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Still from livestream of THE BEACH |Courtesy of colette
Still from livestream of THE BEACH |Courtesy of colette
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Colette Turns 20: 6 Times They Had Us in Awe

Picture of Paul McQueen
Updated: 24 March 2017
No store has redrawn the fashion map of its city and the world quite like Paris’ beloved colette. Over two decades, it has singlehandedly changed how people shop for and conceive of fashion and lifestyle goods, how young designers are discovered, and how luxury brands market themselves. Here are six of this trendsetting powerhouse’s best moments.

When They Changed the Game From the Get-Go

Mother and daughter team Colette Roussaux and Sarah Andelman (aka Sarah Colette), have never been ones to play by the rulebook. Indeed, from the moment they opened their store in an abandoned space on the ground floor of Andelman’s apartment building at 213 rue Saint-Honoré in March 1997, they set about tearing it up, mixing streetwear and little-known Japanese brands with traditional high-fashion labels and introducing design, art, technology, and food into the same retail space. Thus, the concept store was born and the fashion world hasn’t looked back since. There simply hasn’t been time: the apparent clairvoyance of Andelman (the sole buyer) when it comes to spotting emerging talent has brought sensation after sensation to marvel over, starting with Raf Simons in 1998.

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When They Told Apple What to Do

Not many people can list giving Steve Jobs business advice on their CVs, but this sense of daring is simply part and parcel of the colette philosophy. The story goes that Andelman put a call in to Apple in 2001, after just four years in control of her own company, and suggested that they consider creating an iPod in a trademark color. The response was pretty definitive at the time: “We will never have any color other than white.” Undeterred by the initial rebuffing, the two mega brands became close collaborators, with Andelman presumably having to bite back an enormous “TOLD YOU SO!” at some point. One of their landmark ventures together was on September 30, 2014, when colette previewed the Apple watch for 24 hours, six months before it went on sale.

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When They Threw Themselves a Quinceañera and a Super Sweet 16

Never one to let a birthday go by unmarked, the brand celebrated its 15th year with a ginormous party in the Jardin des Tuileries, just a few hundred feet from the store. The Carnival Colette, as it was called, was held in a 43,000-square-foot circus tent and welcomed more than 20,000 guests, who enjoyed such attractions as a Carhartt shooting range and a Nike basketball court. Just 12 months later, the most Parisian of concept stores went all American for its 16th birthday, fully channeling the most outrageous events from MTV’s hit show from the mid-noughties. Only they could make karaoke and diamante tiaras look chic.

When They Put Nike and Chanel in the Same Sentence

Mixing and matching styles has always been a massive aspect of colette’s appeal, extending from their window displays to the layout of the store and the collaborations they form with and between brands. With the last of these, the store manages to create a buzz around products that make PR managers everywhere weep with envy and desire. One of the coolest of their multi-brand collaborations was back in 2011 with their Nike x colette: The Away Project. The sports label had just unveiled the new away strip for the French football team and colette invited everyone from Comme des Garçons and Ladurée to Chanel and Saint Laurent to create pieces inspired by the same marinière design.

Whenever They Unveil a New Window

As any designer, artist, or business person will tell you, being able to have bursts of game-changing originality is amazing but to sustain this level of creativity over 20 years is nothing short of miraculous. For colette, the feat is all the more impressive considering the relentlessness schedule of reinvention they set themselves to, which focuses around 102 new storefront windows every year. That’s in addition to hosting 124 launch events and maintaining a rolling stock of somewhere in the range of 20,000 different products, every one of them handpicked. All of this so that no two visits to the store are ever the same. Bravo and merci, colette!

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When They Took Us to THE BEACH

Talk about giving us what we all want before we know we want it: is there a Parisian out there who wasn’t in awe of colette’s bright idea to celebrate its 20th birthday by taking us all to the beach right in the center of the capital? For five days, ending March 25th, they’ve created—in collaboration with the New York art and architecture collective Snarkitecture—an interactive installation in the nave of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, which features, among other spirit-lifting wonders, an ocean of 300,000 recyclable ball pit balls. Seriously, isn’t that just exactly what you’ve always needed in the last weeks of winter? As usual, colette’s work is nothing short of genius.

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