The Last Days of Colette: The End of an Era at Paris’s Legendary Concept Store 1997-2017

“Colette Roussaux has reached the time when she would like to take her time; and Colette cannot exist without Colette.”

Paris. The concept store was born in March of 1997, at the corner of Rue Saint Honoré and Rue du 29 Juillet.

In the 90s, lifestyle shops didn’t exist. Boutiques and department stores were the choices for multi-label retail therapy, and the high street for mass-produced fashion. In the UK it was New Look, Mango, and Topshop; in France there were ubiquitous offerings of Bleu Blanc, Kookai, Cimmaron, and Etam. Now every high street mainstream retailer sells lifestyle goods as well as clothes, but there was a time this was unheard of; fashion came from clothing shops and books from bookstores, but never the twain shall meet. There were no carefully curated collections from specially selected brands, no editorial theme, and no real sense of coherence in multi-brand retailers.

Enter Colette Roussaux and her eponymous vision; a carefully curated lifestyle store designed to “reinvent the concept of retail”, Colette sold a way of living, not just individual products. The Colette customer listened to a particular kind of music (eccentric French House), wore a certain type of trainer (high end, eye-waveringly expensive, and unisex), and sprayed themselves with a distinct androgynous scent (Colette 19, 25, or 34). If I weren’t such a cynic, I’d say that the concept store is where the first wave of hipsters were born.

Colette Rossaux’s daughter Sarah Adelman is the Creative Director at Colette. A concept store is editorial; the retail visualisation of the vision of one ridiculously cool individual. Not a boutique where the tedium of finding things that will sell contrast with sales and figures, but a literal brick-and-mortar interpretation of a glossy magazine that tells us what we will want, what’s cool, what to watch out for – because their sense of style is impeccable. They dictate the trends, they don’t follow them. Colette is 8,000 square feet and three storeys of innovation.

Each “collection” works on a theme; handpicked products from different brands and designers, encapsulating fashion, beauty, homewares, books, design, and technology. Each theme tells a story, and it isn’t just about the products themselves, but the actual concept behind the collection. Colette has been called “the trendiest store in the world” by Forbes, and it’s the only shop Karl Lagerfeld visits “because they have things no one else has”.

Colette has collaborated with so many notable designers and brands, including Raf Simmons at Comme des Garçons x Vans, Tokyo’s Medicom Toy, OriginalFake, Hermès, Aston Martin, Pharrell Williams x Ladurée, Adidas, Louis Vuitton, Mira Makati x KAWS, Vespa, and Nike. It has also been a consistent supporter of young designers, stocking the debut collections of Jeremy Scott, Raf Simmons, Proenza Schouler, Rodarte, Mary Katrantzou, Sacai, Simone Rocha, Christopher Kane and Olympia Le Tan.

On 20 December of this year, the iconic store will close its doors for the final time. The current and final collaboration is with Yves Saint Laurent, and new collections released each week until the very last day. Colette is set to go out with a bang.

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