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Colette, Paris Fashion Destination and Designer Hub, Is to Close in December

By Elizabeth Paton & Vanessa Friedman

The founder of Colette, Colette Roussaux, and her daughter, Sarah Andelman, posed in the store in February.
 
Agnes Dherbeys
The founder of Colette, Colette Roussaux, and her daughter, Sarah Andelman, posed in the store in February.

Colette, the fashion and lifestyle emporium in the First Arrondissement of Paris that proved to be a launchpad for young designers and a shopping destination for industry insiders and tourists alike, will close its doors on the Rue St.-Honoré in December after 20 years.

A statement confirming the decision was posted on the boutique’s website Wednesday.

“As all good things must come to an end,” the statement said, “after 20 wonderful years, Colette should be closing its doors on December 20th.” The company cited retirement plans for the founder, Colette Roussaux, who ran the store with her daughter, Sarah Andelman, and made it one of fashion’s favourite new-style family businesses.

“Colette Roussaux has reached the time when she would like to take her time; and Colette cannot exist without Colette,” the statement read, referring to the store requiring its founder.

“I know people think it’s crazy that we decided to close rather than sell the name, because it has value, but we knew if someone else ran it, it would not be the same,” Andelman, 41, said by phone from Paris, noting it had been a very emotional day for her. “The messages we have received have been so many, and full of so much love,” she said.

The closing of the store, long considered an apex of Parisian fashion trends and a vital champion of emerging labels, comes amid rising rents for retailers in Paris and increasingly unpredictable consumer habits, including a move toward more fashion-spending online. The city of Paris has also been hit by volatility in the tourism sector in the last two years, after a series of terrorist attacks.

Colette, which is fully owned by Roussaux and Andelman, had sales of 28 million euros (US$32 million) in 2016, with e-commerce accounting for 25 percent of that.

An eclectic three-story trove of elaborate cocktail gowns, tuxedos, sneakers, postcards, pens and gadgets, all across 8,000 square feet, Colette was founded by Roussaux in 1997. It was one of the first stores to cater to an aesthetic lifestyle, as opposed to a specific product category, becoming a model for a new kind of retail. Andelman functioned as the store’s buyer and public persona.

“The first stop the fashion crowd would make was to Colette,” Robert Burke, founder of the luxury consultancy that bears his name, said in an email. “The selection of brands, the way the forms displayed, the cloths and the mix designers was inspiring. If you were carried at Colette, you were cool. If you had a launch of product or a book signing at Colette, you were recognised by not only the fashion world but the international fashion consumer.”

Agnes DherbeysInside Colette, in February.
Inside Colette, in February.

The end of the Colette era is bound to raise question about the continued viability of such “concept stores,” which place an emphasis on attitude and discovery over the bottom line. (Colette famously never had a marketing plan.)

However, other concept stores, such as 10 Corso Como in Milan, which was founded in 1990 and has been on an expansion spree with stores in Seoul, South Korea; Shanghai and Beijing, and one to open in South Street Seaport in New York next year, have successfully navigated the new retail environment. Dover Street Market, the multi-idea emporium owned by Comme des Garçons, is likewise thriving, and the British store matchesfashion.com has transformed itself by focusing its business online.

Indeed, however, the decision to close Colette is that rare thing in fashion, which is notoriously bad at succession planning and finds it almost impossible to let sleeping brands lie: an active attempt on the part of a globally recognised name to determine the end of its life span. Instead of being a cautionary tale for the industry, it is yet another example of the store’s pioneering nature.

“I know it’s a quite radical decision,” said Andelman. “But it was like a baby for us, it was so personal, and so we prefer that it stays as a wonderful memory, and the space is used for something new.”

The industry accolades for Colette began almost immediately.

Bryanboy, the fashion influencer, wrote on Instagram, “Colette to me is the ultimate shopping (and research) destination in Paris, with their well-edited buys and support for many people whether it’s a big brand or a small entrepreneur or artist. When I didn’t have a lot of money to buy designer clothes, I used to buy my music compilation CDs from you! For a generation, Colette was the gold standard of cool.”

According to the company statement, also posted on Instagram, negotiations are in progress with Saint Laurent, the French luxury house owned by Kering, to lease the premises, which is owned by Andelman and her mother.

 

 

Toutes les bonnes choses ont une fin. Après vingt années exceptionnelles, colette devrait définitivement fermer ses portes le 20 décembre prochain. Colette Roussaux arrive à l'âge où il est temps de prendre son temps ; or, colette ne peut exister sans Colette. Des échanges ont lieu avec Saint Laurent et nous serions fiers qu'une Marque aussi prestigieuse, avec qui nous avons régulièrement collaboré au fil des années, reprenne notre adresse. Nous sommes ravis du grand intérêt que Saint Laurent a montré dans ce projet, ce qui pourrait constituer une très belle opportunité pour nos salariés. Jusqu’au dernier jour, rien ne changera. colette continuera de se renouveler toutes les semaines comme d’habitude, avec une sélection unique et de nombreuses collaborations, également disponibles sur notre site colette.fr Nous vous remercions pour votre confiance, et à bientôt chez colette, jusqu’au 20 décembre! #colette BREAKING NEWS As all good things must come to an end, after twenty wonderful years, colette should be closing its doors on December 20th of this year. Colette Roussaux has reached the time when she would like to take her time; and colette cannot exist without Colette. Negotiations are under way with Saint Laurent and we would be proud to have a Brand with such a history, with whom we have frequently collaborated, taking over our address. We are happy of the serious interest expressed by Saint Laurent in this project, and it could also represent a very good opportunity for our employees. Until our last day, nothing will change. colette will continue to renew itself each week with exclusive collaborations and offerings, also available on our website colette.fr We thank you for your support and see you soon at colette--until December 20th! #coletteforever #colette20ans #colette

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“We would be proud to have a brand with such a history, with whom we have frequently collaborated, taking over our address,” the statement said, adding that such a move could “also represent a very good opportunity for our employees.” Andelman said that ensuring the future of the staff was key.

Francesca Bellettini, chief executive of Saint Laurent, acknowledged the history of the space, saying, “For the last 20 years, Colette has been such an iconic and prestigious project and destination in Paris. It feels natural to us to discuss the opportunity to take those amazing premises over in order to give them a second life.”

As for Andelman, she is mulling a future as a consultant, though plans are in the very early stages. “I will continue to do what I do: curate ideas and work with brands on different projects,” she said. “Life continues on. We are all in good health, which is most important.”

In the meantime, the Colette team is taking pains to emphasise that until December, it will be business as usual. “Until our last day, nothing will change. Colette will continue to renew itself each week with exclusive collaborations and offerings, also available on our website, colette.fr.”