In 1997, Colette heralded the idea of the concept store to the West. Selling a mix of lifestyle products — including hard-to-find publications, CDs, trainers, and high-end designer clothes and accessories — the store swiftly became the go-to boutique for many style demands and served as the trend barometer for a host of brands. Always reinventing itself, Colette’s iconic status is sealed. Lately, the boutique has increased its development of exclusive products development of exclusive products (shatoosh headrests, T-shirts, and curated perfumes) developed through partnerships with notable designers of varying disciplines. Creative director Sarah talks to Jason Campbell about the “no-strategy” strategy for the store, the mystery of trends, and the likelihood of another Colette coming to a city near you.
JCR: Since its inception, Colette has been a purveyor of an unusual mix of harder-to-find goods, but now it seems the store’s identity surrounds an exclusive selection of products designed specifically for the store. Tell us more about this concept.
S: It has always come naturally to us, and this is actually something we’ve concentrated on from the beginning, whether it be requesting a special color or a different version of an existing product, something which will work better with particular themes in Colette. That said, we now regularly launch “series” (in the past for a trench coat, or a T-shirt collection by different designers). We currently have a PSP case series and a “Curated by Colette” perfume series for September and October.
JCR: Would you consider this formula a next-stage concept in retailing — brands tailoring their offering exclusively for different retailers in a more serious way, not just, say, a different color story for respective stores?
S: I think it’s important that each retailer is able to propose his or her own perception of collections, with a strong identity, but that’s not necessarily only via exclusive products.
JCR: Tell us about your ideas on trends, their role in the current retail climate, and the relevance to Colette.
S: Honestly, I don’t understand the concept of trends. I cannot see more than six months ahead. And still, this is something mysterious for me. We just work very spontaneously.
JCR: What about the idea of a concept store? It’s no longer so unique, but is it still relevant?
C: It’s still relevant when there’s a personal identity to the selection of the “concept store.”
JCR: The store continues to create stampedes, especially during key fashion-and-style events in Paris. It appears to be in every guidebook as a must-see for tourists. Was this initially a goal for the store?
C: We do like to be an address to visit.
JCR: Are you comfortable with the balance of the current mix of heavy-hitting brands with emerging ones?
C: It’s always more difficult for emerging brands, but we try to support them as much as we can.
JCR: I find the store, much more than any other European boutique, understands the power of marketing. Would you agree that that’s the reason the style cognoscenti, no matter where they reside, consider Colette a store in their backyard?
C: Our marketing process/philosophy is perhaps “no marketing,” so it’s difficult to reply to this question.
JCR: Should we expect another Colette soon or sometime in the future?
C: Ohhh noooo!
Photos: PSP covers exclusively for Colette
Nike Futura Armstrong window for Colette
Ricky Powell exhibit
The boutique’s interior
Colette’s men’s department
Colette’s women’s department