How many times have you wandered around a department store, and with every identical rack and bored attendant felt your eyes glaze over and the thrill of shopping fade perceptibly? In my earlier post I wrote about the annoying pretense of many so-called concept stores; that post withstanding, this type of boutique does offer a refreshing alternative to mass-market retail when you’re looking for something a little more… creative.
On a recent afternoon I had the privilege of wandering through Paris with the grandiose objective of visiting and analyzing The Concept Store. As my esteemed colleague Tory had already entertained this blog with her witty rendition of Merci, I was left with a couple must-sees, Colette and Kiliwatch, and the new kid on the block, Suite 114.
Colette, the mother of all concept stores, houses a rotating selection of streetwear (mostly men), sneakers, sunglasses, cameras and other cool gadgets on the ground floor amongst coffee table books starring models and their friends, various tales of decadent-lifestyles-turned-decadent-careers, and a decent selection of serious magazines. The second floor is a rotating selection of haute-fashion, displayed on mannequins placed strategically throughout the room. None of the labels are displayed, so visitors are left to admire and wonder fruitlessly who/what/where these pieces came from, like a museum without the no-touching rule. There is also a gallery space at the back of the second floor, often home to (you guessed it) collaborations between designers, artists, musicians, etc. The music pumping throughout the space is most likely the product of a Colette-commissioned collaboration between an up-and-coming indie rocker/DJ and a hip-hop star-turned-record-label-exec-turned-fashion-mogul. In fact, most everything you will find here is the product of some sort of collaboration; the fact that it can only be found here, in limited numbers for a limited amount of time places the mythical Colette as a sometimes cringe-worthy patron of “what’s next?” in edgy-kitschy-pop.
Another store that would call itself “concept” but, refreshingly, lacks the heavy-handed pop-culture ego of Colette is the relatively new Suite 114. Incongruously located in the heart of the un-trendy 7th, this peaceful and unassuming boutique, meant to feel like a luxurious hotel suite, carries a lovely and carefully selected collection of items from designers such as Phillip Lim, Veronique Branquinho, AF Vandevorst and Michel Perry. Clearly intended for the more in-touch ladies of the 7th, the intimate and friendly boutique also (in requisite concept store fashion) featured furniture from a German gallery and photography by Philippe Terrier-Hermann the last time I stopped in. The price-point unfortunately makes this boutique generally inaccessible for actual shopping, but otherwise fulfills the (conceptual) inspiration requirement with flying colors.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum stands Kiliwatch, the ultimate vintage emporium located in the bustling Montorgueil neighborhood. If the indie music, even-more-indie sales assistants and racks upon racks of items your mother wouldn’t be caught dead in back in the 60s didn’t clue you in, this is where the cool kids shop these days. If you can manage to not be put off by the pervading “this is where it’s at!” air, Kiliwatch actually is an incredible warehouse of gems of decades past – if you have the patience to wade through the slightly overpriced racks. From the fashion-centric hardcovers and special edition glossies in the front of the store, all the way to the extensive menswear section in the back, Kiliwatch makes vintage reassuringly accessible to wannabe fashionistas and hipsters alike. Just watch the neo-retro-punk cashier doesn’t talk you into reconsidering that Madonna-style corset top you had picked up as a joke.
Colette: 213 rue Saint-Honoré, Paris, 75001, 01 55 35 33 90
Suite 114: 114 rue du Bac, Paris, 75007, 01 42 84 07 56
Espace Kiliwatch: 64 rue Tiquetonne, Paris, 75002, 01 42 21 17 37