On March 16th, Colette, a Parisian concept store celebrated its 20th birthday in an off-the-wall manner as required by its reputation. They invited their guests to "The Beach" to dive in a sea of recycled plastic bubbles under the glass roof of the Grand Palais. They also displayed about 20 exclusively sold products including a collaboration with the smartphone brand Oneplus.
Colette Rouseau, who made her fortune in the fast-fashion industry, and her daughter Sarah Andelman opened the very first Parisian concept store in 1997. Their inspiration comes from Tokyo, where they saw this new kind of store blooming. 700 m2 of “White Cube”, which offers many kinds of products to the consumers: fashion, books, technology, sneakers, stationery, candy, gadgets, etc. and at any price: from 1 Euro for an eraser or candy to 70,000 Euros for jewelry or watches.
Before Colette, some other Parisian stores expanded their fashion offers to objects, design or books, such as L’Eclaireur, the pioneer for designers in the 80s and Corso Como in Milan which was already 5 years old in 1997. But it was the first time that one shop gathered so many different unrelated objects, whose only common characteristic justifying being displayed at Colette, was to be new, trendy and unheard of. And useless, its detractors would say… Colette then specializes in bringing back new products from all over the world, never seen before in Paris - from Japanese technological gimmicks to Islandic mineral water. For example, for a few years Colette was even the exclusive French distributor of Kiehl’s, the American cosmetics brand. This multiplicity in the offer goes along with new forms of display in islands, and the garments, from famous luxury houses or specialized designers, are not displayed on coat-hangers anymore but, much like in museums, as complete looks on mannequins which requires the sale team to constantly help to try out and buy.
Success is instant and Colette becomes the place to be for anyone interested in trends. Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour come to visit, while Roberto Cavalli passes by as a neighbor. Nathalie Portman can stroll there anonymously, while the rue Saint Honoré is completely blocked when Drake or Rihanna go there.
Obviously Colette evolved with time, such as undergoing renovation after 10 years, while also considerably developing its streetwear offers. Music compilations that the fashion world is literally leaping onto were created, more collaborations between brands were initiated, but also with DJs,, designers and artists… and last but not least they developed a well performing online shop. Its’ windows change every week and is the best platform for launching new products in Paris, as well as being rented to brands at very high prices. Colette is at the origin of the commercial revalorization of the Saint Honoré zone in Paris, and with a turnover of 28 million Euros and about 100 employees, the store has become an institution in the last 20 years, which cannot be overlooked, even though more contemporary concept stores have opened in Paris since: Merci, Centre Commercial or Broken Arm.
But will Colette be able to adapt to new forms of consumption that are starting to appear in the fashion industry: slow fashion, conscious fashion or sharing fashion?
As part of our monthly discussion panels at IFA Paris, we organized a talk on the concept stores in China. An article summarizing the debate can be found here, while the video is available on: IFA Paris Facebook.