Colette, the revered Paris fashion boutique, announced in a statement yesterday that it will be closing its doors after 20 years in business.
“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,” read a company statement. “[Cofounder] Colette Roussaux has reached the time when she would like to take her time; and Colette cannot exist without Colette.”
Roussaux founded the company in 1997, but in recent years passed the reigns to her daughter, Sarah Andelman.
In the same statement, the company said Saint Laurent is in talks to take over the Rue Saint-Honoré location as a Saint Laurent–branded boutique: “Negotiations are underway 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.”
A Balenciaga display currently in Colette
The sprawling, 8,000-square-foot shop has, since its inception, consistently pushed retail into fresh new territory—often by presenting high-end luxury through the gritty-glam lens of street fashion.
“I think Colette was really on the forefront of experiential retailing and predicted a lot of lifestyle trends we now take for granted,” says Booth Moore, senior fashion editor for The Hollywood Reporter and author of Where Stylists Shop: The Fashion Insider’s Ultimate Guide.
Moore cites the store’s out-of-the-box, 24-hour Water Bar restaurant, which offers 70-something different waters (and food, too), the store’s practice of putting streetwear and sneakers in prime selling space, and the once-irreverent merchandising of street labels with high-end luxury labels.
The shop’s eclectic mix of merch—which includes everything from kitchen decor and jewelry to quirky cameras and the Apple Watch—has been copied by retailers all over the world.
Its revolving roster of events will undoubtedly go down in retail lore as positively groundbreaking.
Two recent events (out of dozens) include a photography exhibit of famed fashion lensman Arthur Elgort’s work (Karl Lagerfeld attended) and free Balenciaga-themed manicures from nail artist Mei Kawajiri.
For fashion editors and global style junkies, Colette has always been a temple of boundary-pushing style. But for emerging designers, it’s the ultimate aspiration. Being stocked there as a designer, says Moore, has always come with the feeling of “making it in fashion.”
Armed with a great eye for up-and-comers, Andelman was an early supporter of brands such as Proenza Schouler, Mary Katrantzou, Rodarte, and more recently, red-hot fashion labels Hood By Air and Off White (founded by Kanye West collaborator Virgil Abloh).
Cameron Silver, creative director for the H by Halston brand and co-owner of another iconic, 20-year-old fashion retail store, Los Angeles’ Decades, lauded Andelman’s decision to close the shop cleanly, instead of formulating a succession plan or retaining outside investors (which surely she could have).
“There is something quite dignified about electing to close on one’s own volition,” says Silver. “The vision of Colette will never be compromised. When a very curated concept store has a founder who wishes to retire, the very rarified DNA of that store becomes impossible to replicate…I respect the decision to gracefully bow out and let Colette live on in our retail memories—along with other fabled fashion emporiums such as Biba, Jax, Paraphernalia, and many others that forever changed the way we shop and the way we dress.”
The company has said nothing about financial difficulties playing a role in the decision to close, though in this challenging retail climate it’s hard to imagine they didn’t.
But, as Silver says, “We cannot assume anything about the meaning of Colette closing after 20 years.” And for sure, the retailer has a very large legacy to protect. Shuttering swiftly wraps up that legacy in a neat bow.
But Colette may not be the last of its kind. Both Silver and Moore believe there will always be room for concepts in retail that are genuinely innovative.
“I do think there’s a place for brick-and-mortar spaces as hubs for fashion and arts communities—and as destinations for local designers and rotating collections,” says Moore. “If we all only ever shopped online, I think it would be a boring world!”
(Top: Colette’s iconic corner; images courtesy of Colette)