A fashion designer who studied Fine Arts at Goldsmiths and Textile Design at Central St Martins in London, Coralie Scarnato moved to Ceret eight years ago and opened La Boheme, a boutique and atelier where she makes and sells her vibrant striped Catalan cloth products, and her own collections of winter clothes.
Born in Provence to Sicilian parents, Coralie moved to London for a few months on an exchange programme and ended up staying 15 years! “I don’t like being a tourist,” she tells us, “If I like a place, as I did with London, I want to find something to do there and live there.”
After completing her studied at Goldsmiths, Coralie started working. It was after a show of her collection that she was offered a scholarship to study at Central St Martins. Following graduation, she worked on catwalks, designed men’s fashion and accessories, and worked as a commercial fashion designer for many years for brands such as Top Shop. “I actually loved working there,” she says, “It was fast fashion, so I never got bored.” Coralie also organized exhibitions of work by French artists in London.
After a decade and a half in London, Coralie decided she wanted to settle down and returned to France to find a Frenchman to marry. Ironically — and she starts to giggle as she tells us this — while taking sailing lessons off the coast nearby at Coulliere, she met and fell in love with her sailing instructor, a translator and language teacher who lived in Ceret — an Englishman! She moved to Ceret and shortly after opened her boutique.
“At first I thought, what am I doing here? I hated it in the beginning — it was so small — but now I love it. The Catalans are easygoing and very warm people. It’s real village life here, but it’s also very cosmopolitan — there are people from all over the world living here, English, Spanish, Scandinavians…” Will she stay in Ceret for 15 years? “I don’t know… we have bought a boat and our plan is to sail the world… we’ll see.”
Q. What do you most love about your work?
A. I love working with colours and a material that is more meaningful than just any factory product. Each fabric has a story and it contributes to the local identity.
Q. Why should people come to Ceret?
A. For the people, and ‘la douceur de vivre’, a real quality of life on a human scale.
Q. 3 words to describe Ceret?
A. Authentic, creative and unpretentious.
Q. And the locals in Ceret?
A. Warm, open minded, down to earth.
Q. Top 3 recommendations for visitors?
A. Visit the Museum of Modern Art, browse around the lively market on Saturday mornings, and bring your walking boots to see the surrounding landscapes that have inspired so many painters.
Q. Best souvenir from Ceret?
A. Well, my products, of course!
Q. Must-do eating experiences?
A. Eat at Le Petit Grill on rue St Ferreol, a down-to-earth worker’s café (I eat lunch there all the time) and El Catala on Boulevard Clemenceau, the best restaurant for authentic traditional Catalan food (my friends and I like to go here for dinner). Also eat our cherries — cherry jam, Paté aux Cerise — and go to the cherry-stone spitting competition during the cherry festival at the end of May.
Q. Most essential thing to learn?
A. Understand the influence of Ceret on 20th century art — Picasso, Soutine, Chagall, Matisse, and Dali all spent time here painting in Ceret.
Q. Most important phrase to learn in Catalan?
A. Sempre endavant which mans ‘always ahead’, the motto of the USAP rugby team — the local religion!
Q. Any other advice?
A. Go to the Feria and the bullfighting (controversial!), but it’s an extremely important part of the village life, as well as a huge excuse for a three day party (mid July)… you have been warned!