Colette - an Ode to the Original Concept Store

After twenty successful years Colette will be closing its doors in ten days time. Take a closer look at the retail model that inspired the rise of the concept store phenomenon

  • Thom Browne X Colette

Parisian retailer Colette, located on the legendary corner of 213 Rue Saint Honoré, will be closing in ten days time on the 20th of December. Since the store opening in 1997, Colette has become a fashion institution in the French capital. Retailers all over the world have taken inspiration from the curated edit of merchandise and window displays, setting itself apart as the first original concept store. As Colette closes its doors, we bring a retrospective look into the accomplishments over the past two decades, the success of the commercial retail model and legacy that will continue to inspire future generations of brick and mortar stores.

The beloved concept store was founded by Colette Roussaux, in what was originally an empty space below the same ‘batiment’ she used to live in in 1997. The store opened with a unique display of butterflies in a glass box, a symbolic gesture that will be repeated on the last day. In recent times, Roussaux’s daughter, Sarah Andelman, became the store’s public face in her active role as creative director and purchasing manager. In a bitter-sweet Instagram press release, the family owned business announced that it would be closing: “Colette Roussaux has reached the time when she would like to take her time; Colette cannot exist without Colette”, the store statement read.

Colette’s long twenty year run has revolutionised the business of retail by regularly rotating merchandise with a mix and match of unique products; the Colette assortment ranges from fashion, street-wear, high-tech, art objects, and beauty; a bookshop on the ground floor, waterbar restaurant downstairs and a gallery space on the top floor. Each time spotlighting limited editions, established designers, new talents, artists and illustrators, and special collaborations. Devoted clients to the store include designer Karl Lagerfeld, singers Kanye West, Katy Perry, and Drake.

Store take-overs and interesting partnerships (from Coca-Cola, Ikea and Elephant Paname to Evian waters) created a collaborative model that many retailers and brands are now adopting. For the stores’ 20th anniversary, Colette partnered with product designer Snarkitecture to create ‘The Beach’ installation inside Paris’ Musee des Arts Decoratifs. The museum space was filled with a pool of transparent balls, beach umbrellas, chairs and inflatables, for a most unique and memorable Parisian experience.

Colette is known for having items that no one else stocks; Adelman and Roussaux have discovered many emerging brands that later became successful by supporting first collections from Raf Simons, Sacai, Jeremy Scott, Mary Katrantzou and Olympia Le Tan among others. Sarah Andelman announced at BoF Voices 2017, that once Colette closes she will be moving on to a consultancy business. This new project will be called ‘Just An Idea’, where she will continue to champion young designers and consult brands behind the scenes.

Until it’s very last day, Colette will continue to reinvent itself weekly with exclusive collaborations and offerings. Regularly updated window displays, store events and the search for newness have kept Colette relevant for 20 years and successfully shaped the rise of concept stores. This model has given rise to many other retailers in Paris who offer similar opportunities for promoting new artists and contemporary brands with varied products:

Merci in the heart of Paris’ historic district Les Marais, brings together the best of the world of fashion, of design, and household goods, as well as café areas and second-hand book collections. The loft-like building used to be an ex-wallpaper factory, and is now transformed into a platform for young designers to make themselves known to the many customers and international personalities who visit the store. Merci often uses the space for artist collaborations, bringing in exclusive merchandise for the events.

The Broken Arm, opened in February 2013, is a co-owned space founded by three friends: Anaïs Lafarge, Romain Joste et Guillaume Steinmetz. It’s a multi-brand store of clothing, accessories, books, magazines and objects that render a complete vision of Fashion; adjacent to the store they also own a café/ restaurant. They stock emerging French labels including Jacquemus, Vetements, Lemaire and Alyx.

Centre Commerciale is owned by the founders of the ecological shoe brand Veja and stocks various sustainable labels in their store. They also sell a variety of art objects, furniture and accessories such as restored bicycles and vintage lamps amongst other unique finds.

French Trotters, located in the 11th district of Paris, stocks a mostly exclusive selection of womenswear and menswear brands including Comme des Garçons, Margiela, Band of Outsiders, and Acne among others. They also sell some perfumery, magazines, travel books, leather goods and products designed exclusively for special collaborations.  

While many will miss Colette’s shopping destination, the legacy and formula of the renowned three-story space on Rue Saint-Honoré will continue to shape both established and future concept stores.