Protecting the Savoir Faire of France, One Label at a Time
Objects have a way of taking us to faraway places and bygone eras through the simple act of being. Wherever you may be, a sip of aged wine from Burgundy or the salty fragrance of a soap bar made in Marseille can transport you - at least in your mind’s eye - to lush vineyards in the French country and beautiful Provençal landscapes along the sea. This connection between place and object is what we, at Madame de la Maison, constantly strive to explore. We know how much our customers value the visceral feeling of bringing home a bit of France with each purchase. But have you ever wondered what actually gives these traditionally crafted objects that unique transportive power?
You might have noticed that some products in our shop have a strong regional identity - for instance these elegant floral Limoges plates , or these molded floral Limoges plates and this exquisite Quimper serving bowl. These objects happen to be intimately connected to the local savoir faire, terrain and community of the regions where they are produced. For instance, Limoges, owing to its rich reserves of kaolin clay and cluster of world-class factories, enjoys the coveted status of being a premium producer of porcelain since the 19th century. Similarly, hand-painted Quimper pottery from Brittany and premium Basque linen have their own unique histories tied to their regions of origin.
Interestingly, these local identities play a big role in determining the authentication process by which these objects are certified and protected. France is famous for its official system of product labelling, known best for the A.O.C. (appellation d’origine contrôlés), which has historically and successfully protected local farmers and artisans from counterfeit productions and unfair competition. Geographically specific labels are created for products of the region or produits du terroir and used exclusively by qualifying local producers. Such geographically determined safeguards, however, were limited to agricultural products like wine and cheese - till recently.
Newer legislation in France has finally enabled non-agricultural artisanal goods to earn similar labelling standards and, thus, further commercial protection. In 2016, the famous chairs of Liffole became the first products to receive an official “Geographical Indication.” Limoges porcelain followed soon after in 2017 and the formulation of a corresponding label is underway for Basque linens.
The World Trade Organization defines a Geographical Indication (GI) as “a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.” Its primary function is to prevent a third party from misusing the label for products that do not conform to applicable standards, which are previously determined by a rigorous process of research and documentation. France, a country known for its rich heritage of artisanal production and traditional know-how, has fervently taken advantage of the GI system since its conception thanks to the active involvement of institutions such as the INPI (Institut national de la propriété industrielle). Small producers have much to gain from such measures, especially with rising competition from international markets and several counterfeiting attempts in recent years, for example in the case of Limoges porcelain.
At a time when precious, handmade and one-of-a-kind items are threatened by cheaply mass-produced look-a-likes, the handicrafts market is in dire need of such standardization systems that formally determine the authenticity of various products. From our personal experience of visiting ateliers and antique markets across France, working closely with linen producers and building relationships with makers across the country, we can confidently affirm the pricelessness of artisanal craftsmanship and the need to sustain its cultural value. Legislative measures such as GI’s provide the kind of validation and support needed by each of these artisanal communities to protect and preserve their local heritage.
We consider the boutique and services of Madame de la Maison as our own way of showing support for authentic French savoir faire. Our collection is made up of verified items, each with its own local legacy and history. You can find a few below. We want to help you own a genuine piece of France and believe we're joining the mission of validating, preserving, protecting and keeping alive the rich patrimony of the French artisanat.
Our set of 6 cream floral Limoges scalloped plates available in the shop.
Large Quimper serving bowl available in the shop.
Cream and floral scalloped Limoges plates available in the shop.
Pink and White Floral Limoges plates from Madame de la Maison
White molded Limoges plates with a floral ring around the edge, sold on Over The Moon.
- Written by Devyani Aggarwal