It could be said that we're at a crossroads in terms of the state of fashion retail right now. Major fashion chain stores are shuttering left and right; late last year, Business Insider published a harrowing list of the nearly 7,000 store closures of 2017, including hundreds from The Limited, Wet Seal, Michael Kors and all locations of Bebe and American Apparel. The news of fan-favorite Colette closing in December 2017 came as a shock to everyone, and word spread far beyond the fashion industry. After all, niche boutiques are flourishing on a small scale, with brands like Sezane and Bird expanding into new outposts in New York City and Los Angeles, respectively.
The rise and cult following of the indie boutique is one of the reasons why Sébastien Chapelle, head of the watches and tech department at Colette for 14 years, decided to open a new Paris boutique, Nous. The shop is located at 48 Rue Cambon, near Chanel's iconic store and just steps away from Colette's former location. Marvin Dein, head of the sneakers department at Colette is also helping to run Nous, which formally opened just last week.
"The idea arose this summer," says Chapelle. "Just after the announcement made by Sarah [Andelman] and Colette that the store would close in December 2017. It did not come before that, as we were still happy and motivated to work at Colette even after all these years."
For Chapelle and Dein, the shop is a passion project and an extension of what they were doing at Colette just as much as it is a place for people who knew and loved their former employer. "We created this project because we realized it was the only way to carry on working in a such inspiring environment," he says.
While Colette had a major focus on women's fashion, with an entire top floor dedicated to the latest ready-to-wear collections, Nous takes a more lifestyle-first approach and carries almost everything except for traditional ready-to-wear and women's beauty products (to which Colette also dedicated a small floor). Think sunglasses, tech products by Sony and Leica, men's accessories and watches, sneakers, books, skateboard decks and men's streetwear.
Fashion kids will still find recognizable brands, though. Thierry Lasry and Illesteva sunglasses are available, in addition to clothing by Billionaire Boys Club and watches by Rolex. Like Colette, the shop is designed to be a place to find the inevitable big name brands (Balenciaga, Nike, etc.) as well as discover new products ranging from candles to art pieces like wooden sneakers. The pricing model is similar to Colette's, too: Magazines and some beverages are available for less than €10 in many cases, while Nous is also selling €50,000+ limited edition Rolexes. Though it primarily stocks men's items, Chapelle says it draws the same sort of clientele as Colette. You may even see some of the very same products sold at Colette. It's no mistake — Dein and Chapelle planned it. "We are from the same family," he says, referencing Colette. "Nous will be from the same stock, but the next generation."
If you're wondering how the ex-employees of Colette were able to open the store in such a prime location so quickly, WWD reports that a wealthy European investor anonymously funded the project. "Organizational and administrative tasks are complicated here, and required a huge amount of work, as everywhere in the world I can imagine," says Chapelle of opening a shop in Paris. "But in the end, the city of Paris has been open-minded to our concept because it is in our city's DNA to promote creativity and back new visions such as Nous." Dein and Chapelle also brought over at least four other former Colette employees to help them.
"More than opening a concept store, our wish is to build a community which includes our team, selected designers, unique labels, meaningful collaborators and curious customers from Paris and the world," Chapelle explains. Like Colette, which famously changed its theme and windows each week, Nous plans to reinvent the shop each month. The four outdoor windows will be redesigned by various designers, either in the form of art installations or window display designs focusing on international trends.
"Our philosophy is based on the following motto: 'for us, by us' or as we say in French 'Pour nous, Par nous,'" says Chapelle. Hence why the duo named the store "Nous." In the future, you can expect themed pop-up shops, exclusive collaborations as well as events and an ever-changing array of products.
"We aim to be at the cross roads of street culture, art, design, fashion, luxury and creativity," he says. Whether that will lead them to the same level of success as their predecessor, we'll have to wait and see.