RA and The Broken Arm are two new multi-brand boutiques in the Upper Marais district of Paris that are helping to define a fresh retail phase for the city, but some age old attitudes however still persist.
RA opened last year spring in a cul-de-sac a mere block away from the Carreau de Temple (the old trading outpost that in recent years has housed the Givenchy fashion show and is now under renovation as an exhibition and art space). It’s an important facelift and soon-to-be attraction to the entire neighborhood. RA has already begun situating itself as a “destination for creativity in the area”, declares store manager Laurent Kaus.
The brainchild of Anna Kushnerova and Romain Brau–former classmates at Antwerp Royal academy–the duo started their first RA shop in Antwerp three years ago before opening a branch in Paris to attract a wider and a generally less conservative audience. In fact, RA’s brand and product selection leans almost completely to the other end of the design spectrum and represents some of the most cutting edge selections from challenging designers like Meadham Kirchhoff, Rodarte, Walter Van Beirendock, RAD, Bernhard Wilhelm, Henrik Vibskov,Toga, Sibling and Pearlis, the in-house line designed by owner Kushnerova.
Positioning its unique brand mix off the beaten track is a plus for the boutique, which is interested in welcoming clued-in shoppers who will understand the out there vintage Paco Rabanne pieces for sale on the second floor vintage “terrace” as well as the elephantine shapes from Korean designer Juun J. Safe cannot be applied to this RA’s approach to the business of buying and selling clothes. “Being passionate and talented about what you’re doing is what counts” explained Brau of the duo’s experimental approach.
It’s the kind of boutique you’d expect to find frequently in a place like Paris but in this age of globalization ruining creativity, product diversity in boutiques is a losing concept. It’s a refreshing experience to be challenged again in a retail environment, especially in a city like Paris where it counts.
Just a block away from RA at the front facing part of the building shared with the legendary fashion library OFR, sits The Broken Arm. Wonderfully situated on the Square de Temple park and framed by massive bay windows it looks decidedly unlike a Parisian address from the outside. It’s the kind of store you’d expect to find in Södermalm, Williamsburg or Los Angeles. The walls are raw wood planks with tables and shelving generously situated and decorated with tabletop jewelry, sneakers and other attractive knickknacks.
Inside however, the attitude of this 8-month old boutique is pure French. You’re met by coldness from Romain Joste and Guillaume Steinmetz–two of the owners who man the boutique (Anais Lafarge is the third partner.) Sullen unhelpful store owners aside, The Broken Arm has an airy design that makes it easy to peruse unisex buys from Patrik Ervell, Jacquemus and Cedric Charlier among many.
The boutique is going for the middle tier where Carven, Philip Lim and Kenzo (all stocked at the boutique) have found great success. Mix that in with some Marni, Christophe Lemaire and limited edition, well-priced Nikes and sweatshirts from Swash London, and the direction of the boutique is revealing. CDs , decently curated art books and other tokens round out The Broken Arm’s fairly diverse offering. Attached is a small café in the farm to table spirit that’s all the rage at the moment in Paris. The café is a nice extension of the concept.