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colette / sarah andelman

 

words: samine joudat

photos: guillaume salmon

The cultural fabric of 'insouciant' cool, or that elusively careless sense of hipness, today is forged by some amorphous nexus of music, art, technology, food, fashion, sport, and design. Located on 213 rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, colette is both a manifestation of this phenomenon and a leader in constructing it.

Since its inception in 1997 by French mother and daughter Colette Roussaux and Sarah Andelman, it has been ahead of its time in many regards. Its diversely curated retail concept has placed the likes of artists, designers, editors, and athletes next to one another in a modern expression of human creativity. Its window displays have become iconic spaces serving as stunning visual concepts, like its 2013 collaboration with French luxury watch brand Bell & Ross. Its gallery has played host to artists such as Terry Richardson and Bruce Weber. Meanwhile its subterranean water bar serves as a welcome culinary interlude to the store’s overall experience. 

In a world now fraught with artistic collaborations, colette has been a master for some time, regularly partnering with brands like Nike, Hermes, and Moschino to create beautiful and forward-thinking concepts and products. In one such event during 2014’s Men’s Fashion Week, the store served as the setting for the debut of a unique fashion collection created by Los Angeles based label Stampd and visual artist and sculptor Daniel Arsham.

The store has also been equally adept at embracing the power of digital media to complement its physical space, allowing its concept to spread successfully through its e-commerce experience and social media presence.  

colette continues to curate a unique and delightful mix of brands, products, and artists in its elegantly minimal store – incessantly pushing its concept to evolve and define the 'cool' of the time.

We caught up with Sarah - the store’s creative director– to discuss her vision and inspiration for the store.

 
 
 
 

What is your personal interpretation of the concept behind the store?

It was all about the venue itself. We lived in the same building, and the space was empty for many years. One day we visited it, and we immediately had the vision to create a new place - with the restaurant, the gallery, fashion, beauty, design, music, etcetera. So we didn’t have the concept and then look for a space - we had the space, and how to fill it was very clear. Our vision hasn’t changed since. We’re still excited to discover new products, new brands, and to mix them all together. The shop itself, in its structure and the selection, changes all the time, but the original challenge is the same. From the beginning, the customers were always a mix - neighbors and tourists, fashion victims or hi-tech fanatics.

Tell us about your curation process and vision.

There are no rules - if there is a season where I only like three coats from a collection, I find it a shame to skip the season and tell the brand we will come back. At the same time, I think there is a mutual respect with designers that we reflect their vision. And sometimes people go on the website and think that I only bought two pieces. But maybe we’ve already sold the rest!” It’s never about ‘commerce’, but just coups de foudre (an instance of love at first sight). The edit is done very spontaneously, following our instincts. We try to balance the products of the season with timeless pieces, young, new designers and major brands. We’ve carried young designers since our opening, and it has always been natural for us to support and give space to show their talent. We’ve worked since their very first collections with Jeremy Scott, Raf Simons, Proenza Schouler, Rodarte, Mary Katrantzou, Sacai, Simone Rocha, Christopher Kane, Olympia Le Tan. Fashion is very important, but we also considered that it was not only about fashion but many other medias around it. We’ve done so many great collaborations on products, from Moon Boots to Nike sneakers, Ladurée macaroons, and Vespa scooters, and in the gallery, had so many fabulous artists, photographers, and illustrators appear on our walls. So I never ask myself what people expect to find at Colette - I just hope to surprise them with something they can’t resist buying.

Describe the role, if any, the Parisian aesthetic plays in the concept and mood of the store.

We deeply feel Parisian, and knew what Paris was missing. There wasn’t one specific shop that influenced us - it was more a frustration about certain products that we couldn’t find in Paris that motivated us. Our heart belongs to Paris, no question about that. We really conceived Colette for Paris, when we noticed there were many brands we couldn’t find in Paris back in 1997 and still today. Even if our selection is very international and even if there’s a web globalization, I think we’re very Parisian.

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Where or who do you draw personal inspiration from?

Again, it’s just very natural for us. The inspiration comes from the products themselves, from the artists and designers we meet every day.

How has social media altered your business model? How do you see the store evolving in the future?

We’ll soon be launching a new version of our e-shop with more facilities, and it’s already become a great window for us to reach consumers around the world. Now you can find everything online, so I suppose shopping is maybe sometimes just repérage (spotting something), even if we don’t really feel it at colette. I think people are more curious and open to something they don’t know yet. I hope they’ll develop a “buy” button on Instagram. I think the act of shopping will be quicker and quicker, like when we buy a song on iTunes. It can be a disaster for your wallet, but so good for ours. We have been very lucky so far in working this way, and honestly, I don’t think we could do it in any other way. I feel our freedom is the key.

 
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