Design Legend Martin Grant Talks Expat Life

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He’s dressed Hollywood royalty, actual royalty, Qantas cabin crew, ground staff and, as of next year, Qantas pilots. Twenty-four years after leaving Melbourne, the designer tells us what holds him in France and what lures him back to the country he left.

Where do you live in Paris?
I live in the Marais. I’ve been there pretty much since arriving.

What’s the secret to adapting to a new city?
Integration. I didn’t have any friends in Paris; it forced me to go out and meet French people. I wanted to learn the language and understand the culture so for the first two years I spent my whole time immersed in “French-ness” [laughs].

What do you miss about Australia?
Family, the landscape, the light, the sky – everything that is Australian. Living in a big city and travelling between big cities, I crave nature. Australian cities are surrounded by or have nature integrated into them and that’s what I love. Particularly in Sydney, there are so many parks, the weather’s beautiful, the harbour’s there – so even to go for a walk, you’re in nature immediately. In Paris, you have to go to either end of the city, to the Bois de Boulogne or the Bois de Vincennes, otherwise parks are strict squares of grass that you can’t walk on [laughs] – it’s a little bit frustrating.

How often do you get back to Australia?
I try to go back at least once a year – and one of the great things about working with Qantas is that I’ve been coming back a lot more regularly. I always used to come back in summer to escape the European winter.

How much time do you spend at work?
Working on the collections, I’ll spend all day and almost all night. When I’m not needed there as much, I try to travel.

Is your studio near your home in the Marais?
It’s not even five minutes’ walk. Sometimes it takes three minutes so I often have to take the long way to see a little bit of the outside world!

What’s your favourite bar in Paris?
I don’t hang out in bars very much and I don’t drink coffee. I much prefer staying at home, cooking, having friends over. I’ve spent many years travelling and in restaurants and hotels so, for me, luxury is being at home. There’s one favourite bar I used to go to called
Au Petit Fer à Cheval (30 rue Vieille du Temple), which means “the little horseshoe”. It’s a very small café in my area.

Do you have a favourite restaurant?
One local restaurant that’s very good is called Le Café du Musée (17 boulevard des Invalides). It’s a classic small French brasserie but with Japanese chefs so it has a slightly fresher take on classic French cuisine. I find French cuisine too heavy; I much prefer light, fresh foods. Another one is a fairly new Japanese restaurant in the street behind my office. It’s called Soma (13 rue de Saintonge). It’s French-run but with a Japanese chef – beautiful and very relaxed.

Is there an aspect of Paris life you would like to see in Australia?
I guess Paris is richer in museums, although Australia has some fantastic places. When I’m in Australia, I try to look at Australian art or Indigenous art. Last time, we went to Tasmania, to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art, 655 Main Road, Berriedale), which was amazing. That, to me, is one of the most international, incredible places that Australia has.

When you think of home, what place is that?
It depends where I am. If I’m in Australia, I think it’s Paris and if I’m in Paris, I think it’s Australia.

Do you think you’ll live in Australia again?
It’s very difficult to even imagine at the moment because my whole life is in Paris. My business is here and I work in Europe and America a lot. I love the idea of it but who knows what the future holds? 



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