Before coming to Paris I knew I had to visit the infamous Colette, the epitome of concept stores, and would soon learn that it would be my one and only chance. I literally gasped in my phonetics class in Paris when I was looking at my emails and saw the headline of the Business of Fashion’s breaking news: “Colette to Close its Doors”. 20 years later, the powerhouse of designer collaborations and all things cool would say ‘au revoir’.
Now more than ever I needed to decide what to take away from this icon, and how lucky that I was there! I went to the coveted boutique a week or so into my trip. With the state of the American retail industry, you inevitably assume the reason for shutting their doors would be financial distress, however I was happily surprised. I came around the corner onto Rue Saint-Honoré, situated in an incredibly prime location, and couldn’t have been more shocked — the store was packed. Ass to glass. Was this because people came from all over as a result of the latest news, or was this consistent traffic? I took my first tour around the store and soaked it all in, amidst trying to dodge all the other fashion-obsessed shoppers the boutique attracts on a Saturday afternoon.
As mentioned, the staple of Colette is their exclusive collaborations with designers, however their unique take is that there is a new one EVERY WEEK. Every week Sarah Andelman and her team switch out the previous collaboration with the new one, windows, in-store displays and all. The first time I went it was Colette’s collaboration with Esteban Cortazar on the first floor and their Balenciaga collaboration on the second. When I went back the next week, hoping for a lessened crowd to breath and ponder my potential purchases, the Esteban Cortazar collection was swapped out for their collab with Courrèges.
If you’ve never been, Colette is unique because everyone can find something they like and/or can afford. They offer tons of magazines (a lot of really avant-garde French one’s I’ve never heard of before) and books, interesting electronics and high-tech gadgets, music, candles and apothecary, the best in beauty and haircare, and of course streetwear and designer collections. I finally decided that I wanted to take away something truly special and design my own Balenciaga t-shirt that they were printing right there on site. There was a small printshop set up in the back of the second floor with two touch screen monitors. You could select from a number of different 80’s vintage style logos and graphics and arrange them however you wanted.
While waiting for my custom design to be printed on the Balenciaga tee, I individually asked a few employees why exactly the store was closing. They were unanimous in replying that while it was an extremely successful business that could surely continue on, Sarah was tired. Now knowing that she normally works 7 days a week to ensure perfect execution and a smooth transition between each collaboration, I can see why. She also did not want to sell the brand, nor did her daughter want to take it over.
With my obsession of concept stores and knowing that I definitely want one of my own someday, I was ecstatic that I got to experience Colette and take away a truly custom piece. Below is the tee I designed which we photographed after an amazing dinner at the famous Café des 2 Moulins in Montmartre from the movie Amélie.