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Fashion

After Colette, seven buzzy Paris boutiques drawing the cool crowd with sharply curated selections of hard-to-find fashion, and more

The ultimate concept store, Colette’s closure came as a shock – but there are still places to shop in the French capital. Ahead of couture week, we profile seven of the most happening boutiques in the world’s fashion capital

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 June, 2018, 2:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 June, 2018, 2:15pm

Few cities in the world take their fashion shopping as seriously as Paris, fashion’s undisputed capital. So the announcement that cult concept store Colette would close its doors in December 2017 sent shock waves not only through the city but also the industry.

“The second-in-command in the newspaper came down to ask us how much space we’d need for [the closure],” recalled journalist Frédéric Martin-Bernard, head of menswear at prominent French newspaper Le Figaro, as he introduced “The future of retail, there is indeed a before and after Colette”, a roundtable he moderated at this year’s edition of the Hyères fashion and photography festival.

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Yet while this closure felt like a major blow to the city’s retail landscape, it has hardly left a void.

“Shopping in Paris is at the heart of a big change, whether it is with the ‘why’, the ‘how’ or the ‘what’ customers are browsing for around the capital’s stores,” says Alexis Lau, digital and communication director of the Paris branch of Korean concept store Tom Greyhound. “The city is finally scaling up the game by intensifying the customer’s experience. Retail space has definitely taken back its place in the Parisian shopping landscape.”

These days, stores big and small cannot expect success merely by offering a cutting-edge selection of clothes.

“Everyone knows their size these days, so shopping online is easy,” says Thomas Erber, multi-hyphenate founder of the travelling Cabinet de Curiosité curio shop currently housed at the Hôtel de Crillon. He credits Colette’s success to its founders’ will to turn their space into a cultural hub complete with exhibitions, events and even a restaurant.

“Stores must be a point of cultural confluence, not just selections of pretty clothes and cool accessories. By making their store into a ‘village square,’ Sarah [Andelman] and Colette [Rousseaux] really nailed it,” he says.

There certainly is no shortage of concept stores, particularly in fashion, from stalwart L’Eclaireur to newcomers like five-year old The Broken Arm or newly opened Nous, the brainchild of former Colette staff.

Department stores too are on a charm offensive: Printemps has completely revamped its menswear department; Galeries Lafayette opened an entirely new beauty store dedicated to the needs of, and customer experience expected by, their Asian clientele; and Le Bon Marché, the city’s oldest department store, has undergone a massive architectural overhaul that opened new spaces for exhibitions as well as retail.

And don’t expect to see Colette clones take top positions in the long run. As Guillaume Steinmetz, co-founder of The Broken Arm, says: “The recipe for success is to embody one’s place, and this is the one and perhaps only thing we share with Colette: a personal idea incarnated in a store.”

So, whether historically famous or freshly inaugurated, here are the stores making Paris’ retail scene buzz.

1. Nous Paris

Like its founders’ former employer, Nous Paris aims to draw the cool crowd with hard-to-source products in a price range from a few dollars to “the sky’s the limit”. Despite being founded by ex-Colette staffers Sébastien Chapelle and Marvin Dein, don’t look at Nous Paris as picking up where the cult concept store left off.

Open since January, their sleek, concrete space with an industrial feel explores luxury street culture with a dash of hi-tech thrown in. The boutique makes the most of Chapelle’s 14 years as head of watches and tech, and Dein’s expertise as head of the sneakers department at Colette.

Expect a mix of classic brands such as Vans or Converse, radically cool eyewear brands such as Illesteva or Thierry Lasry, and de rigueur luxury heavyweights like Balenciaga or Nike mixed with a selection of cool coffee-table tomes and one-of-a-kind skate decks.

It has only been open since January, but events are already making this space a hotspot: famous Japanese sneakers collector King Masa has already been in to sign a volume on his collections, and a launch event for iPhone competitor OnePlus 5 saw a queue stretch around the block. As the saying goes, watch this space.

Nous Paris, 48 rue Cambon 75001, Paris.

2. The Broken Arm

After running lifestyle and fashion website “Des Jeunes Gens Modernes” (Modern Young People) for four years, the trio formed by Steinmetz, Anaïs Lafarge, and Romain Joste set up shop in 2013 in the hip Northern Marais, the heartland of creative types and up-and-coming fashion brands in Paris.

Bright daylight streaming through large bay windows and the charm of a typically Parisian building make for an unpretentious setting for the sharply curated selection offered by these young entrepreneurs at the store, which is named after a ready-made work of art by French-American artist Marcel Duchamp.

The team have tapped those who strike their creative chord without discrimination, from Prada and Balenciaga to Comme des Garçons and Raf Simons, and all the way through to confidential leather-goods specialist Isaac Reina – whose wares are displayed on the simple wood shelving and minimalist racks.

Their selection is based on “not living off the ephemeral desirability of things”, the trio say. “We looked to people who start with a blank page to create desirable yet timeless items.”

It sounds like a gamble but one that paid off, with a heavily international clientele dotted with discerning French fashion lovers.

The Broken Arm, 12 rue Perrée 75003, Paris.

3. VOS

I am a big fan of being able to reach a huge community through not only social media, but also all the web has to offer; nevertheless I am convinced that only through real-life interaction with your client [can] you create atmospheres that you can’t achieve through an online sale,” says Lucas Di Matteo, founder of VOS (Vision of Style), which opened in March steps away from The Peninsula hotel. Housed in a Haussmann-style building and on two levels, this stark, white, 200 square metre space exudes an industrial downtown New York vibe.

The paint is barely dry on the walls but the ground floor racks are well stocked with the likes of Haider Ackermann, Yeezy and Enfants Riches Déprimés, while the mezzanine upper level is to be dedicated to artistic collaborations and happenings.

VOS, 21 avenue Kléber 75116, Paris.

4. Le Bon Marché

Time, space and light is what Le Bon Marché seeks to offer. “We’re always looking for ways to break away from the elitist cliché of the ‘Rive Gauche’,” says Fanny Guérin Lese, director of commercial events at the historic Parisian department store immortalised in a novel by 19th century author Emile Zola.

Undoubtedly the grande dame of Parisian shopping as its oldest department store, it has made itself a mecca since its founding in 1852 for Parisians and out-of-towners alike, thanks to a savvy mix of luxurious goods, services and pop-up events.

Art is given pride of place, from exhibitions featuring major works by the likes of Martin Parr (2005), Guy Bourdin (2009) or Tadao Ando (2014), to a “carte blanche” project, which has seen Ai Weiwei (2016), Chiharu Shiota (2017) and Leandro Erlich (2018) take over the central atrium and windows.

Its latest renovation, in 2015, unveiled stunning art deco skylights and carved out new spaces for an upgraded shoe department, as well as a second-floor “beauty grocery store” offering cult favourites like Kevin Murphy.

Alongside this are organic offerings such as Rahua, complementing its beauty department on the ground floor, where household names have their brand corners. Coming up next is “C’est le souk au BM”, playing on the souk as a market place but also as a colloquial term for a lively jumble, inspired but not limited to the style of Moroccan markets.

Le Bon Marché, 24 rue de Sèvres 75007, Paris.

5. La Garçonnière

Women have plenty of shopping options in Paris, but men far fewer. Enter La Garçonnière, or bachelor pad in French, a shop entirely dedicated to men. It includes clothing and accessories, but also food and spirits, grooming products and music. It is the brainchild of the founder of four contemporary men’s brands and was envisioned as a haven for men’s lifestyle.

The selection hinges on lasting style rather than fashion-forward novelty and is tailored for the men about town who aren’t shopping from the catwalk. A barbershop and co-working space are welcome additions to this unorthodox shop, housed in a storefront under a lush cascade of plants – a rare sight even in a city that has seen it all when it comes to fashion.

La Garçonnière, 40 rue des petits carreaux 75002, Paris.

6. Tom Greyhound

After its noted debut in Seoul, the Korean store and its parent company Handsome landed in Paris in 2014.

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Housed in a former art gallery, it has kept the same contemplative vibe, offering plenty of space for the garments to breathe and for shoppers to be at ease. Established and up-and-coming labels are shown on an equal footing, displayed in a white, cube-like space that makes them stand out like wearable pieces of art.

While their inventory is worth checking out for J.W Anderson, Yang Li, Jacquemus or Marni, savvy shoppers may prefer to snap up their selection of in-the-know names such as Korean brands System and Ader Error or Russia-based Walk of Shame.

Tom Greyhound, 19 rue de Saintonge 75003, Paris.

7. L’Espionne

Tucked in a congress centre on the affluent west side of Paris that has the closest thing in the city to an upscale mall, this low-key shop carries an impressive roster of high-end brands in its men’s and women’s boutiques.

It is worth the detour for anyone wanting to score Off-White’s baby blue tracksuit, T-shirts by Heron Preston, or a plunge-neck Saint Laurent playsuit.

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There is also the chance to see the latest It bags or quirky creations by London wunderkinds Marques’Almeida.

L’Espionne, Palais des Congrès, 2 place de la Porte Maillot 75017, Paris.