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Features / Miscellaneous

Colette, the trailblazer: creatives pay tribute to the iconic Parisian store and its legacy

Founded in 1997 by Colette Roussaux, cult Parisian store Colette has – in its two decade lifetime – established itself as one of the world’s most influential hubs for compelling, cutting-edge fashion and design. With Colette’s daughter Sarah Andelman working as creative director it also became a leading light in illustration and graphic art, giving a platform to the creative industry’s renowned innovators and creators. So, when last week the store posted a statement on Instagram saying “all good things must come to an end” and it would be closing its doors on 20 December 2017, there was an outpouring of love, support and reminiscences from across the industry.

To celebrate the Colette’s legacy, we invited creatives Anthony Burrill, Jean Jullien, James Joyce, Ill Studio, Jordy van den Nieuwendijk, Viviane Sassen, Oliver Jeffers, Tiffany Cooper, Kalen Hollomon and Christoph Niemann to respond to the news and share their fondest memories of the iconic store.

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Anthony Burrill at Colette: Geometry in Nature exhibition (2009)

Anthony Burrill

I’m going to miss visiting Colette during trips to Paris. There was always something new and interesting to see there, it had an energy and vitality that was incredibly cool in the most effortless way. I’ve been fortunate to work with Sarah on a number of projects for Colette: I held a solo exhibition there in 2009, created window designs when the store was temporarily closed for refurbishment, I’ve designed postcards and bags and been included in a number of group exhibitions. Sarah’s support has been hugely important to my career and encouraged me make the transition from working commercially to gallery artist.

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James Joyce x Colette

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James Joyce x Colette

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James Joyce x Colette

James Joyce

Colette is really like no other store I can think of and certainly when it opened 20 years ago there was nothing like it anywhere. Before Colette there were no “concept stores”. The first time I visited the store probably about 15 years ago I was blown away by how the whole store was presented and curated – where else then could you have high fashion and edgy street wear selling next to each other, up and coming artists exhibiting in the gallery, technology, music and little plastic toys imported from Japan and a restaurant? Colette has blazed the trail for many other retailers: it’s much more than a store, it’s a brand in itself. How do you define Colette? It’s not just a fashion store it’s an art gallery, restaurant, tech, music, beauty and book store. It’s a department store like you’ve never seen before.

Colette quite simply is visionary, they will champion what they believe in however risky that may appear, they take risks for example by giving people like me an exhibition, to take over the store and to collaborate on products together. 

Sarah had become aware of my work through my involvement with Banksy’s Dismaland. Shortly after Dismaland she got in touch to ask if I’d be interested in doing a show at Colette. Of course I jumped at the chance. She told me how much she loved my appropriated yellow face motif she’d seen at Dismaland, so when I turn up to my opening night at Colette, there is Sarah, this huge force in fashion, resplendent in all her beautiful designer clothes and wearing my £10 yellow face T-shirt from Dismaland. I’m gutted I didn’t get a photo.

Sarah’s openness to creative ideas is rare and refreshing, she practically let me do what I wanted and I did. When I presented the 100 Likes exhibition idea to Sarah I was half thinking she’s not going to go for that, but she was like “great we’ve never done anything like that in the gallery before” and then offered me the entire store to work with not just the gallery space. When she asked me to do JJ x Colette products together, I asked what can we do and she said “anything”.

One thing that struck me when I went to Paris last year to do my show there was how professional and slick the running of the store was, it was a well-oiled machine the likes of which I’d never seen before. Sarah Andelman and her mother Colette Roussaux were an inspiration to see at work, they work so hard to make the store appear effortless. I installed my show on the Sunday, when Colette is closed, and at the same time as installing my show their huge team had removed everything from the rails on all the floors, repainted the store and put a brand new edit in for opening on Monday. I think they do that weekly. I felt privileged to have experienced that.

Colette is a destination, Paris quite simply won’t be the same without Colette.

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Jordy van den Nieuwendijk: Portrait of Sarah Andelman

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Jordy van den Nieuwendijk

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Jordy van den Nieuwendijk

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Jordy van den Nieuwendijk

Jordy van den Nieuwendijk

It has always been a pleasure working with Sarah from Colette. She’s never shy of a joke, driven by curiosity, and open for experimentation. She has this way of getting the most out of someone. When she asked me to do a mural downstairs in the water bar, it had to be water themed. When I showed up with drawings of boys and girls in their undies, she was immediately like, Whoops, this is a bit pushing it, but let’s go for it. She ended up being really loyal too, inviting me to work on a few more projects, and always allowing me to play – giving me the feeling I had complete creative freedom.

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Jean Jullien x Colette

Jean Jullien

I remember going to Paris nearly every month when I was studying in Quimper. It is there that I first discovered contemporary graphic culture. It is at Colette that I first discovered Mike Mills, Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Relax Magazine, Ed Templeton, Mathew Barney, Bape, James Jarvis, Comme des Garçons and countless others. Colette heralded and pioneered a certain culture, sitting on the edge between fancy and popular. They have supported many artists over the years and working with them opened so many doors to me. Also, I want to add, that when I was a student and couldn’t necessarily afford to buy their stuff, I could just come in and browse books and other things.

Colette is iconic without being stuck in time, always renewing itself. I feel incredibly grateful to the institution that Colette is as well as to the people running it.

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Oliver Jeffers at Colette
Photo: Martina Maffini

“Colette’s run may be but a firework in the grander scheme of Western cultural history, but it was a bright and influential one.”

Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers

I experienced great surprise and sadness at the news that Colette will be closing its doors at the end of the year. Colette has always been ahead of the curve, and you can’t help speculating what this means for the future of brick and mortar shopping. While it may be comfortable to sit in your favourite chair and flick through the website of a cool online store, it’s another experience entirely to make the effort and pilgrimage to visit an iconic spot like Colette, both for the obvious benefits of being in a place rather than just looking at a picture, but also to see and interact with the other people who choose to go there. 

It was a privilege to have launched my first ever product line in Colette last winter. Not only did they give me the chance to jump into an entirely different industry, they supported my vision by giving me the space and resources to build a complete exhibition extending outward from the products. In visiting Colette, customers where able to be fully immersed into the vision and world of my objects, something that could never have happened solely online. I am appreciative of Sarah’s willingness to centre and support artists like myself, giving me a platform to take a risk. Colette’s two decade run as a focal location of the design and fashion world may be but a firework in the grander scheme of Western cultural history, but it was a bright and influential one.

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Tiffany Cooper

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Tiffany Cooper

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Tiffany Cooper

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Tiffany Cooper

Tiffany Cooper

I started working with Colette from the beginning of my career, five years ago. One of my friends, Laurent, used to work there, and when he discovered my first book, he thought Sarah would like it and asked me to sign one copy that he gave to her afterwards. I then received an email from Sarah saying she loved it and was going to sell it at Colette. I was beyond excited! Since then, almost every single one of my projects started there, either a new graphic novel or some of my greatest collaborations with various brands.

It is also thanks to Sarah that Karl Lagerfeld discovered my work. So, when I contacted him to suggest a collaboration between us, in 2014, he already knew my work and said yes immediately. I owe so much to Sarah. I wouldn’t be where I am now, if it weren’t for her. I am forever grateful that she believed in me from the very beginning! I am sad they are closing soon, after 20 incredible years, but I can’t wait to see what Sarah will build or do next.

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Ill Studio: Fetishistic Scopophilia

Ill Studio

Colette’s closure is very unexpected. It’s is an institution for a lot of people in Paris and everywhere in the world. But Sarah is a smart person, she probably has good reasons to close it down and start something new. 

My best memory of the store is when we took over the two big front windows of the store as an overview of our exhibition Fetishistic Scopophilia in Paris a few years ago. We also did an exhibition called Art Of Music about imaginary concert posters in 2008, collaborated on a magazine for the store’s 15 years anniversary, launched our helmet collection with Ruby and did one of the front windows as well, participated in a few group shows. Sarah supported us big time since 2008, whether directly or with projects we were part of. Even though she runs a big business she also used the big exposure of Colette to promote the work of people like us. Thank you for that Sarah!

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Viviane Sassen: Roxane II

Viviane Sassen

Colette has always been a reference point for me, even in a geographical way: it was one of the very first places in Paris that I got to know. It was always exciting to go and see what was happening. I loved how Colette and Sarah managed to find such a precise balance, every single piece felt special. It was only until recently, when I had the presentation of my new book Roxane ll there, that I realised how much hard work and endless effort goes into maintaining this high level of quality. Peeking through its large windows, it was great to see the Colette staff working so hard before and after opening hours, paying attention to the tiniest details. It needs to be perfect. Every day, again and again.

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Kalen Hollomon

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Kalen Hollomon

Kalen Hollomon

Sarah approached me via email to show my work at Colette and we met the next day – she was in New York for fashion week. The day after that I rushed a handful of collages to her hotel so she could take them back to Paris. She knew exactly what she wanted to show and how, but was sure to support my most popular work with more current ideas that I was working on and exploring. It’s clear that Sarah has a deep respect for artists.

Within a few weeks I was in Paris to hang the show and it was really amazing to watch her, Colette and the whole team work over the course of a weekend to transform the store for the month. It felt really special (and slightly intimidating). Rarely have I seen people with such sharp decision making skills and a dedication to flawless execution, it was truly a pleasure to work with Sarah and Colette. I am so grateful for the experience and opportunity.

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Christoph Niemann

Christoph Niemann

When I heard that the store will be closing it was of course quite a shock – it combines such a unique sense of fashion, design and art. Hard to imagine that there will ever be something like this again.

Working with Sarah on my show there was a great inspiration. That’s why I’ve included a double portrait of her and me in a mural (above). The image is based on Millet’s Gleaners.

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Jordy van den Nieuwendijk

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Jordy van den Nieuwendijk