Women We Love: Sarah Andelman from Colette

©Collage / Oriane Baud

The renowned Parisian institution Colette is closing after 20 years in December. Christine Korte on the face of the company

“All good things must come to an end. After twenty wonderful years, Colette will close its doors on the 20th of December.”

With this post to the Instagram page of Parisian concept store (@colette) on the 13th of July, Sarah Andelman put the whole fashion industry into a state of shock that brought it to brief standstill. And in a world that’s become so fast-moving that there’s hardly time to stop and breathe, that’s saying something.

Sarah Andelman, who opened the concept store with her mother Colette Roussaux at 213 Rue Saint Honoré exactly 20 years ago, let herself get caught up in the ever faster-rotating fashion machine just as little as she did in increasing sales figures.

“Colette Roussaux has arrived at a point in her life in which she wants to take time for herself; and Colette without Colette doesn’t work,” the statement goes on to say.

Detractors could possibly interpret that as a marketing strategy, an attempt to move misfortune into a better light. The figures debunk this theory. According to The New York Times, Colette, which was completely run by Roussaux and Andelman, recorded 28 million euros in revenue in 2016. 25% of that came from e-commerce.

The mother and daughter pair started without a marketing concept and are stopping without one, as well: the reason for the closing as led by emotion as the opening – a rarity in times in which constant optimization and, above all, the compression of working hours with a focus on revenue, appears to have become the highest commodity, times in which it appears there is no room for experimentation or to make mistakes.

Sarah Andelman, the buyer, creative director, public face, and mouthpiece of Colette, contributed significantly to the success of the store with her unique view of the industry. Whereas Colette Roussaux grew up in the scene and had already run a successful shop in Quartier du Sentier, her daughter came straight from university.

After finishing an art degree and an internship at Purple Magazine, Andelman decided with her mother to turn the nearly 800 square meter space at 213 Rue Saint Honoré into a concept store. Andelman’s strategy was just as fearless and free as she is herself. Without fear of crossing boundaries, she mixed street style with prêt-à-porter, tech products with kitschy souvenirs, contemporary art with books and magazines.

“We wanted to bring [these products] all together under the motto of ‘style, design, art, food’ with the idea to have a store, a gallery, and a restaurant,” said Andelman in an interview with online magazine Business of Fashion.

While shopping for her personal wardrobe, the 41-year-old with a pixie haircut appears relatively one-sided – street style photographers usually catch her in front of the lens wearing a slogan t-shirt, a wide circle skirt, and sneakers – but when shopping for Colette she’s boundless, multifarious, and adventurous. The shop windows change every week and are decked out in new products: Customers have the opportunity to discover up to 20,000 different pieces on the shop floor.

Here Japanese, French, Italian, and British designers hang side by side – Sacai, Vetements, and Erdem among them. The store has remained loyal to labels like Comme des Garçons since it opened in 1997, without ignoring new generations. Supreme, Undercover, and Esteban Cortazar are just some of the young emerging labels that Colette was one of the first to bring into its selection.

The collaborations with big fashion houses like Chanel, Balenciaga, and Hermès are still unmatched. And on the 21st of August, the result of the collaboration with H&M Studio will be available for two weeks at Colette both in-store and online.

Andelman also fearlessly turned to the greats of pop culture. Pharrell Williams, Jay Z, Drake, and Kanye West all got a platform for their fashion projects at Colette. With these pioneering partnerships, Andelman helped street style’s entry into the high fashion world – a fusion that is currently experiencing real hype.

Karl Lagerfeld, the store’s most loyal and best customer, got to the heart of Colette’s success and at the same time also delivered an explanation as to why Andelman and Roussaux don’t simply make a lucrative deal to sell the store and the brand:

“They found a formula that can’t be so easily copied, that you only find at Colette. Her and Sarah are 200% of it.”

What will become of the space now? The mother and daughter duo are currently in negotiations with the fashion brand Saint Laurent. A key point in the discussion: taking over their employees.

What can we expect from Andelman in the future when her mother goes into deserved retirement at the end of the year?

“I will continue to do what I do: curate ideas and work with brands on different projects,” she says in The New York Times. “Life continues on. We are all in good health, which is most important.”

That means that until December at Colette it’s business as usual. Or perhaps more suitable in this case: business as unusual.

For further inspiration visit Colette’s Instagram account (@colette) here and Sarah’s Instagram account (@sarahcolette) here or their website here.

AUTHOR: CHRISTINE KORTE (EDITOR IN CHIEF FLAIR MAGAZIN ONLINE)
Translation: Melissa Frost