Against a magical backdrop of the candlelit medieval city of Birgu, the launch party of Birgu Blue Rendez-Vous was held on Saturday 12th October.

Birgu Blue is the latest concept store to open its doors in Birgu, and is the first of its kind in the Three Cities. Guests at the launch party were treated to a reception showcasing the selection of wines, jams, chutneys and coffee which are stocked in the Gourmet Section of the store. The Concept Store combines the Gourmet Section with fine designer products, all inspired by Malta. The curated selection includes items by renowned Maltese designer Stephanie Borg, as well as an in-house leather collection of garments, bags and accessories designed by Taiwanese fashion designer Ozzie Chien who fuses Asian design with Italian quality and excellence.

A number of events and workshops are planned in the coming weeks, as the store launches the Birgu Blue Academy, which will consist of regular workshops, presentations and short courses for small groups on topics ranging from Design Masterclasses, Leather workshops and Wine appreciation.

The store is open daily except for Mondays, and is located in the historic Collacchio quarter at 66, Hilda Tabone Street, Birgu.

Q&A – Media Launch – Saturday 9th November 2019

JVC :Can you tell me more about this concept, and how it came about?

CZT : The idea was hatched in my head about 7 years ago, when I was still living in Paris. I was exposed the French Art-de-Vivre – the Parisian Cafe’ Lifestyle, the wonderful balance that one finds in France between work and leisure. These incredible French who manage to cram a week’s work in 36 hours and enjoy more of their liesure time, perhaps more than any other European country.

Fast forward a few more years, when I moved to Rome, and there I discovered another very interesting atmosphere, a kind of non-chalance and easy living – the Dolce Vita, perhaps, a concept which has been immortalised by the late great Federico Fellini the famous 60’s movie bearing the same name.

This space is meant to capture the spirit of the Good Life – those elements which lead to Good Living. The Simplicity, the elegance, the comfort and the solace we find in objects we decide to surround ourselves with.

JVC : But what is it that you do exactly?

CZT : we’ve come up with this wonderful tagline which is The ABC of Good Living to better explain who we are and what we do. ABC takes us back to the alphabet, the very beginning of our learning process. It is a reminder that sometimes, finding real happiness and capturing the elusive spirit of Living Well, we need to Unlearn, we need to go back to basics, we need to Simplify our lives. We need to eat and drink stuff which is closer to home, we need to de-clutter.

JVC : I know that each letter represents an activity you do. Tell us more about this’

CZT : I’ll start with the A. ABC also reminds us that education, knowledge & learning are key to Good Living.

So the A in ABC stands for Academy, which is the first area of activity we shall be engaged with. This space today is set up as a shop floor and show room, but it has been designed very cleverly to become a classroom. There are 12 Menorca chairs stacked away in the cupboard and the space is equipped with the latest audiovisual technology – projector, white screen, BOSE sound system to hold workshops, presentations or indeed short coursesfor intimate small groups of between 8 to 12 pax. So we’re already working on a calendar of events for our Academy, which will include Design Masterclasses, Sailing Courses, Food and Wine Tastings, Coffee and Tea rituals, local history sessions. OUr aim is to keep it as varied as possible. We want this to be an open academy, where people from all walks of life meet, exchange and engage – and nurture thier soul with knowledge.

JVC : And what does the B in ABC represent then?

CZT : Of course we are also a Boutique, so the B in ABC stands for Boutique. We believe that in order to live well, beautiful objects and aesthetics are vital. So we’ve been working hard (and enjoying ourselves immensely along the way) to select and curate items which in our humble opinion make us feel good – in most cases, these objects are locally made, and if not, they have some connection with Malta or are sourced from other Islands.

Take the Menorca Chairs you’re sitting on, which we also sell. We bring them ourselves directly from Menorca. We managed to source a company which still has the original designs of what is better known internationally as the Director’s Chair. This chair was designed back in the 1920’s on the island of Menorca by a certainMiguel Ãngel Anglada Alzina. Well Menorca happens to be a island in the Med just like we are, so we’re now stocking these wonderful chairs and also proposing them in leather… though our in-house leather artisan who works here for us and designs our leather accessory and garment collection.

Which brings me to the other strong focus of the Concept Store – leather. About one third of our shop floor area is dedicated to leather. And for good reason. We have our very own collection of leatherware, which means that contrary to all the other items where we select and curate, when it comes to leather objects and bags, we source the raw materials, design the collection and have them produced and sold exclusively in our shop. It take much more work and effort of course, but it also ensures that every single piece you see is unique, it is hand-made, and 100% hand stitched by our in-house leather man – Ozzie Chien. This allows us to be original and playful in our designs – so we came up with a scented candle holder for the Birgu by Candlelight festival last week, which incidentally double up as a mug holder as well for your caffe lattes, and we designed those lovely espresso al vetro cups which complement perfectly our Coffee beans which we import from Ethiopia.

A part of our concept also includes a mini gourmet section. Our gourmet corner is an important aspect in the equation – we’ve got some wonderful homemade jams and chutneys lovingly prepared for us by Andrea Critien of With Love From Our Kitchen, and of course the Maltese wines form Delicata Winery. We’ve decided to keep it local. The best local premium wines from the Delicata WIne Collection – the Medina, the Grand Vin the Hauteville, the Grand Cavalier, and jams and preserves from seasonal fruits and vegetables.

We’re also looking at sourcing some teas. We’re lucky to have Ozzie who is Taiwanese, and as you know, Taiwan produces some of the finest green teas in the world.

JVC : You’ve mentioned your coffee. You live in Italy. Why this choice of importing coffee from Ethiopia directly. What’s the story here?

CZT : As I said before, we try as much as possible to showcase products which have a connection with Malta. Eskedar coffee is a great coffee quality-wise, but the story of Eskedar herself, whose coffee brand is named after her is indeed very touching.

13 years ago, Eskedar arrived in Malta on a boat as a refugee and was saved by our Armed Forces off the coast and brought safely ashore. Malta became home to her, but she was always rooted to her homeland and her family in Ethiopia, who had coffee plantations for generations. She now lives in Lithuania. Her very own brand – Eskedar coffee is now established and her coffee blends – the BUNA and the SIDAMO are some of the best coffees we have ever had. We are proud to supply Eskedar coffee at Birgu Blue. And Eskedar’s story with Malta has come full circle.

JVC : So should i presume that the C in ABC stands for Coffee?

CZT: Coffee is a part of our lives. How dull and boring would life be without coffee? It’s not just about the drink itself! It is also about the aroma, the smell, the ritual. It’s the culture around the coffee drinking. It’s the messy business of stuffing your moka with coffee powder and letting it boil until you get that irresistible coffee smell every morning. So yes, if you like the C is about the coffee. However it is also about the custom and bespoke experience which we offer here at Birgu Blue. Our leather products are bespoke. We do not hold large quantities in stock . All items are perfectly tailor-made, down to putting the initials of the client on bags or wallets or anything else which can be ordered. We would like to extend the bespoke element of Birgu Blue to services as well. Se C stands also for Concierge services, particularly addressing the tourist market and the expat community in Malta. In order to do this you need a very strong and intimate knowledge of the destination, as well as a good network of contacts on the island. We have it, and we intend applying the knowledge and the network we’ve created over the years to serve our clients, who may be individuals who do not wish to follow a plain vanilla standard, run-of-the-mill tour of the islands. Rather they are after the experience and the authentic experience. Although it is still early days, and we are still far from being operational on this aspect of our business model, the concept is there and we just have to work on it.

JVC : Claude, I’ve seen that you’ve put aside a small goodie bag with the press pack. What have you come up with?

CZT : for the launch party at during Birgu Fest, we thought we’d have a bit of fun with some design illustrations to explain our concept. So we got a designer friend of ours whose work is very much inspired by the vintage Campari and Martini artwork and she came up with some wonderful designs which perfectly reflect our style. So we’ve thrown in a nice ABC poster, as well as the full set of 10 postcards which represent a nice selection of the items we’re proposing at our Store.

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