PARIS, France — In only a year and a half, The Broken Arm, on the hushed Rue Perée in the Haut Marais neighbourhood of Paris, has become a magnet for the same mix of industry creatives that frequent influential concept stores like Colette. With its highly curated product selection (the store carries only about 25 womenswear and menswear labels) and charming café, The Broken Arm has become a small but vibrant hub for fashion creatives.
Opened in January 2013 by three longstanding friends with a communal ethos — ex-marketing consultant Anaïs Lafarge, Guillaume Steinmetz (previously an assistant to fashion consultant Jean-Jacques Picart) and Romain Joste (formerly an assistant at Carven Homme and the since-shuttered Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont) — the luminous 19th century space faces the calm green rectangle of the Square du Temple and extends over 200 square metres (2,100 square feet) on two levels and is a neighbour of the newly refurbished Carreau du Temple, a multidisciplinary sports and arts facility in cast iron and glass that testifies to the creative vitality coursing through the quarter.
Alongside their day jobs, all three founders were previously involved in a collective web magazine called De Jeunes Gens Modernes. Running from 2009 until 2013, the platform was a lifestyle showcase full of fashion wishlists, favourite ad campaigns, the work of intrepid young photographers, music videos and seasonal recipes. But over time, the three became less enamoured by the web and sought a more physical way to express their tastes, resulting in the shuttering of De Jeunes Gens Modernes in June 2013 shortly after The Broken Arm opened.
The store reflects the personal tastes of the founders, attracting customers who come for their eye and to see fashion as they do. (The brands they currently stock include the likes of 3.1 Phillip Lim, Carven, Cédric Charlier, Christophe Lemaire, Jacquemus, Kenzo, Nike, Ostwald Helgason, Our Legacy, Patrik Ervell, Raf Simons, Marni and Y-3. The store will add collections by Juun J and Kris Van Assche starting next season). “We don’t sell anything that you can’t find anywhere else,” Steinmetz notes. “It’s the way it’s put together, the way it’s styled; that’s our signature.”
Indeed, the key to their success is a buying philosophy rooted in “coup de cœur.” They simply spotlight those designers whose work they personally admire. Steinmetz says the pieces they select must also “function as part of a garde-robe.” They do not buy t-shirts or jeans and generally celebrate style resilience — brands with a strong foundational identity that can renew themselves — over designers of the moment, though finding an equilibrium between emerging and established labels is crucial: “One nourishes the other,” Steinmetz reasons. “Young brands bring a little bit of spice, while more established brands bring a little more sense.”
The design of the boutique is spare, “so as to not to overwhelm the clothes,” adds Steinmetz. At street level, the walls are a dazzling white and the floors and shelving are made of light wood. Other than clothing, the store sells items like magazines and desk supplies, which “bring a sense of perspective to fashion,” Steinmetz says. Issues of Fucking Young and System magazines are interspersed with suede and leather bags, displayed downstairs amidst white walls and a mustard-hued carpet. Upstairs there is a small, decisive selection of art books stacked neatly on tables.
Through a glass and wood door is the adjacent café, which has become a meeting point for fashion creatives. The tables are small, flanked by wooden chairs and banquets; issues of the New York Times’ T magazine and M le Magazine du Monde are on hand, casually mixed in between plants and fresh flowers in the windows.
The store feels friendly and localised: a “boutique de quartier” and “a form of transmission, a way to share,” says Steinmetz. “It’s so pleasant to know your clientele, to propose a service, to anticipate what they will want. That’s why we’re a boutique: we made the selection, we want to defend it and have people want to wear it.” But The Broken Arm is also unmistakably global by virtue of its international buys and insider clientele, creating what Steinmetz calls a “double rhythm.”
The name “Broken Arm” is a reference to a work by Marcel Duchamp: a ready-made wood and galvanised-iron snow shovel entitled “In Advance of the Broken Arm.” The name was proposed by Romain Joste and stuck because the spirit of Surrealism appealed to the store’s founders. “It’s almost funny, ‘in anticipation of breaking an arm’ — there’s something of goodwill in the expression. Even if it’s not the clearest metaphor, we liked it,” says Steinmetz. “And we didn’t want a French name.”