately be cheaper. Of course, we won't stop buying into cheap trends. But we’ll move towards a more balanced shopping behavior, including purchases with purpose.
French little luxuries
I would now like to debunk some common misconceptions. The first: authenticity is only available from luxury brands. Let's take the example of France. It's true that renowned French luxury brands have always kept their creative process entirely in France. They pursue French tradition and are the ambassadors of the French art of living. But they’re not the only ones! There are also thousands of smaller brands and independent artisans producing authentic French goods. I think of their items as “little luxuries,” allowing people to experience the luxury of owning an exquisite French product at a fair and accessible price.
A second misconception that really annoys me: if it's pricey, it's authentic. Unfortunately, there are many high-end brands misleading consumers. They may espouse authentic French storytelling while manufacturing products in Asia or Eastern Europe. When I buy a $15 striped jersey, I know it's not an authentic French t-shirt - I'm buying into French style and inspiration. But if the t-shirt costs $50, I expect much more from the brand in terms of quality and origin.
So always be suspicious of the claims 'Designed in France' and 'French style' - whatever you're about to buy may not be that high of quality. If you’re ever unsure, don’t hesitate to ask the store, 'Is it really French?'