3 Questions for Olivia Polski
Deputy Mayor of Paris in Charge of Trade, Crafts, Independent Professions, and the Arts and Fashion Professions

Olivia Polski, Deputy Mayor of Paris in Charge of Trade, Crafts, Independent Professions, and the Arts and Fashion Professions, reviews the state of the fashion industry in Paris as well as emerging talents and support programs set up for designers.

How are fashion businesses in Paris doing? What kind of assistance have they received, and how is the post-pandemic period going? 

The health crisis tied to the COVID-19 epidemic hit Paris’ fashion sector and its entire ecosystem hard: store closures, cancelled events, a drop in tourism … The industry, which was already having a difficult time, continued to suffer, mostly due to the growth of e-commerce and increasing concern for environmental issues. A study by the Paris Urbanism Agency reported a 13% drop in the number of clothing, shoe, and jewellery stores in Paris between 2017 and 2020. 

Given the context, the City of Paris maintained and increased its support for companies and designers. For example, the City suspended rents for the shops and designers using its premises and allocated €6 million in aid for companies, artisans, and cultural businesses. In addition, the City is fully committed to the future of the fashion industry and continues to develop a commercial real estate program for young designers. For example, there’s La Caserne, dedicated to eco-friendly fashion, and then there’s the promotion of sustainable fashion that’s made in Paris. The truth is that the health and economic crisis strengthened designers’ awareness of environmental and social challenges. It was a very important time for reflection and innovation. 

The City of Paris is very involved in design, especially with its Grands Prix Awards. Did this year’s fashion winners present projects that were different in any way? 

Every year the City of Paris’ Grands Prix de la Création honours six Parisian designers – both confirmed professionals and those starting out – in the fields of fashion, design, and the artistic trades. The Grand Prix awards €18,000 in prize money for winners to finance their projects, a sum that is partially financed by the City of Paris and supplemented with contributions from the Ateliers de Paris Endowment Fund donors. Winners also benefit from increased visibility and services provided by the competition’s partners and associates. 

This year’s fashion jury was led by designer Amélie Pichard, who paid close attention to not only the candidates’ creativity but also their working methods. Maitrepierre, who won the emerging talent award, mixes an old-time fashion feeling with an offbeat approach. The bag he presented for the competition was designed using a computer and made with green leather offcuts. JN. Mellor Club won the Grand Prix for design with a project connecting fashion, design, and art. Shoe designer Karine Arabian and scenographer and gallery director Franck Blais are the duo behind the brand. Their mission is to create intriguing objects, such as their tote bag inspired by the scaffolding bags used on construction sites and made with vegetable-tanned leather from dead stock. Once again, during the judging process we saw the young generation of designers present ambitious, socially engaged projects meant to preserve the environment. 

The made-in-Paris concept is in the spotlight, particularly with the “Fabriqué à Paris” label, but also with the Ateliers de Paris incubator where Parisian designers can test their business models. What are the benefits of these initiatives? 

The “Fabriqué à Paris” label was created to promote the diversity and depth of Parisian design, craftsmanship, and expertise. Since its inception, over 1,100 products have been given the label in five categories: fashion and accessories, manufactured goods, products for the home, innovation, and food. Each year the jury awards purses of between €500 and €2,000 for three products in each category. The label is granted for one year and, thanks to promotion by the City, gives the products visibility. 

The Ateliers de Paris incubator provides space and developmental support to young Parisian businesses in fashion, design, and craftsmanship. The project includes working space at a reduced rent, personalized support, and extensive marketing handled by the City of Paris. Every year 30 projects are accepted for a duration of a year. We do our best to guide these new professionals throughout their growth, whether they’re young or experienced designers. We also accept new projects that further eco-responsible fashion that’s 100% – or almost –made in Paris. These designers contribute to the influence and attractiveness of Paris. And I know I can count on the teams from the City’s Office of Design, Fashion and Art Trades to make all of this happen.