Franco File Friday: The Sporting Project

Working to build an international fashion label certainly has its perks. By their mid-twenties, Tara Gilson and Jenny Capano's travels had already spanned the world - from England to China, Korea to Lebanon and beyond. They had learned and experienced more about global business working for 3.1 Phillip Lim than most people their age and had the good fortune to spend two weeks, four times a year, over the course of four years, in Paris - the city they now call home. 

When the girls decided it was time to move on and construct something of their own, they tapped into their vast networks for support and rolled up their sleeves for the long journey from conception to creation. Nine months after initial conversations, late-night planning, legal acrobatics and a seemingly endless streams of paperwork, their creative agency The Sporting Project has 'opened for business' in Paris. Their first project is a pop-up dinner series that brings together the distinct culinary cultures of New York (primarily via Brooklyn) and Paris. Beginning next week around Paris Fashion Week, the kick-off dinner will be led by upstart entrepreneurs Phil Winser and Ben Towill of New York's The Fat Radish and hosted at Bob's Kitchen in the Marais. 

Tara and Jenny's quiet confidence and serious work ethic tell me their solo venture is poised for a bright future. Here, they tell me a little bit more about their motivations for the project and how it has been settling into their new environment. 

With successful careers in fashion, what made you venture out on your own (and into food no less)?  

Sometimes the first idea is not the best. A long time ago we would host dinners for our friends where Tara would teach yoga and then Jenny would cook and serve dinner.  We called it 'Eat and Touch Your Feet'… awful name!  So that was the beginning of our food ventures in a way.  Also, our former boss, CEO of 3.1 Phillip Lim, Wen Zhou, was the ultimate entrepreneur so she really taught us everything and inspired us to go out on our own.  Same with our friends - many have their own businesses so we were constantly surrounded by like-minded individuals.

It's no coincidence that you chose Paris, one of the world's culinary capitals, to launch The Sporting Project. Food aside, why do you think the city continues to seduce foreigners, particularly die-hard New Yorkers like yourselves?  

For us, it was simple. If we were going to leave New York, there was only one place to go and that place was Paris, no questions.  Paris seduces (and will continue to seduce) with its sheer beauty and charm in addition to its many nuances and idiosyncrasies – frustrating though some may be.

What, in particular, are you doing to feel settled into your new city?  

A perfect example is that we no longer partake in 'to-go' coffee (it was sometimes a twice daily ritual to have a Starbucks to-go in NY) rather always take the extra 15 minutes to sit down and enjoy the coffee, especially in the new coffee shops in Paris.

Given your frequent visits to the city, I'm sure you have your own little black book of go-to addresses for dinner and cocktails. Which are your favorites? 

Télescope for coffee and cookies
Bob's Kitchen for a perfect veggie lunch (and cookies too !)
Du Pain et Des Idées for the most delicious pain au chocolat banane 
Roseval for dinner
Tentazioni for perfect home Italian cooking, our go-to when we are working late and need a break for dinner 
Les Trois Maillet in the 5ème for a nightcap
And highly anticipating the opening of Glass for a great cocktail and some dancing (from the Candelaria family)

Best way to scope out Paris as a new expat?  
Our phrase is 'hitting the streets' which means we walk everywhere to explore the city 

Any amusing or especially frustrating interactions you've had with the French thus far?  
Well Funny story ... the day before we received our Carte de Séjour (i.e. residency card), we learned we needed to pay a fee to finalize the process and this payment could only be made with tax stamps, in French called 'timbres fiscaux' and could only be purchased at a Tabac shop.  If that was not crazy enough, when we arrived at the Tabac shop to purchase the stamps, the owner would not sell us all of his stamps, claiming he needed to keep a few in case other customers wanted to buy.  But we are the customers, we want to buy them, we will happily buy all of them!  Alas, the answer was no. He sold us half of his stash and then on we went  on a hunt to 4 other Tabac shops to complete our collection of timbre fiscaux.

Advice for hopeful entrepreneurs looking to set up shop in Paris?  
There are so many times you are greeted with the answer 'impossible', but  it’s always possible ! Keep smiling, keep offering new solutions and eventually you’ll find a way.

Thanks, Tara and Jenny! There are still a FEW seats remaining for dinner on September 26th and 27th so reserve a spot now! For updates, follow The Sporting Project on Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to catch their adorable video too!

(all photos courtesy of Tara and Jenny)

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