Meet the designer behind much beloved children's line ZEF, a brand that reflects kids’ cheeky and sweet natures. Although this 40 year-old now calls the French capital home, she was born in Imola, the Italian motor racing capital. Mariu invites us into her apartment and boutique to speak about her new home town of Pari, that she come to know like the back of her hand.
Profession: Childrenswear Designer
Neighbourhood: 1st Arrondissement
Do you have any typically Parisian habits? Not just one habit, but several! 1/ Wearing perfume. 2/ Always meeting up in cafés. 3/Buying a baguette every evening on the way home.
Do you admit to any bad habits? Too much coffee! And perhaps complaining too much like most other Parisians... (laughs)
When you're abroad what do you miss about Paris? Pavement cafés and my beloved Petit Bar on Rue du Mont Thabor.
Au Petit Bar, 7 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 Paris
Which typically French gifts do you like to give to foreigners? Without any doubt it has to be the camembert from Marie Quatrehomme on Rue de Sèvres in the 6th arrondissement, I can never pass it up.
Marie Quatrehomme, 62, rue de Sèvres, 75006
Which places in Paris make you happy? The roof of the La Samaritaine (former department store), Café de Flore and the Jardin des Tuileries where I love to go for a stroll, either alone or with my kids.
Café de Flore, 172 boulevard saint germain, 75006 Paris
Jardin des Tuileries, 113 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Which scents do you associate with Paris? When I think about Paris, I think about warm croissants in the morning, roast chicken at the weekend, zinc and also smell of rain on asphalt.
Does your apartment make you feel good? Yes, we've lived there since September 2014, and I knew as soon as I saw it that it with its mix of French and Italian design details that it was where we were meant to live. On one hand the bas-reliefs surrounding the courtyard and the buildings opposite remind me of the buildings in Naples. One the other hand the surrounding zinc roofs are so unmistakably Parisian. Not to mention the apartment's typically Parisian moulding, parquet flooring and fireplaces.
Where do you spend most of your time at home? In my kitchen because it's so lovely and bright. It's very open and sits right in the middle of the house.
What made you pick the 1st arrondissement to live? We've lived in the 1st arrondissement for 15 years, it's the only place I really feel at home. It's a really more of an international area than simply a Parisian one, there are lots of luxury hotels there, plus its very central and green looking thanks to the Jardin des Tuileries and the Palais Royal gardens – the perfect blend for a foreigner like me.
What are you favourite local spots? Angelina for its green bean salad and wonderful Mont Blanc dessert and Librairie Galignani bookshop for its incredible selection of art and literature books, I could sit in there for hours. Ferdi, for its divine fish ceviche; The Japanese supermarket on Rue Molière, I shop there frequently, especially when I want to stock up on tofu, sauces and condiments. Astier de Villatte, because I just love their vases and dinnerware.
Angelina 226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Librairie Galignani, 224 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Ferdi, 32 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 Paris
Astier de Villatte, 173 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris
Where do you go to relax and recharge the batteries? The Palais Royal gardens or the beautiful garden inside the Musée de la Vie Romantique museum.
Musée de la Vie Romantique, 16 Rue Chaptal, 75009 Paris
Where do you head to de-stress? The water lilies room in the Orangerie gallery. I recommend visiting it at least once, it's a unique and truly fantastic place. Personally I could sit in there all day admiring the works of art.
Where do you go to buy beauty gifts? The Santa Maria Novella counter at Bon Marché, I love their Eau de Cologne Melograno. You can't beat the fragrance for its fresh, aldehydic floral and citrusy notes, I wear it as well.
Santa Maria Novella at Bon Marché. 24 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris.
Is the ZEF child Parisian? Above all the ZEF child is a little globetrotter who travels a lot and follows his parents when they travel. As for being a Parisian? Of course and just like his mum his style is chic and discreet and I do have to say that the ZEF child is very fun. As for the ZEF boutiques, they're similar in style to my home, a mix of Paris and Italy with – I hope – a comfy home-like atmosphere.
ZEF 55 bis Rue des Saints-Pères, 75006 Paris
Do you have any typically Parisian lifestyle habits? I always butter my bread at breakfast and I never go out without perfume on.
What defines female beauty? I think it's 1001 little details: a look, a smile, a way of doing things, mannerisms and attitude. A whole set of characteristics which when put together make for plenty of charm.
Who are your Parisian icons? Loulou de la Falaise. I suppose also for me I have a soft spot for Parisians who adopted the city themselves, like Josephine Baker and Anna Karina, the filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard's muse. Both women have very strong characters.
What do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror? Ciao bella! (laughs)
Do you have any particular beauty loves? When I have time, which is rare, I love going to the hammam at the Paris Mosque, or to the Jardin des Plantes park. It such a relaxing place you can't beat it.
Paris Mosque, 2 bis Place du Puits de L'Ermite, 75005 Paris.
What's your philosophy on life? Enjoy a little pleasure every day.
What's your favourite feel-good movie? The Party with Peter Sellers.
What songs do you find energizing? Gloria by Umberto Tozzi and Get Lucky by Daft Punk, my daughter listens to it on repeat.
Name three words that evoke happiness Amore, dolce, baci (love, sweetness and kisses)
What gets you up and out of bed on a difficult morning? Thinking about having breakfast in my kitchen. Invariably there's Greek yogurt with peaches and maple syrup or cereal (when peaches are out of season) on the menu. And not forgetting freshly squeezed orange juice for a good blast of energy.
How do you relax and disconnect from everything? Sleeping.
Do you have a favourite sport that helps you release tension? Napping.
How do you like to beat the blues? With a pizza and TV night, there's nothing better.
What's your favourite French dish? A pan-fried steak tartare with chips.. a treat!
What do you like to cook for friends and family? Sushi, mashed potato or tomatoes with mozzarella. I don't cook very much.
What's the best place in Paris for Italian goods? Without argument it's the Cooperativa Latte Cisternino. It's the perfect place for everything from mozzarella to olive oil, and it has five different locations across Paris all selling quality products.
Cooperativa Latte Cisternina, 46 Rue du Faubourg Poissonière, 75010 Paris.
Do you follow a particular diet? If I can, I try to eat red meat with a green salad and olive oil at every meal. I can't stand andouillette sausages or celeriac with remoulade dressing though.
What are your favourite sweet treats? Sweet raspberries. The rest of the time I go for savory food, my real weakness is for focaccia and mozzarella.
What French traditions would you miss if they die out? French kissing.
Would you consider living in any other cities? London, in fact I lived there for three years when I was a teenager, which was a great experience. Also, I'd live in New York, Milan or Barcelona thanks to their open feel and cosmopolitan atmosphere.
What is inspiring your next collection? Sun and holidays.
Do you have a good luck charm? My family.
Photos: Hannah & Joël