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What did it feel like to shop at Colette?

Five people share their stories of visiting the world's coolest store

Posted by Mitch Parker

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When beloved Parisian boutique Colette announced its imminent closure it felt like the entire world collectively sighed in sadness. Colette is, soon to be was, intrinsically cool. There was just something about it that captured everyone’s adoration. Rather than try to explain that feeling ourselves we asked a bunch of people for their stories of shopping at Colette.

01. Ben Clement, photographer

The first time I went to Colette was in 2011 when I was on tour with my friends punk band from London. Myself and my now good friend Felix headed out into Paris for the day. I was definitely quite naive in my awareness of things in comparison to now but had recently started working with Champ Magazine, so naturally Mon and Jo had recommended some things in Paris for me. After we had scoped around the Paris Louis V store we headed down to Colette and had just missed Kanye West by ten minutes. We had just seen a black Lambo drive past and we guessed it may have been him. Meanwhile at Colette, it had also been the launch of the new Terry Richardson book Mom Dad and there was all these life-size cutouts of him around the store.

Colette has been pivotal in my thinking as a photographer and now magazine creator. They are so forward thinking and are forever doing things that are truly unexpected. It’s amazing that they decided to finish on such a high note and I really look forward to what Colette Roussaux, Sarah, and the team do next.

02. Wendy Syfret, head of verticals at Vice Australia

I never went because I’ve always had this thing that I don’t want to go to Paris until I have the money to do it exactly as I want. But when I was reading about Colette this morning it suddenly hit me that I’ll never go there and have my own experience to spin in with all those stories of my heroes hanging out there. It sounds dumb to be sad over a store, but it’s like hearing your favourite band broke up before you saw them live, you lost your chance to be a little part of that culture lore, even if it was just in your own mind.

Colette is one of those places you think, maybe one day I’ll do something fantastic and I’ll work with them. But then it closes and you’re like, oh wow that little part of my fantasy life was just extinguished. Maybe that’s why it’s so sad, because it’s just another dream, that someone managed to make real, that’s slipped away.

03. Andrew Montell, founder of Acclaim

In a very quick trip to Paris for a friend’s wedding I managed to find a spare hour on our last day to visit Colette along with my family. As it happened, Sydney artist Jeremyville had just finished a window installation in the legendary boutique the day before so we just missed each other. I was able to pick up a copy of the zine that Jeremy had published to coincide with his collaboration along with some cool cups and plates for my daughter. I had to stop myself from dropping insane Euros on sneakers and a jacket as the holiday funds were already depleted. It’s a boutique that you could easily spend several hours in browsing, especially with a better-half in tow given it’s excellent range of mens and womens apparel and range of books and accessories to compliment. Sad I wont get to revisit if and when the Aussie dollar makes its comeback!

04. Abby Bennett, stylist and creative consultant

I used to go to Paris all the time and everyone always had to go to Colette. It was on the agenda—whatever you were there for—you had to get to Colette and it was amazing. That was before and then I got to work with Colette on some projects with Sarah. Sarah was brilliant. I used to go to lots of exhibitions there for fashion week and you’d be there with Karl Lagerfeld, Kanye West, and everyone else. You’d got to an exhibition and be surrounded by these major celebrities and all of these amazing creatives.

There were so many exhibitions. There was a Darcel Disappoints one that I went to, Eric Elms as well. When I worked at Dazed we had an exhibition there and we did a limited set of tshirts with them that they sold for us. Projects with them were the easiest because they were so open and just wanted to do creative projects.

I remember we’d go there and spend so much time just wandering around. And it’d be like, “oh hi Terry Richardson standing next to me looking at a book.” And you’d make sure you did the whole experience and have lunch there or at least a coffee. It was phenomenal.

05. Callum Vass, writer

My first and only visit to colette was on my honeymoon in 2014, a year after YSL had severed all ties with the store after stocking the ‘Aint No Saint Laurant Without Yves’ t-shirts, which in a twist in fate has now seen Saint Laurent claim the space for their new flagship.

The store was busy despite it being the L’Assomption weekend in August which most Parisian’s, including shopkeepers, leave the city. Whole families wound their way through the long display cases where Beats by Dre headphones sat alongside Rolex watches. The store was open layers clothes of everything from music, perfume, make up, apparel, and trainers, but in true concept store fashion not in a way that gave much of a breadth of a collection for any particular brand. After 10 Corso Como in Milan opened in 1990, Colette would have been the second store of its kind and hugely influential on the model that Comme des Garcon have rolled out with Dover Street Market.

We took solace in the downstairs water bar, which boasts more than 100 types of bottled water sourced from all over the world, but opted for the tap water and long macchiato which was remarkably good and not just by Parisian standards. The highlight of the store were the remarkable faucets in the toilets which combined with Aesop hand wash has opened a new dimension into just how good cleanliness can be.

Though I probably missed its heyday during Paris-centric Electroclash era and when it still had a A Bathing Ape concession, it certainly found its place in the city and in the wallet of one Karl Lagerfeld. It’s the kind of retail place that leaves you wishing you could afford something more, which from memory was a Moncler jacket but I instead purchased a blue lighter and a James Jarvis  postcard that it only I only just realised I never posted to the Acclaim office.

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