Fashionistas mourn as cult Paris store Colette closes

They may not yet be weeping in the streets, but for French fashionistas, the closure Wednesday of Colette, the concept store which has become a Paris style institution, ranks nothing short of a national tragedy.

Fashionistas mourn as cult Paris store Colette closes
Photo: Google maps
“I cannot believe it is closing,” said style commentator Melody Thomas in one of a blizzard of articles and blog posts mourning the passing of the mother of all lifestyle stores, where Madonna, Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry shopped for quirky objects of desire.
The three-storey boutique on chi-chi Rue Saint-Honore, founded by Colette Roussaux 20 years ago, was far more than a gadget or design store to its many celebrity fans.
It pioneered limited-edition collaborations between luxury brands and street fashion stars, and cheekily poked fun at Saint Laurent with the T-shirt “Ain't Laurent Without Yves” when the label stopped using its founder's first name.
British model Kate Moss arrives to attend a book signing at Colette. Photo: AFP   
With a basement Water Bar where you could sip iceberg melt water or anti-ageing spirulina seaweed cocktails, it soon sparked imitators across the globe.
But for regular browsers like Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, it was never bettered. “It's the only shop where I go because they have things no one else has,” he said.
“If Paris is the centre of the (fashion) world, Colette is the centre of Paris,” said fashion documentary maker and Twitter wit Loic Prigent.
“When Rihanna comes to Paris she goes to Colette. It's the same for Beyonce and Madonna and the others. Colette is a centrifuge,” he said.
With the shop still booming, the store announced in July that Roussaux wanted to bow out at the top.
'Coolest shop in town'
She had got to “the age to take your time — and Colette cannot exist without Colette,” the store said. “All good things come to an end.”
Photo: AFP
While style lovers applauded her for not selling out, they were heartbroken that she and her daughter Sarah Andelman would no longer be at the helm of what Vogue critic Suzy Menkes called “the coolest shop in town”.
Ironically, the building is being taken over by Saint Laurent, which once threatened to sue Colette over that cheeky T-shirt.
“We are totally disappointed it is closing. It's a mythic place,” shoppers Gabriel and Kevin told AFP on the eve of its closure.
“You come to Colette's to find something really exclusive,” said the Parisian friends who now live in Canada, recalling the tiny run of 1,000-euro ($1,180) trainers Chanel made with the singer Pharrell Williams.
With only hours left before Colette closed for good, shoppers thronged the store, flitting between its trademark mix of humble and luxury wares — a novelty sponge selling for four euros next to a 9,990-euro Saint Laurent jacket.


Paris exhibition celebrates 100 years of French Vogue

A new exhibition in Paris will tell the story of 100 years of French Vogue - from the post-war 'New Look' of Christian Dior through the sexual liberation of the 1960s to the dangling-cigarette waifs of the 2000s.

French Vogue celebrates 100 years
French Vogue celebrates 100 years. Photo: Thomas Olva/AFP

But as well as celebrating the magazine’s storied history, the exhibit comes at a time of turbulence for the publication.

Just last month, it was confirmed that its editor of 10 years, Emmanuelle Alt, was out and wouldn’t be replaced.

She was not alone.

Looking to cut costs, owner Conde Nast International has axed editors across Europe over the past year, and put international Vogue editions under the direct control of global editorial director, Anna Wintour, in New York.

New York-based Anna Wintour now has overall control of French Vogue. Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Like much of the media industry, Vogue is struggling with tumbling sales and ad revenue in the digital era.

But the latest twist is also part of the endless push and pull between New York and Paris going back to its early days.

“The whole history of French Vogue is one of back-and-forth with Conde Nast in New York – growing more independent for a while, then being reined back in,” said Sylvie Lecallier, curator of the new exhibition, “Vogue Paris 1920-2020″, which opened this weekend after a year’s delay due to the pandemic.

The Paris edition was often the loftier, more bohemian sibling to its more hard-nosed New York version.

But it was also the hotbed in which much of 20th century style and womenhood came to be defined.

“Paris was the place to hunt out talent and content and bring it to New York,” said Lecallier.

The exhibition charts the evolution from art deco drawings of the 1920s through the erotic image-making of photographers like Helmut Newton in the 1960s and 1970s.

Its last peak was under editor Carine Roitfeld in the 2000s, who brought back a provocative Gallic identity by ridding the newsroom of foreign staff and becoming a fashion icon in her own right.

Her successor, Alt, was a quieter presence, though she still oversaw key moments including its first transgender cover star, Brazilian Valentina Sampaio, in 2017.

But internet culture has created “a perfect storm” for Vogue, says media expert Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis.

“The first 80 years of Vogue’s life, it had the market to itself, it was the bible for fashion,” McCabe told AFP.

“But online today, there are so many other ways to get your information. Influencers, Instagram, YouTube — everyone’s a threat.”

In a world where new fashion trends can blow up around the world in seconds, it has become much harder for a monthly magazine to set the pace.

“It’s not that they can’t survive for another 100 years — but they will be differently sized,” McCabe said.

Vogue has tried to branch out into different areas, including events.

“I used to work for a magazine, and today I work for a brand,” Alt said on the eve of French Vogue’s 1,000th issue in 2019.

But the big money was always in print, and Vogue Paris sales are dropping steadily from 98,345 in 2017 to 81,962 to 2020, according to data site ACPM.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the new top job in Paris, redefined as “head of editorial content”, went to Eugenie Trochu, who was key to building the magazine’s online presence.

She declared herself “thrilled to be part of Vogue’s international transformation”.

For the curator of the exhibition, it is ironic timing.

“We had no idea it would end like this when we started work on the exhibition,” said Lecallier.

“Who knows where it will go from here.”

The exhibition Vogue Paris 1920-2020 is at the Palais Galliera in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. The gallery is open 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays. Tickets for the exhibition are €14 (€12 for concessions and under 18s go free) and must be reserved online in advance.