"C'est une grande habilet que de savoir cacher son habilit."
(It takes great skill to hide the fact that you have great skill.)
     - François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac

To be French, it often seems, is a lifetime’s work of art, a living essay in studied cool - impenetrably passionate and impossible stylish. And control, effortless and uncompromising, is the language in which this uniquely Gallic aesthetic is written - this could only come from us, it says, this is beautiful because we made it.

It should come as no surprise, but it somehow always seems to, that there is something practical and deliberate behind this studied cool. A fascinating conservatory impulse is detectable in the French; a desire to define and place parameters around culture and its multifarious and utterly mercurial processes - even language itself.

This can be seen most tellingly in the Académie Française, whose members spend their lifetimes regulating and ruling on the vocabulary and grammar of the French language. Known as immortals, members of the Académie have been toiling at the Sisyphean task of maintaining the purity of the very language spoken by its people since it was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu.

A cheese may only carry the world famous Roquefort name if the ewes’ milk cheese is then aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, an appellation that has been protected under similar terms since Charles VI granted a cheese-ripening monopoly to the people of the region in 1411.

In 1925, Roquefort was in fact the first recipient of the status Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC), through which France enshrined protection of the regional integrity and artisanal techniques of wine, cheese and other agricultural produce in its statutes. Other notable appellations include red wine from the Côtes du Rhône region and Champagne, which needs no introduction.

For centuries France has been an unparalleled culinary force that has literally defined the global perception of what constitutes cuisine - in the modern hospitality industry the bestowal of just one of its precious Michelin stars represents towering feats of innovation and excellence in the kitchen.

Haute couture, a term granted the status of “protected name” in France since 1945, is further evidence of France’s disciplined nurturing of its cherished culture and creativity. The strict and positively arcane criteria for entry into this, one of the most exclusive, expensive, illustrious categories of trade in the world’s creative industries are defined and policed by the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Paris. They are responsible for the extraordinary atmosphere of unfettered creativity in the hothouse of a glamorous elite, which sends breathtaking new design down the runway every season.

From this self-possessed surety of beauty and style, France produces the gilded spectrum of quintessentially French products which have come to represent the pinnacle of luxury and therefore set standards for those elite few for whom living in luxury is the norm.

Behind that dazzling rainbow of elite aesthetics and elite consumption, sits the
Comité Colbert - perhaps the most compelling evidence to the Gallic impulse for putting order in beauty. Subdivided into seven distinct and highly evolved Working Commissions and the brainchild of Jean-Jacques Guerlain, the visionary son of the Guerlain perfume dynasty, the Comité is perhaps the most prestigious guild in the world.

The now seventy five members of the Comité comprise the most prestigious and exclusive brands across the ten categories, such as faience and porcelain, which cover the cultural pride of France.

The publishing and decoration category includes interior design legend Christian Liaigre, while some of the truly iconic members from hospitality and gastronomy include the Hôtel Ritz, Le Meurice, and George V. Christofle is a notable member from the silver and bronze industry, while the great names from haute couture and fashion design names - including Chloé, Chanel, Christian Dior, Lacoste and Yves Saint Laurent - speak eloquently for themselves. Boucheron, Breguet, Cartier, S.T. Dupont and Van Cleef & Arpels gleam magnificently from the jewellery membership, while fragrances are represented by Guerlain, Caron, Lancôme, Jean Patou, Rochas and the stellar cast of parfums from the great design houses, such as Chanel and Christian Dior. The champagnes Bollinger and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin sit on the committee alongside Château Lafite-Rothschild, Martell, and Cognac Rémy Martin in the fine wine and cognac category. Crystal is prominently represented by Baccarat and leather goods features luxury icons Hermès, Longchamp, and Louis Vuitton.

The Comité has also spread its influence further than the luxury arts and crafts sector, counting on such prestigious associate members as Air France, the Musée du Louvre, Château de Versailles, and the Opéra National de Paris. These illustrious members represent both the Comité and their beloved France on an international stage working hand in glove with the significant international presence the Comité maintains through exhibitions and projects year round in places like Shanghai, Madrid, Delhi and Dubai.

France is spearheading the luxury industry across the European Union. In June this year, the Comité Colbert opened its doors to four new members - the porcelain brand Herend, glassware specialists Moser, watch and pen giant Montblanc and camera and optics firm Leica. These members now represent the traditions and culture of Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Germany on the Comité.

Both the name and the aims of the Comité take their inspiration from the same man - Jean-Baptiste Colbert. Made Minister of Finance by Louis XIV in 1661, this visionary Frenchman saw that the mercantile future of France lay with the fruits of its exquisite culture. Continuing his stellar rise through the ranks of Louis’ court, he became Superintendent of Royal Buildings, Arts and Manufactures in 1664. Colbert used his financial acumen and his epicurean taste as a renowned art collector to promote export trade and in so doing made French craftsmanship known across the globe.

Since it was founded in 1954, the Comité’s mission has been to take on the mantle of Colbert’s groundbreaking legacy in the fomentation and promotion of France’s vast luxury goods industry. Under the direction of Elisabeth Ponsolle des Portes, President and CEO, and Chairperson Françoise Montenay, the president of Chanel, the Comité has, in its modern guise, continued to pursue this mission using its powerful international influence and a grassroots approach focused on encouraging fresh talent into the craft industries, fostering continuity and innovation.

Expert practitioners of age old arts and traditions wedded to the variagated riches of the soil of their forefathers, the thirty six thousand craftspeople employed by Comité members keep the soul of their nation alive. With seventy five out of the two hundred global luxury brands, representing one third of the industry’s global business volume, Comité members use living history to produce luxury artifacts that dominate the world market and simultaneously maintain France’s position as the globally revered pinnacle of high culture. Jean-Baptiste Colbert would have been proud.

Returning to the uniquely French approach to cultural identity, it is perhaps the margins beyond control that reveal more than the notion of control itself. The extent to which aesthetic beauty can never be contained completely by our logical facilities, indefinably just beyond the yearning grasp of our understanding and the flailing grip of our control, illuminates France’s extraordinary cultural design project - this great and noble life of art:

"On n'aime que ce qu'on ne possède pas tout entier."
(We love only what we do not wholly possess.)
     - Marcel Proust 

    - Benjamin Stewart

Comité Colbert

  2 bis Rue de la Baume
Paris, 75008
1 53 89 07 60

Members divided into 10 Categories of Arts

Publishing and Decoration
     - Bussière, 1924
     - Christian Liaigre, 1985
     - D. Porthault, 1924
     - Diane de Selliers Éditeur, 1992
     - Flammarion Beaux Livres, 1875
     - Mobilier national - Gobelins, Beauvais, Savonnerie, 1662
     - Pierre Frey, 1935
     - Yves Delorme, 1845

Hospitality and gastronomy
     - Dalloyau, 1802
     - George V, 1928
     - Hédiard, 1854
     - Hôtel Le Bristol, 1924
     - Hôtel du Palais, 1893
     - Hôtel Plaza Athénée, 1911
     - Hôtel Ritz, 1898
     - La Maison du Chocolat, 1977
     - Le Meurice, 1835
     - Lenôtre, 1957
     - Oustau de Baumanière, 1945
     - Pierre Hermé Paris, 1996
     - Potel et Chabot, 1820
     - Taillevent, 1946
    - Alain Ducasse, 1956
    - Joël Robuchon, 1945
    - Guy Savoy, 1953

Faience and porcelain
     - Bernardaud, 1863
     - Faïenceries de Gien, 1821
     - Robert Haviland & C. Parlon, 1924
     - Sèvres - Cité de la céramique, 1738

Silver and bronze
     - Christofle, 1830
     - Delisle, 1895
     - Ercuis, 1867
     - Puiforcat, 1820
     - La Monnaie de Paris, 864

Haute couture and fashion design

     - Bonpoint, 1975
     - Céline, 1945
     - Chanel, 1912
     - Chloé, 1952
     - Christian Dior, 1947
     - Eres, 1968
     - Givenchy, 1952
     - Jeanne Lanvin, 1889
     - Lacoste, 1933
     - Leonard, 1943
     - Pierre Balmain, 1945
     - Yves Saint Laurent, 1962

     - Boucheron, 1858
     - Breguet, 1775
     - Cartier, 1847
     - Lorenz Bäumer Joaillier, 1992
     - Mellerio dits Meller, 1613
     - S.T. Dupont, 1872
     - Van Cleef & Arpels, 1906

     - Caron, 1904
     - Guerlain, 1828
     - Éditions de parfums Frédéric Malle, 2000
     - Parfums Chanel, 1924
     - Parfums Christian Dior, 1948
     - Parfums Givenchy, 1957
     - Parfums Hermès, 1948
     - Jean Patou Paris, 1925
     - Lancôme, 1935
     - Rochas, 1925
     - Yves Saint Laurent Parfums, 1962

Champagne, Fine Wine and Cognac
     - Champagne Bollinger, 1829
     - Château Cheval Blanc, 1832
     - Château Lafite-Rothschild, 1855
     - Château d’Yquem, 1593
     - Champagne Krug, 1843
     - Martell, 1715
     - Champagne Perrier-Jouët, 1811
     - Cognac Rémy Martin, 1724
     - Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, 1772

     - Baccarat, 1764
     - Saint-Louis, 1586

Leather goods
     - Berluti, 1895
     - Hermès, 1837
     - John Lobb, 1899
     - Longchamp, 1948
     - Louis Vuitton, 1854
     - Pierre Hardy, 1999

Associate Members
     - Académie de France à Rome Villa Médicis, 1666
     - Air France, 1933
     - Château de Versailles, 1661
     - Comédie-Française, 1680
     - La Demeure Historique, 1924
     - Mobilier national - Gobelins, Beauvais, Savonnerie, 1662
     - La Monnaie de Paris, 864
     - Sèvres - Cité de la céramique, 1738
     - Musée du Louvre, 1793
     - Opéra National de Paris, 1669
     - Orchestre national de France / ADEMMA, 1925
     - La Sorbonne, 1257
     - Les Arts Décoratifs, 1882
    - Musée d'Orsay, 1986

European Members
     - Herend, Hungary (porcelain), 1826
     - Moser, Czech Republic (glassware), 1857
     - Montblanc, Germany (writing instruments and watches), 1906
     - Leica, Germany (cameras and optics), 1865
Comité Colbert

Comite Colbert 1 - Elisabeth Ponsolle des Portes, President and CEO