Interview with Guillaume Excoffier and Nancy Gabriel, Gabriel & Guillaume
In 2011, Guillaume Excoffier launched a unique store in the Parisian district of Le Marais called Guillaume, featuring a mix of vintage and contemporary pieces. One regular client was Nancy Gabriel, an advertising executive who proposed an idea to bring the concept of his home-like gallery to an international level. United by a mutual passion for design, they created a revolutionary pop-up store called Gabriel & Guillaume, which was launched to great fanfare in Beirut and Paris. In this interview, Gabriel & Guillaume co-founders Excoffier and Gabriel speaks to Tharawat Magazine about how their work is pushing the boundaries of a one-of-a-kind shopping experience.
Gabriel & Guillaume is known as a traveling gallery for fine art and design. What does this mean and how does it work?
We occupy a space for a month and we furnish as we would for our home – with a mix of vintage and contemporary pieces, both signed and anonymous. Gabriel & Guillaume is never the same because both the location and featured merchandise are greatly varied every time. Indeed, we buy and display a lot of vintage pieces, of which many of them are unique. This arrangement collectively gives customers a strong feeling of eclectism, sophistication, and culture.
What kinds of designs are showcased in Gabriel & Guillaume pop-up shops and how are they curated?
We really don’t follow any rule for the kind of designs we present. We present a lot of mid-century modern pieces from around the world. This year we have an amazing desk that we found in Mexico from Mexican designer Eugenio Escudero, armchairs from Brazil by Percival Lafer, tables from 70’s Italian design master Gabriella Crespi, as well as American mid-century minimal furniture, from Ward Bennett to Edward Wormley.
But this doesn’t mean that all of the designs are constrained to that period. We like to include a number of twists by introducing antiques from the 17th to 20th centuries, like an Italian day bed from the early 19th century or a mid-19th century mercerized mirror.
We really work hard to create an eclectic mix because we want to show how many different pieces can be elegantly presented together as long as it is curated in a smart way.
What is the advantage of showcasing designs in a pop-up shop format as opposed to traditional shops or exhibits?
The pop-up format just feels more modern and exciting than a classic white cube gallery. People nowadays want to be amazed and they want to feel special, so the idea of a one-month pop-up event that will never be repeated in the same form gives people the feeling of an exclusive one-of-a-kind shopping experience.
What kinds of challenges or difficulties do you face that is unique to when you are putting together a pop-up shop?
The challenges are numerous but they are also what make pop-up stores so exciting. The main challenge comes from the fact that for every pop-up shop, we have to start all over again from scratch! This means that we have to find a new space, create the arrangement of furniture that works with that space, organize launches, and generate press. It’s a new adventure every time.
Our ultimate aim is to create a real brand around Gabriel & Guillaume, and become a reference for both collectors and professionals. We are hard at work to develop our concept and continue to innovate our offerings.
As successful entrepreneurs, what advice do you have to others who are looking to succeed?
First of all, I think you need passion! Go for it if you love it and know about it! Second, differentiation is key – think outside of the box. You need to offer something people are not used to by selling them unique products and a unique shopping experience. Finally, don’t count your hours. You must always on the prowl, on the hunt for stock and new markets.