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What Colette’s Closure Means for Fashion

After 20 years in business, the beloved temple of Parisian cool announced it will close its doors in December. BoF spoke to a handful of industry insiders to gauge their reactions.
A womenswear display inside Colette | Source: Colette
By
  • Christopher Morency

PARIS, France — On Wednesday morning, Colette, the cult retailer and temple of Parisian cool, announced it would close its doors in December, after 20 years in business. Saint Laurent is said to be in discussions to take over Colette's iconic Rue Saint-Honoré location.

"As all good things must come to an end, after 20 wonderful years, Colette should be closing its doors on December 20 of this year," the company said in a statement. "Colette Roussaux has reached the time when she would like to take her time; and Colette cannot exist without Colette."

Founded in 1997 by Colette Roussaux — who later passed the baton to her daughter Sarah Andelman — Colette is one of the fashion world's most iconic "concept stores" which became known for its daring high-low product mix, selling established luxury brands such as Chanel and Saint Laurent next to emerging designers like Sacai and Christopher Kane, as well as art books, magazines and technology gadgets. The retailer was particularly known for supporting Japanese designers and "street luxe" labels like Off-White, and was something of a pilgrimage site during Paris Fashion Week.

BoF spoke to a handful of industry insiders to gauge their reactions.

Tim Blanks, editor-at-large of The Business of Fashion

“For twenty years, Colette was my first stop in Paris. Always for books. I would look at everything else - I used to buy CDs too - but the books were always an education. Corso Como had a similarly strong point of view. They were actually quite complementary in their curiosity about things. Still, Colette always managed to have what you want before you knew it existed. What the hell will I do now?”

Jefferson Hack, co-founder and editorial director of Dazed Media

"It's a total shock. It was the ultimate white cube — a brilliantly curated retail exhibition of the best collaborations in design, fashion and culture. It felt like a living magazine, you only had to step into it to know who and which brands and artists were shaping and influencing pop culture. No doubt Sarah will re-invent the future of fashion and culture in a new format — the doors of Colette may close but Sarah's laser vision for what's hot in culture will never fade."

Vanessa Friedman, fashion director and chief fashion critic of The New York Times

"For me, Colette was part of my fashion education. I started in this industry only a few years after it opened, and for me it wasn't a shop; it was research centre, classroom, and textbook all in one. Every season I would stop back in for a refresher course. And it is entirely characteristic of Sarah and Colette's approach to their subject that they have left us with one last lesson — one I think many fashion brands would do well to consider: write your own final chapter, and do it from a position of strength."

Virgil Abloh, founder and creative director of Off-White

"My partnership with Colette defined my career. Off-White couldn't exist if Colette didn't exist. She was definitively the first buyer to place an order for my brand, and the first to do an event. Sarah and Colette championed my brand and me as a designer, over 10 years ago. The significance [of Colette's closure] to me is that it brings myself to question the state of retail and where consumers are spending their money for specialised products. There is much to learn, yet there is also something to be taught, which can apply to our future fashion industry."

Lucien Pagès, founder of PR agency Lucien Pagès

"I used to say that Sarah is one of the geniuses of French fashion history, along with Coco Chanel, Pierre Bergé and Karl Lagerfeld. I have to say that I feel a bit sad as it is the end of an era but I am very positive for Sarah's future and I am looking forward to seeing what Saint Laurent will do. Their vision is unique as is their sense of retail. Nobody has challenged them in Paris, for 20 years they were at the top in always following their instinct."

Virginie Mouzat, fashion and lifestyle editor of Vanity Fair France

"I always considered Colette as a writer, not a shop. I was tempted to be shocked but I could feel how this woman was ten steps beyond. I needed to adjust. I forced myself to do so. It was a new way of showing, selling and sharing. The genious idea was the editing like in a magazine and it was daring. For us fashion people Colette became a part of our fashion DNA."

Chitose Abe, founder and creative director of Sacai

"This long journey together based on mutual trust and respect won't change. Continuing to be creative and always thinking out of the box without deceiving its existence, [Colette] was in the heart of the historical tradition and art and fashion. It eventually changed Paris itself."

Ronnie Fieg, founder of Kith

"My relationship with them has always been great, and I have a lot of respect for Sarah and her mother. I see them as geniuses and pioneers in our marketplace, and they are responsible for a lot of impactful cultural moments. They appealed to a spectrum of consumers that covered the entirety of Paris, and stood as the epicentre of cool. Whether you wanted to leave with a product or absorb culture, Colette was the destination. They're leaving on a high note, and their accomplishments are greater than any other retailer today. Paris will miss Colette. Designers will miss Colette. And consumers will miss Colette."

Simone Rocha, fashion designer

"It was the place which represented fashion to me as a teenager, so I am sorry to see it go. I am very grateful I could be a part of their story. I will always appreciate the support, inspiration and collaboration of working with Colette. It was independent, inclusive, inspiring and Sarah took many risks on designers like myself who were stocked in the very first year of my label. The unashamed mix of the new labels, heritage labels, street labels, stickers, books, music, people — all these elements which felt sincere are a part of what it so special and pioneering."

Susie Lau, founder Style Bubble
"Colette was really where the idea of the concept store was born and as a teenager, there was an air of inimitable cool about it. I think I had to work up some courage to venture up to the first floor where evidently I couldn't afford anything but that idea of being able to buy a magazine or a CD on that more approachable ground floor has been copied copiously. It's a real shock because it's such a institution in fashion, and I really respect Sarah Andelman's opinion as a buyer and a fashion tastemaker. She really does see everything and in an industry that often only chases populous hype, it's so great to see her genuinely supporting young designers."

Luke Meier, creative director of OAMC and Jil Sander

“It's a bit of a surprise, really, since the store is so strong right now. I really applaud Sarah and her mom for completing their wonderful story. It's very rare that people properly 'finish' something in this industry with such integrity, and they are definitely doing that. They really created a one of a kind place that has had true influence. The selection and all the activities around the store come from a genuine love for creation and design and you can feel it. A lot of the people who work at Colette are now friends, and I have always felt a strong connection to the store. It leaves quite a hole. Paris still has a lot of great stores, but the mix of people that Colette brought together will be missed.”

Mary Katrantzou, fashion designer

“I am really sad with the news that Colette is closing its doors but I’m eternally grateful an honoured to have had their support from my very first season in 2008. I first visited Colette when I was still studying and wondered if I would ever make it into selling there. I was so nervous when Sarah first stopped by my stand, straight after graduating, that I forgot all my prices. Sarah and her mother Colette are true visionaries and have created a benchmark for concept stores around the world. There is no other store that has the power to drive fashion and launch the careers of designers like "Colette". It fused fashion and culture in a way that was so in sync with our times and pushed boundaries to the point you would think there are none.”

Stay tuned as more industry reactions come in.

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