By EVIANA HARTMAN
What could possibly be more interesting than Parisian style? Parisian style mixed with African style. That alchemical blend—with its push-pull between high and low, refinement and exuberance—defines the appeal of Marché Noir, a 6-month-old vintage and housewares boutique in the Marais that has already become something of a sourcebook for the city’s inspiration-hungry design teams, and where multiple Vogue editors recently found themselves shopping (and scoring) between shows at Paris Fashion Week.
“The vision for me is that it’s not just a shop; it’s a style office,” says founder Amah Ayivi, a former casting director and native of Togo, where he sources, by his estimation, 95 percent of the store’s clothing and accessories; many of them, in fact, were originally shipped to Africa as cast-offs from the West. Or as his online manifesto puts it, it’s dedicated to “ghetto style” inspired by subcultures around the world that lack resources but not creativity: “invented from scratch, a style made out of waste, diversion, and quirks.” That translates to $25-or-so blouses and dresses in so-bad-they’re-good prints, embroidered African tunics that could double as wall art, and an entire section of workwear in French blue. Next door, the home-goods division offers up antique Indian quilts, Indonesian shell lamps, and fresh cups of hibiscus juice in a glamorously scruffy former restaurant.
The project originated as a pop-up within Ayivi’s nightclub and café off the Canal Saint-Martin, Le Comptoir Général, and like that transportative venue, Marché Noir is worth a visit for the space alone, from the pueblo-esque built-ins and van-size potted palms to the endearingly froufrou pink-on-pink dressing area. Square foot for square foot, it’s so Instagrammable as to test the strength of one’s international data roaming plan.
Yet none of it feels forced, which is the essence of its charm—and which makes it an oasis of ground-up authenticity in the rapidly Soho-fying Marais district. “It’s a place you can come to find and build your own style,” Ayivi says. “You can bring your H&M or your Céline pieces, and here you’ll find that extra touch.” And who, these days, isn’t looking for that?