French curiosity

06.08.2020 | Author: Hendrik Lakeberg | Photos: Stephanie Fuessenich

Margaux Hammer is sitting in the car, looking into the camera through the rear-view mirror.
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French lawyer Margaux Hammer has founded a network for curious women and is exploring Paris.

Margaux Hammer holds a mug of fresh coffee and watches the sun slowly ascend over Paris. She is standing by the window on the top floor of a co-working building on the Place de Clichy. From here, she can see the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, a hallmark of Paris, shining from a hilltop while the city below catches its first rays of dawn.

The moment is particularly poignant for Hammer, as she doesn’t get up here every day to see Paris wake. “I don’t have a set routine. Each day is different,” she says. Taking a seat at a table amid the modern furnishings of the co-working space’s common area, which occupies the entire level, she opens her laptop and sets about answering emails and making a quick call. The quiet enchantment of the morning suits the founder of the Curiosity Club, a community that has brought together 5,000 women worldwide. For Hammer, joy and so much more spring from curiosity. After all, her own curiosity inspired her to create the club in 2015. “My dad travelled a lot for work,” she says, “and now and then, he brought me and my siblings with him. That stoked my curiosity about the world.”

Margaux Hammer stands in a building with floor-length windows.

Margaux Hammer in her co-working space in Paris.

Specifically, the world abroad, but also the world at home, including her circle of close long-time friends. “We’ve all known each other since primary school, and we’ve always made sure we kept in contact even though we ended up living in different places and have taken different paths. One friend is a journalist, another is a comedian, there’s a doctor and a butcher,” she explains. Whenever they got together, they talked family, relationships and caught each other up on their private lives, but almost never discussed work. Why not though? It occurred to Hammer that they could learn a lot more from each other. Work has afforded each of them an entirely different perspective on daily life and the world as a whole, and those who have managed to make their passion their career have found a greater purpose. Hammer had at the time just finished law school and was simply curious as to how her friends had ended up working in their respective fields.

She suggested they shake things up a bit and take turns at future get-togethers talking about their jobs while the others asked follow-up questions. “I originally invited my girlfriends to my place and said they could each bring a girlfriend along. It was important to me that only women attended, but it grew from there. When I told them what I had in mind, we were at a bar and a woman next to us overheard and said she thought the idea was great. So she helped me find a bigger space.”

The Mercedes-Benz A 250 e stands in front of a white building.

A 250 e:
Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 1,6–1,4  l/100 km;
CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert: 36–32 g/km;
Stromverbrauch kombiniert: 15,7–14,8 kWh/100 km.¹

Margaux Hammer stands behind the Mercedes-Benz A 250 e and holds the tailgate.

The A 250 e seems to be made for a city like Paris, whether for a culture trip (the Centquatre-Paris cultural centre in the 19th arrondissement, on the left) or for daily shopping (Margaux Hammer at the boot, on the right).

The event quickly gained momentum and grew: Hammer’s apartment served as an intimate event space that provided catering. Word had spread fast beyond her circle of friends; the second guest to walk in the door was the marketing director of the French luxury brand Cartier. The community that was born in Paris has gone international since its first meeting, with local Curiosity Club chapters popping up in Lille, London, and recently Mumbai. In 2018, Hammer left her law career behind to dedicate herself completely to her start-up. What started as a flash of an idea has become her raison d’être, one she has carefully cultivated without losing sight of its quintessence – curiosity. This is evident from the roster of guest speakers: instead of giving the microphone to tech heads and entrepreneurs, as vogue might dictate, a club event is more likely to be chaired by, say, a naval officer, or even a police inspector.

The club where nuns and ballerinas meet.

More recent speakers include a nun and a cognac expert from a major French luxury company. “It’s exciting to be with and learn from people we wouldn’t normally meet,” says Hammer. “We want to inspire because we are inspired in turn. I can’t tell you how often guests have said that these evenings with us have given them a jolt of energy.”

The Curiosity Club’s exclusive admission of women has strengthened the sense of community. “We’re not against men,” Hammer says with a laugh. “But it’s also nice when it’s just us ladies.” And you can be sure that when the topic turns from new movies and exhibitions to priceless parking spaces, and then over to new jobs and on to newer friendships, it’s always about networking for Margaux Hammer.

The Mercedes-Benz A 250 e drives on a road.

New ways: In addition to the A 250 e, there are more and more Mercedes-Benz models with plug-in hybrids.

Margaux Hammer is turning the fan on the car.

The sun by now has climbed higher and shines brighter in the Parisian sky. We’re driving through the 19th arrondissement in the new A 250 e with the plug-in hybrid drive. The A-Class marries the dynamic and efficiency of an electric motor with the long range of a combustion engine. It was practically made for explorers. We arrive at the Centquatre, a historic district that the city decided to turn into a cultural centre in 2008 and renamed #104Paris. A trade show for virtual-reality technology is being held in the inner courtyard as we arrive, and the innovations on display are jaw-dropping.

As the CEO, Margaux Hammer needs to represent business interests with her start-up. To that end, she works with name brands such as Mercedes-Benz and is even expanding the Curiosity Club’s audience with a podcast and video content. This way, not only those who attend events can benefit from the talks held by the guests invited, but as many people as possible. Companies are interested, too, and reach out to Hammer because she holds the key to a vast network of highly qualified women in the work force. “Companies with a high proportion of female employees are, generally speaking, more successful than companies whose employees are mostly men,” Hammer says. The club chapter in Mumbai was started on the initiative of a French woman living in the city. Hammer confided in her a desire to bring something new into the world, and returned from the first event deeply inspired. “I really noticed how rewarding it is to stay open, humble, respectful. That’s the breeding ground for curiosity.” Her guest speakers embody all the same qualities.

Sitting down for dinner at L’Huitrerie Régis, an oyster bar owned by some of her friends, Hammer tells the story of a ballerina who recently spoke at a club event in Paris. The renowned choreographer Benjamin Millepied invited the dancer – very much to her surprise – to be the first ballerina for the Paris Opera Ballet. Hammer at first was worried that such a prominent figure might not accept an invitation. But the ballerina came to the event. And the stories she told thrilled the community all the more.

The best of both worlds: A-Class with EQ Power.

Plug-in hybrids are nothing less than a milestone on the path to emission-free driving: the battery charges by recu­peration or through a power supply. Under the label EQ Power, Mercedes-Benz Cars is constantly developing and refining its range of plug-in hybrids. Current example: the A 250 e combines (electric) driving ­pleasure with everyday utility and economy for compact ­sustainability perfectly suited to city life. More information about the new plug-in hybrids is available here.

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Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert Stromverbrauch im kombinierten Testzyklus

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1 Die angegebenen Werte wurden nach dem vorgeschriebenen Messverfahren ermittelt. Es handelt sich um die „NEFZ-CO₂-Werte“ i. S. v. Art. 2 Nr. 1 Durchführungsverordnung (EU) 2017/1153. Die Kraftstoffverbrauchswerte wurden auf Basis dieser Werte errechnet. Der Stromverbrauch wurde auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO₂-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch aller neuen Personenkraftwagenmodelle“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.