Eviana Hartman. It is called Etxe Nami, which means “house” and “wave” in Basque and Japanese, respectively, and is situated one quick TGV stop past Biarritz in the center of Saint-Jean-de-Luz (a quaint port town that hosted the moving final scene of Eric Rohmer’s 1986 summer-holiday classic Le Rayon Vert). The name and concept reflect the half-French, half-Japanese heritage of founder Gloria Reiko Pedemonte, a habitué of the Paris underground creative scene who decamped to the region two years ago after a decade-plus running the electronic music label Tsunami-Addiction. Inspired by memories of the country home of her Japanese grandmother, who lived to be 100, and Purple Café, a storied early-aughts Paris canteen run by the influential magazine, Pedemonte partnered with Paris-based chef Lena Balacco to create a multipurpose space she describes as “a spiritual initiatory journey that would dive me into my deep roots.”
That journey begins in the austerely lovely café, which feels a bit like Southern France’s answer to Dimes or Sqirl with its whitewashed interior and Instagrammable vegetarian Japanese bowls, made with organic produce from the legendary farmer’s market around the corner. Out back, handmade ceramics and objects from Japan are sold in a loftlike structure, along with clothes from progressive international brands like Tokyo’s Cosmic Wonder; Baserange (one cofounder lives relatively nearby in Toulouse); and Etxe Nami’s in-house brand Vague et Lame (“wave and blade”), a unisex collaboration with Parisian designer Joel Dages inspired by Japanese workwear and made locally with organic French textiles. The space also serves as a gallery—on display now are one-of-a-kind indigo-dyed garments by designer Anaïs Guery—and hosts an artists’ residency that invites Japanese contemporary talent to learn and reinterpret Basque craft traditions. An adjacent garden offers ongoing workshops for the public, which this month include Japanese cooking, indigo dyeing, and origami.
It all makes for an experience far richer than retail—one that feels both radically new and completely natural in a region where time seems to stand still. “The Basque country looks strangely like Japan, and they have a lot in common: The ocean and mountain landscapes, climate, language sonorities, street names, folklore, pagan beliefs, craft,” Pedemonte says. “We want to forge strong links between Japan and the Basque country by relying on crafts and tradition while combining them with modernity. The space is an invitation to travel—to understand the cultures.”
Etxe Nami, 11 Avenue Jaureguiberry, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France; etxenami.com.